The Central Intelligence Agency spied on Canadians critical of the Vietnam War during the late 1960s and '70s in an operation code-named "MH Chaos," CBC News has learned.
The CIA operation was aimed at 'sabotaging public opposition to U.S. policy.' —Mordecai Briemberg, one of the Canadians monitored by the CIA
The U.S. spy agency targeted university professors, students and other Canadians who the agency believed were espousing left-wing ideas.
CBC News found out aboutthe surveillance program's activities north of the border after obtaining declassified CIA documents.
According to the files, MH Chaos was a parallel undertaking to the CIA's "Operation Chaos," a domestic program that kept tabs on left-wing activity on U.S. college campuses.
The agency developed a network of informants on Canadian campuses in the late 1960s and had reports sent down from Ottawa to the CIA's headquarters at Langley, Va.
Among the Canadians listed for monitoring in one of those reports was Mordecai Briemberg, a former political science professor at B.C.'s Simon Fraser University.
Briemberg told the CBC he was not surprised to see his name surface on a CIA document three decades later, but blasted the monitoring operation as "utterly shameful."
"We were engaging students in a more accurate view of how the world was organized," he said.
An outspoken critic of the Vietnam War and advocate for student rights during that era, Briemberg characterized his activities at the time as "democratic and vigorous discussion that had an edge to it," but said his views hardly amounted to subversion.
He said the lens should be turned back on the CIA, accusing the agency of "sabotaging public opposition to U.S. policy" by using double agents.
'I've been having trouble flying for years'
Several otherCanadians connected to Simon Fraser University also ended up under CIA scrutiny.
In 1969, Martin Loney was the president of Simon Fraser's student union and a well-known radical among Canadian students.
After graduating with a doctorate in sociology, Loney said he began to suspect the CIA, Britain's MI-5 and the RCMP were blocking his career path with misinformation.
"I knew I was on a U.S. watch list because I've been having trouble flying for years," Loney said.
"I was denied a job at the Nova Scotia College of Design because the principal said, 'We're not having him here because he'll burn down the building.'"
Recruited at Cuban, Chinese embassies in Ottawa
Another element to MH Chaos dealt with recruiting informants in the Cuban and Chinese embassies in Ottawa.
The spies were ordered to report on U.S. citizens trying to circumvent Washington's ban on travelling to the two Communist countries by obtaining their visas through Canada.
The declassified CIA documents did not show whether the Canadian government was aware the CIA was spying on Canadian campuses.