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'What about Munsignor?'

If Lucien Cardin had kept his mouth shut on March 4, 1966, the sensational political sex scandal may have never surfaced. But, fuelled by taunts, the Liberal minister implied that a German playgirl and alleged KGB spy had relationships with top ministers in Prime Minister John Diefenbaker's government. In the frenzied atmosphere of the Cold War, Cardin's allegations sent the country into a tizzy, sparking the first political sex scandal in Canadian history.

The sex-espionage scandal that rocks the nation is actually triggered by confusion over another spy case. On March 4, 1966, Opposition leader John Diefenbaker calls Liberal Justice Minister Lucien Cardin "a dwarf in giant's clothing" over his mishandling of a case involving a Vancouver mail clerk who had been caught spying for the Soviet Embassy. In an effort to deflect criticism, Cardin suggests possible security leaks under Diefenbaker's government and shouts "What about Munsignor?"

Cardin mispronounces her name but members in the House of Commons know he's referring to Gerda Munsinger, an alleged German spy and prostitute rumoured to have had affairs with some high-ranking Tory ministers. With those three little words, Cardin brings the blond siren and her liaisons to national attention.
• Charles Lynch, Southam News bureau chief at the time of the scandal, thought the Munsinger affair could have a positive outcome. He thought the scandal might change Canada's "dull and unexciting" image and encourage more tourists to Expo '67.
• Lucien Cardin believed Gerda Munsinger was dead when he brought her name up in the House of Commons.
Medium: Radio
Program: CBC Radio News
Broadcast Date: Jan. 1, 1967
Host: John O'Leary
Reporter: Tom Leach
Duration: 2:35

Last updated: April 13, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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