PROFUNC was a top-secret plan to detain thousands of Canadians, if needed, in the event of a national emergency. ((CBC))

At the height of the Cold War, the Canadian government crafted a top-secret plan to detain thousands of citizens with Communist links in the event of a national security threat, according to a joint CBC/Radio-Canada investigation.

The secret contingency plan, called PROFUNC, allowed police to round up and indefinitely detain Canadians believed to be Communist sympathizers.

The CBC's The Fifth Estate and Radio-Canada's Enquête investigative programs have unearthed troubling details about PROFUNC, which stands for PROminent FUNCtionaries of the Communist Party.


Watch the full report on Radio-Canada's Enquête  at 8 p.m ET Thursday and on CBC's The Fifth Estate at 9 p.m. ET Friday.

The investigation has discovered that information gathered under PROFUNC's mandate may have been used during the 1970 October Crisis, when Canada invoked the War Measures Act and suspended civil liberties to end escalating violence sowed by the Front de Libération du Québec, known as the FLQ.

PROFUNC is believed to be one of the most draconian national security programs in Canada's peacetime history.

First devised in 1950 by RCMP Commissioner Stuart Taylor Wood, PROFUNC listed some 16,000 suspected Communists and 50,000 sympathizers who would have to be watched, and possibly interned, in a national security emergency.

Under the plan, targets on the list could be detained indefinitely, subject to severe discipline, and shot if they tried to escape detention.

The blacklist included prominent Canadian public figures — men and women, and their children — whose identities were kept hidden in sealed envelopes filed at Mountie detachments across the country. Files included personal details such as age, physical description, photos, vehicle information, and housing, even the location of doors to be used in potential escapes.

The files were regularly updated until the PROFUNC's demise in the early 1980s, prompted by administrative changes introduced by Robert Kaplan, Canada's solicitor general at the time.

October Crisis suspects not just FLQ sympathizers

CBC and Radio-Canada have learned that PROFUNC's blacklist may have been used to bolster the number of suspects rounded up during the October Crisis 40 years ago, many of whom had no connection to FLQ activities.


Daniel Waterlot, who used to manage a Communist bookstore in Montreal, was arrested during the October Crisis. ((Radio-Canada))

The October Crisis was triggered by a pair of political kidnappings orchestrated by two separate FLQ cells, British trade commissioner James Richard Cross, and, later, Quebec Labour Minister Pierre Laporte, who was eventually murdered.

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act on Oct. 16, in a bold attempt to stamp out the FLQ and resolve the kidnappings. With civil liberties suspended, police and army troops fanned out on the streets of Ottawa and Montreal to restore order.

Retired Lt. Julien Giguère was head of Montreal police's anti-terrorism squad at the time.

"We had some names" of FLQ sympathizers, said Giguère in an exclusive interview with Radio-Canada's Enquête program. "The Sureté du Québec [SQ, provincial police] added some names."

There were at most 60 names on the initial police list after the War Measures Act was invoked, Giguère said.

CBC/Radio-Canada has learned that Quebec's provincial police, thought that list was too short, given the extreme measures implemented by Trudeau. So the RCMP stepped in, offering to add names to the list of roundup targets.

As many as 500 people ended up in arrest in the hours following the War Measures Act was invoked including many with no known links to the FLQ.

"They came into my library and they broke everything," said Daniel Waterlot, who managed a Communist bookstore called Livres et périodiques progressistes in Montreal's St-Henri district at the time of the October Crisis. "Me, I wasn't an FLQ, I was with the Communist Party. It's not the same thing."

Waterlot's thick RCMP file contains no references to any FLQ activity. But CBC/Radio-Canada has found evidence that Waterlot was on the PROFUNC arrest list.

With files from Enquête, the Fifth Estate