Ottawa

Gouzenko honoured by plaque in Ottawa

A man who exposed a Soviet spy network in Canada on the cusp of the Cold War will be remembered Wednesday in Ottawa.

A man who exposed a Soviet spy network in Canada on the cusp of the Cold War will be remembered Wednesday in Ottawa.

A plaque commemorating Soviet defector Igor Gouzenko will be unveiled in Dundonald Park on Somerset St. in Centretown.

In 1945, the information Gouzenko handed over to Canadian officials was explosive, but his efforts have gone publicly unmarked until now.

It took several years of lobbying by one dedicated history buff to make it happen.

Andrew Kavchak knows the park that will be home to Gouzenko's plaque well. He lives in the neighbourhood and has spent hours there playing with his son.

It was from this park that RCMP agents monitored Gouzenko's apartment across the street. They were there the night men from the Soviet embassy came looking for Gouzenko.

Gouzenko disclosed information that exposed spy rings in Canada, the U.S. and Britain. He also provided code-breaker texts to decipher secret Soviet messages.

"When we think of the Cold War, we think of big incidents like the Cuban missile crisis, the Berlin blockade," Kavchak says, "but the very first significant international incident didn't happen in Berlin or Washington or London. It happened right here in downtown Ottawa."

Kavchak spent several years lobbying both the municipal and federal governments in Ottawa to honour Gouzenko.

He says the project was held up by red tape and fears among some Canadian diplomats about how Russian officials would react to the memorial.

Martin Rudner is the director of Carleton University's Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies.

Rudner says, "Intelligence history is regarded very much as the narrow, insular province and precinct of the security and intelligence community. So they don't want to cross that line."

The City of Ottawa will unveil a plaque honouring Gouzenko Wednesday. The federal government will put up its own next year.

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