CIA eyed Trudeau, Canadian economy
The CIA secretly painted Pierre Trudeau as a politician torn between being a leader of the Third World and a genuine player with global industrialized nations, declassified records show.
Through the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, The Canadian Press obtained more than a dozen CIA reports that explore various aspects of Canadian commerce, industry and technology during the Cold War era.
The assessments reveal a keen interest in Canadian affairs on the part of an agency better known for waging a covert war against East Bloc spies in the decades leading up to the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.
CIA analysts pored over almost every available map of Canada, scrutinized Canadian mineral production, pondered Japanese interest in Alberta's tar sands, catalogued shipping trends and kept an eye on Canadian dealings with the Communist world.
The CIA's directorate of intelligence prepared a pair of confidential studies of the Canadian economy in April 1972 in advance of a meeting between Trudeau and then-U.S. president Richard Nixon. One study noted pressure was mounting in Canada for control over foreign investment — a dominant theme of the time —"despite a continuing need for additional funds to further Canadian development."
A decade later the CIA crafted an incisive analysis of a faltering Canadian economy for the U.S. trade representative.
"With a domestic market about the size of California's, Canada is sensitive about living in the U.S. economic shadow," says the January 1982 assessment, which explored Liberal government efforts to bolster Canadian control of key sectors, including energy and technology.
"Politically, Trudeau frequently appears torn between the urge to play leader of the Third World and the desire to hold his own with the industrial giants. Economically, however, he clearly wants Canada to jettison its Third World image."
Interest in Canada's mineral industries
A February 1974 CIA memo, assembled using "sensitive intelligence sources and methods," warned that a ferrous metals shortage in Canada triggered by U.S. export controls could lead to political problems.
The document illustrates that the Americans will sometimes use clandestine methods "to find out things about Canada that they want to know," said Wark.
The CIA took considerable interest in Canada's mineral industries, producing a May 1972 study that weighed trends and implications, concluding the country was in excellent position to further its position as the world's leading mineral exporter. However, Canada would continue to rely on U.S. markets and long-term capital.
Long before Canada's western tar sands became familiar to the world, the CIA recognized the "enormous amounts of oil" along the Athabasca River, probing possible Japanese interest in the deposits in an October 1972 memorandum.
"The sands rank with the U.S. shale deposits as the world's most extensive known, largely untapped oil source," says the memo, which includes a map of the deposits and presciently forecasts environmental concerns over the project.
"The pollution issue and opposition to defacing Alberta's landscape may arise but has not as yet."
Concern about links to Eastern Bloc
Seen together, the analyses indicate the CIA was taking a long-term view of Canada — possibly eyeing the country's assets as an advantage in the event of war with the Soviet Union, said Steve Hewitt of the department of American and Canadian studies at the University of Birmingham in England.
"I guess what surprises me, is not that the U.S. has interest in Canada, it's more the range of areas that they're looking at and how strategic they are," said Hewitt, who also attended the April conference on the CIA at the University of Nottingham.
Memos show the U.S. government tapped the CIA's cartographic expertise to provide evidence in a 1983 maritime boundary dispute with Canada heard by the International Court of Justice. In the early 1950s, the CIA relied on the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence for information on the B.C. shipping industry.
Sometimes the CIA's interest in Canadian trade was sparked by concerns about dealings with the Soviets or nations under Moscow's influence.
The intelligence agency flagged a $45-million Soviet purchase of Canadian wheat and closely charted Canada's exports to Cuba in the early 1960s when U.S. tensions with Fidel Castro boiled over into a heart-stopping missile crisis.