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Political Science Law Enforcement

Secret Service

Political Policing in Canada From the Fenians to Fortress America

by (author) Reg Whitaker, Gregory S. Kealey & Andrew Parnaby

University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division
Initial publish date
Jul 2012
Law Enforcement, Intelligence & Espionage, Political Freedom
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    Publish Date
    Jul 2012
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    Jul 2012
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    Jul 2012
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Secret Service provides the first comprehensive history of political policing in Canada – from its beginnings in the mid-nineteenth century, through two world wars and the Cold War to the more recent 'war on terror.' This book reveals the extent, focus, and politics of government-sponsored surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations.

Drawing on previously classified government records, the authors reveal that for over 150 years, Canada has run spy operations largely hidden from public or parliamentary scrutiny – complete with undercover agents, secret sources, agent provocateurs, coded communications, elaborate files, and all the usual apparatus of deception and betrayal so familiar to fans of spy fiction. As they argue, what makes Canada unique among Western countries is its insistent focus of its surveillance inwards, and usually against Canadian citizens.

Secret Service highlights the many tensions that arise when undercover police and their covert methods are deployed too freely in a liberal democratic society. It will prove invaluable to readers attuned to contemporary debates about policing, national security, and civil rights in a post-9/11 world.

About the authors

REG WHITAKER was a professor of political science at York University for many years. He now teaches at the University of Victoria. He is the author of Cold War Canada: The Making of a National Insecurity State, 1945â??1957. His most recent book, The End of Privacy, has also been published in French, German, Spanish and Korean editions.

Reg Whitaker's profile page

Gregory S. Kealey is a professor emeritus in the Department of History at the University of New Brunswick. He is the editor of University of Toronto Press’s Canadian Social History Series and former president of the Canadian Historical Association and the Canadian Federation of the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Gregory S. Kealey's profile page

Andrew Parnaby is a PhD student in the department of history at Memorial University of Newfoundland and editor of the Notebook at the journal Labour/Le Travail. He facilitates workshops with young people on the labour movement. He has taught labour and working-class history at the University of Victoria and Simon Fraser University.

Andrew Parnaby's profile page


  • Short-listed, J.W. Dafoe Book Prize
  • Commended, John A. Macdonald Prize awarded by the Canadian Historical Association
  • Winner, Canada Prize in the Social Sciences awarded by the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Short-listed, Donald Smiley Prize awarded by the Canadian Political Science Association

Editorial Reviews

‘Secret Service provides an excellent overview of how Canada’s security service engaged in the political policing of its citizens over the course of Canadian History… It serves as one of the most complete studies ever produced on the topic.’

Canadian Historical Review, vol 94:01:2013

‘This is a must read for anyone interested in intelligence in Canada… It is also a very important study for those interested in how the boundaries of race, class, gender, and difference were coercively enforced by a secret state within the state.’

BC Studies number 182: summer 2014

‘This book, rich in both detail and analysis, is the definitive source on political policing in Canada. It should be of interest to all those interested in Canadian history as well as to specialists in the history of policing and intelligence.’

Law and History Review, May 2014

‘An excellent history… Deeply scholarly yet refreshing unacademic in its tone and temper, the text bridges with considerable skill the requirements of rigorous, measured analysis of a wide variety of sources that is inherent in good history… The book deserves to be widely read.’

Literary Review of Canada vol 21:04:2013

‘Secret Service provides a comprehensive overview of the evolution of Canada’s capabilities and objectives in political policing… The information is presented in a refreshingly jargon-free manner.’

Canadian Military History vol 24:02:2015

Other titles by Reg Whitaker

Other titles by Gregory S. Kealey

Other titles by Andrew Parnaby