Israel Halperin

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Israel Halperin was born in Quebec in 1911. He joined the Canadian army in 1942, where he worked at developing secret explosives and weapons. He achieved the rank of major in 1945 and eventually accepted a post as a mathematics professor at Queen’s University. The espionage commission believed that he belonged to a group of informants organized under Gordon Lunan. Its evidence was based predominantly on Lunan’s testimony and documents from the Soviet embassy that detailed his meetings with Halperin. Possibly the most difficult and frustrating suspect whom the commission interrogated, Halperin continually refused to speak and demanded access to legal counsel. When the commissioners finally allowed him to see his lawyer, he declined to answer their questions. His refusals played an important part in the commission’s conclusion that he had violated the Official Secrets Act. Unlike many other acquitted suspects, Halperin did not lose his job. The chancellor of Queen’s University, Charles Dunning, convinced the board of governors to retain Halperin, fearing embarrassment to the university.

The espionage commission reported the following:

“Israel Halperin was born on 5th January, 1911, in Westmount, P.Q., of Russian parents, and is a Professor of Mathematics at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario. He joined the Army in 1942. In 1943 he was attached to the Directorate of Artillery, became a Captain in 1944 and a Major in 1945. In that branch of the Army he worked on a considerable number of secret projects, and he had access to all the files and documents concerning explosives and weapons, as well as to all the new discoveries made available to the Artillery.
Halperin was known to many who were involved in the Zabotin organization, and he kept in a pocket-book the telephone numbers of Eric Adams, Raymond Boyer, Matt S. Nightingale, Fred Rose, David Shugar and Fred W. Poland.”

Further Reading

Report of the Royal Commission to Investigate Facts Relating to and the Circumstances Surrounding the Communication, by Public Officials and Other Persons in Positions of Trust of Secret and Confidential Information to Agents of a Foreign Power. 1947.

Knight, Amy. How the Cold War Began: The Gouzenko Affair and the Hunt for Soviet Spies. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 2005.

Lambertson, Ross. Repression and Resistance: Canadian Human Rights Activists, 1930-1960. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005.

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