Gouzenko Affair

Reference to the key player in Canada’s most famous spy drama.

The war in Europe ended on 8 May 1945. But it didn’t take long for a Cold War to heat up among former Allies. And fittingly, the Cold War began in freezing Ottawa.

On 5 September 1945, a young Soviet code breaker named Igor Gouzenko walked out of the Soviet embassy in Ottawa with 109 top secret files and into offices of the Ottawa Journal. Incredibly, he had gone to the RCMP first, but they weren’t very impressed. Guess the RCMP doesn’t always know their man? Gouzenko was the man who started the Cold War.

Gouzenko’s cache of papers was a bombshell. That is, after the would-be defector convinced doubtful Canadian officials that he had legitimate documents proving the existence of a large-scale espionage scheme. Things took off from there, and Gouzenko and his family were eventually shuttled off to Camp X for their own safety.

The ensuing investigation led to 18 convictions under the War Measures Act, two executions, and one Royal Commission. It also gave PM Mackenzie King a chance to add leverage to Canada’s post-war influence.

Many years later, Gouzenko appeared in media interviews wearing (wait for it) a makeshift bag over his head. Spying is clearly no fashion show. [Unless your name is Bond.] But that image of Gouzenko is enduring. And haunting.

Image Source: Byward Museum

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