The Praxis Affair
There's a reason we put limits on spying within Canada
Date Written: 2015-03-01
Publisher: Canadian Centre for Policy Aletrnatives (CCPA)
Year Published: 2015
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX20367
This is a cautionary story of what might happen if we return to the bad old days of the RCMP Security Service, which was caught disrupting and using dirty tricks against a wide range of unsuspecting groups before it was eventually disbanded, its spying responsibilities handed to a newly formed Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
Let's start in late 1968, at the height of '60s idealism, when two University of Toronto professors, Stephen Clarkson and Abraham Rotstein, kick-started a Toronto-based research institute called Praxis. Their intent was to spark political discussion and debate within the wider community (outside academe) on issues like poverty and democracy, through research, pamphlets, books and public seminars.
In some ways, then, Praxis is a precursor to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, but with a less secure funding base. Clarkson and Rotstein's creation lived solely on grants, first from the Toronto Star newspaper and later from consulting and research contracts with government. The money flowed until 1972 when Praxis was forced to shut down.
There is some indication from RCMP files at the Library and Archives Canada that the Security Service was pushing government managers to avoid Praxis, that the organization was spied on, and that Canada's national police had a murky and still not fully explained relationship with those who broke into the group's Toronto offices in December 1970. The background for all of this, gleaned from more than 6,000 pages from those archived documents, is the subject of this story.