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| Copyright Dominique Clément / Clément Consulting

A chronology of key moments in the history of the Gouzenko Affair.

The following chronology covers events associated with the defection of Igor Gouzenko and the subsequent royal commission on espionage.


15 August 1945

Japan surrenders and the war in Asia ends. The War Measures Act is expected to expire on 31 December 1945.


5 September 1945

Igor Gouzenko defects.

The Cold War begins.


6 September 1945

Mackenzie King learns of the defection. On 7 September, Gouzenko begins his debriefing at RCMP headquarters.


6 October 1945

The cabinet enacts PC6444 under the authority of the War Measures Act.


1 January 1946

For the first time since the war began in 1939, the War Measures Act is no longer operable in Canada. When asked in Parliament about any outstanding Orders-in-Council passed under the act, Justice Minister Louis St. Laurent “forgets” about PC6444.


1 February 1946

An Evening Citizen editorial opposes the incorporation of parts of the War Measures Act into the National Emergency Transition Powers Act.


3 February 1946

Drew Pearson, a popular American radio talk-show host, reveals that the Canadian government is holding a defector who has provided information on a spy ring in Canada and the United States.


5 February 1946

Mackenzie King approves Order-in-Council PC411. The order creates a royal commission under the Inquiries Act to investigate violations of the Official Secrets Act. Supreme Court of Canada justices Roy Lindsay Kellock and Robert Taschereau are appointed to lead the commission.


13 February 1946

The commission begins debriefing Gouzenko.


15 February 1946

First series of arrests by the RCMP. Eleven people are detained in the RCMP’s Rockcliffe Barracks in Ottawa (another two were arrested on 16 February).

Mackenzie King makes his first public admission about the existence of a spy ring and a defector, although he refuses to name either the defector or his country of origin.


20 February 1946

The Government of the USSR admits to spying on Canada.


26 February 1946

Lawyers for the wives of incarcerated suspects write to the press, complaining that both they and the wives are not allowed to see the detainees.


2 March 1946

The commission completes its first interim report.


4 March 1946

The commission’s first interim report is released to the public. It is timed to coincide with the appearance of Gordon Lunan, Edward W. Mazerall, Kathleen Willsher, and Emma Woikin in court.

Emma Woikin pleads guilty.


5 March 1946

Winston Churchill delivers his “iron curtain” speech in Fulton, Missouri.


7 March 1946

The wife of one of the men whom the commission is still holding makes a public statement, accusing it of mistreating her husband.


14 March 1946

Fred Rose, member of Parliament, is arrested.

The commission completes its second interim report.

Mackenzie King makes a speech to the House of Commons, justifying the commission’s tactics and the powers under PC6444.


15 March 1946

Raymond Boyer, Matt S. Nightingale, and David Shugar are released by the commission and immediately arrested by the RCMP.


22 March 1946

Fred W. Poland’s wife initiates habeas corpus proceedings to have him released.

John Bracken, leader of the Conservative Party, makes public a letter from Israel Halperin in which Halperin protests his arrest and demands to know why he is being held without charge and denied access to counsel.


27 March 1946

Presiding over Gordon Lunan’s case, Judge James C. McRuer sets a key precedent for the spy trials. He rules that the commission’s evidence is admissible and that Lunan’s testimony can be used against him.


28 March 1946

The commission’s third interim report is released.


29 March 1946

The final five detainees (Eric Adams, J.S. Benning, Israel Halperin, Fred W. Poland, Durnford Smith) are released after forty-two days in prison. All five are immediately arrested and charged.


1 May 1946

Alan Nunn May is sentenced by the British courts to ten years in prison for espionage.


27 June 1946

Fred Rose is sentenced to six years in prison.

The commission’s final report is released.


9 April 1949

Sam Carr is convicted, and the last of the spy trials is completed.


June 1982

Igor Gouzenko, under police protection since 1945, dies near Toronto.

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