Paula Maurutto, "Private Policing and Surveillance of Catholics: Anti-communism in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, 1920-1960," Labour/Le Travail, 40 (Fall 1997), 113-36.
"THE HOLY SEE is terribly afraid of Communism, the centre of which, in Canada, is Toronto," wrote Toronto's Roman Catholic Archbishop James McGuigan in 1937 upon returning from the Vatican. (1) "It is unfortunately making progress here and I would not be at all surprised if, within a few years, we have a real persecution similar to that in Spain." While an exaggerated claim, such beliefs framed the perceptions of many English-speaking Catholics in the city. (2) Threatened by what appeared as a profusion of socialist organizing, (3) the Archdiocese of Toronto had by the 1930s developed an extensive infrastructure to seek out, regulate and prevent the spread of communism. (4) As the Toronto Red Squad, a branch of the police department, was using coercive tactics to thwart communist-related activities, the Catholic Church was deploying a variety of means to avert this apparent danger, including the surveillance and infiltration of socialist groups, and a pervasive moral and educational campaign aimed at newly arriving immigrants. While it conducted its own investigations, the church's endeavours were supported by state officials. It obtained intelligence information from the Red Squad as well as secret Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) reports. These actions went far beyond the realm of religious proselytizing or philanthropic endeavours. The strategies employed by the Church amounted to an active policing and surveillance of individuals, operating independently from law enforcement agencies but intertwined with state political initiatives.
Such activities by non-state organizations are, for the most part, overlooked in studies on political surveillance. Most analyses of political or national security emphasize the state as the apex in the maintenance of social order. For example, in historical works by Gregory S. Kealey and Reg Whitaker, among others, surveillance tactics adopted by extra-state institutions when examined are typically discussed as incidental to public order. (5) These works reflect the common understanding of policing as consisting solely of the state sanctioned actions of the criminal justice system. An examination of the activities of the Archdiocese of Toronto, however, reveals a Church that was actively involved in the private policing and surveillance of individuals. The anti-communist activities of the Catholic Church point to a need for re-evaluating and extending common notions of the processes and techniques involved in safeguarding national security.
The term private policing is typically used in the criminology literature to distinguish non-state organizations involved in preserving social order from the state criminal justice system. The term commonly refers to an earlier practice when much of the responsibility for public order rested with individual citizens. (6) This is contrasted with the development of the modern police force in early 19th century London in response to a changing industrial society. More recently, the term private police has been applied to community-based programs such as "Neighbourhood Watch" or private security personnel hired by corporations. (7) These definitions, however, rarely consider non-state policing and surveillance as a continuous historical phenomenon that has always been intertwined with and operating alongside the criminal justice system. The term "private policing" tends to be almost exclusively used to describe a corporate agenda concerned with securing private property; the role of private philanthropic policing and surveillance is rarely considered. (8)
This oversight might be partly attributed to how private philanthropic institutions enforce discipline, which often does not conform to traditional forms of surveillance and punishment. Public authorities secure social control through the threat and deployment of coercive force, and private corporate police attempt to prevent crime through the knowledge that one is being monitored, as in the use of video cameras. Philanthropic control, although it may at times resort to punishment, is more concerned with minimizing social risk by regulating and reforming behaviour. (9) It is this concern with moral regulation that distinguishes philanthropic policing from private corporate policing. In evaluating the role of corporate security systems, Shearing, Stenning and Addario posit that corporate policing is concerned less with moral reform than with reducing risk. (10) Philanthropic institutions, by contrast, are concerned specifically with instilling the "right kind of character." These institutions, as demonstrated in Mariana Valverde's work, promise to deliver a subjectivity that will solve social problems by reforming the way we govern ourselves. (11) In fact, Valverde proposes that non-state organizations are often more successful than the state in reforming citizens. This reflects the dichotomous public/private relationship, within which institutions operating in the private realm, including philanthropic and corporate institutions, are much less confined by the legal boundaries and limits of privacy. Although liberal governments are legally confined to public affairs, Nikolas Rose and Valverde note that they often participate in moral reform efforts by providing the legal framework for voluntary action and by supporting private campaigns through funding and information. (12) It is precisely this interaction between private and public institutions, a relationship Valverde terms the "mixed social economy," that is central. (13) This conceptualization disrupts the image of two clearly defined, bounded and separate spheres. It opens up the possibility of exploring how the public sector is linked to private forms of social reform, and how private policing and surveillance participate in securing public order. By exploring these interconnections, the idea of the state as the sole guarantor of social order is deconstructed, bringing to light the role of the private charity sector in preserving public order and national security.
English-speaking Catholics and the Immigrant "Problem"
By the mid 1920s the established hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese consisted primarily of Scottish and Irish immigrants. Many of the latter were descendants of those who came to North America during the potato famine of the 1840s. While these Catholics initially encountered hostility and institutionalized bigotry as they settled in a largely Protestant environment, by the late 1800s they were embedded within the social and economic mainstream of Ontario society. (14) Following their participation in World War I, they became increasingly rooted in society, developing their own sense of a Canadian identity to the extent that, as Mark McGowan has documented, old Irish associations were being replaced by new Canadian organizations. (15) Anti-Catholic sentiments, however, continued to prevail among many Protestants. Moreover, as English-speaking Catholics adopted this new Canadian identity, conflicts with French-speaking Catholics began to proliferate. As both were vying for status as the official "Catholic" voice in Canada, the Archdiocese of Toronto found itself often at odds with the Church in Quebec.
Most analyses of the Canadian Catholic response to communism have dealt exclusively with the Church in Quebec. Few works, if any, refer to the activities of Catholics in Toronto. Yet, the Catholic Church in Toronto, under the direction of Archbishop Neil McNeil from 1912 to 1934 and Archbishop James McGuigan until 1971, developed a number of strategies and techniques to prevent communist infiltration among newly arriving immigrants and to ensure a loyal English Canadian Catholic community. (16) Seditious acts that threatened to destroy the Canadian social fabric also challenged the now entrenched patriotism of English-speaking Catholics. Thus, Catholic anti-communism reflected both a religious ideological opposition as well as the interests of a privileged class attached to its private property and liberal institutions.
In Toronto, the Church was particularly concerned that communism would take hold among the thousands of immigrants arriving from Central and Eastern Europe. The majority of these recent arrivals, many of whom were practising or nominal Catholics, emigrated from Hungary, Italy, Malta, Poland, Lithuania, and Ukraine. The Catholic population in the Archdiocese of Toronto increased from 85,000 in 1920 to over 164,000 by 1935, and in 1941, Catholics in Toronto represented 16 per cent of the city's population. (17) Their working-class backgrounds and lack of fluency in English resulted in their concentration in low-paid and unskilled jobs. (18) Deeply rooted prejudices against foreigners and lingering hostility towards Catholics further hampered their employment prospects. In addition, the Church viewed their religious devotion, which did not conform to Irish standard practice, as promoting idolatry. Their foreign values and customs were taken as evidence of their predisposition to superstitious beliefs and radical ideologies. With little relief and few jobs available, Catholic leaders feared these immigrants were potentially ripe for communist organizing. After all, the Communist Party of Canada had been quite successful in recruiting immigrants. (19)
Founded in Ontario in May 1921, with twenty-two members, the Communist Party of Canada (CP) operated underground until 1924. Although the executive was largely British born, 95 per cent of the rank and file by 1929 was composed of immigrants, primarily from Finnish, Ukrainian and Jewish ethnic groups. (20) Despite some gains, by 1929 the Party had yet to draw a significant following; its membership totalled 2,876, and in the Ontario provincial election that year, the CP polled a mere 1440 votes. (21) During the Depression, its membership did increase, particularly among the poorest elements of society. While the Party did poorly in the 1935 federal election, by 1936 two communists were elected to the Board of Control and one to the Board of Education. In the 1939 Toronto municipal election, Tim Buck, the Party leader, registered 45,112 votes. (22) Most of those voting for the CP, however, were not full-fledged communists, but supported communist attacks against low wages and insufficient government relief. At a time when few groups championed the cause of the destitute and the unemployed, many turned to the CP for hope. Nevertheless, the Party never gained sufficient support to significantly challenge the status quo. Its national membership barely exceeded 16,000, a level achieved by 1939. Moreover, as Ivan Avakumavic notes, most of the East European membership "was often unwilling or unable to participate in those Communist activities ... the CPC considered essential." (23) They tended to limit their participation to communist events within their respective ethnic communities.
Policing Radicals: The Toronto Red Squad, The RCMP and the Archdiocese
To the Archdiocese of …