John Leopold

In Canada and the Cold War, Reg Whitaker and Steve Hewitt write that

“John Leopold was a balding and jowly Central European who spoke accented English – the exact opposite of the Mountie image held by a heavily prejudiced nation. Leopold’s ethnicity was trumped by his career in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Under ordinary circumstances, a career with arguably the world’s most famous police force would have been out of the question. The RCMP spied on Eastern Europeans; they did not hire them as policemen. What’s more, Leopold did not meet height requirements, nor was he even a Canadian citizen when he signed on with the Mounted Police in 1917. What he did possess were skills that state security demanded in the early Cold War when ethnicity was openly equated with radicalism. Fluent in several languages, the new Mountie’s unique appearance allowed him to infiltrate groups deemed subversive. He looked so unlike a policeman that he would later be regularly challenged by the guards at the RCMP’s headquarters in Ottawa to provide identification before he could enter the building.”

Born in 1890 in Bohemia, Leopold spent his youth working as an agriculturalist and a forester. He immigrated to Canada in 1912 and settled in Alberta. During the 1930s, he became famous when it was revealed that he was the RCMP agent who had infiltrated Tim Buck’s Communist Party in Toronto and testified against it in a case that saw its leadership sent to jail. Alongside C.W. Harvison, Leopold worked as a lead RCMP investigator with the espionage commission. He retired from the RCMP in 1952 and died of a heart attack in 1958.

  • Whitaker, Reg, and Steve Hewitt. Canada and the Cold War. Toronto: James Lorimer, 2003.

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