HEADLINE: Shadowing Infeld: Secret documents show the lengths to which Canadian spies went to try to prove exiled physicist was a communist
BYLINE: LEONARD STERN; THE OTTAWA CITIZEN
On the evening of April 16, 1948, a member of the RCMP's "special branch" attended a public lecture at McGill University in Montreal. The special branch served as a domestic spy agency, forerunner to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. On this spring night the operative mingled in the audience, probably posing as a scholar or student, most of whom were associated with McGill's theology department. The agent had been assigned to report on guest speaker Dr. Leopold Infeld, then Canada's greatest physicist. A professor at the University of Toronto, Infeld was well known as a close collaborator of Albert Einstein. It was a great prize for Canada's scientific community when, 10 years earlier, Dr. Infeld left the United States to come north.
Like Einstein, Infeld was a peace activist. "It has been clearly proven that no problem has been solved by war and if we think any problem can be solved by war we are preparing a chain of many wars," declared Infeld, according to the RCMP report filed after the Montreal lecture. ...
Yet two years later Parliament denounced Infeld as a traitor who planned, if he hadn't done so already, to provide Russia with atomic secrets. As the Citizen's Weekly reported last July, the allegations against Infeld were based on rumour. Even so, his photograph was splashed across the nation's newspapers, his family was harassed, and in 1950 he moved to Poland, his country of birth. His Canadian citizenship and that of his young Canadian-born children were revoked. Infeld died an unhappy man in Warsaw in 1968. His tombstone says, simply, "Leopold Infeld, physicist."
Last year, Warsaw University held a symposium in honour of Infeld's memory and organizers invited the Canadian government to send a representative, someone, it was hoped, who would clear the great scientist's name and acknowledge he had been unjustly hounded out of Canada. ...
The Canadian government probably began monitoring Infeld's activities not long after he left Princeton University in 1938 and took up his position in Toronto; by 1945 he was the subject of at least three investigations.
In the early Cold War period, one did not need to be a confessed communist to be a security threat. Infeld once made a complimentary remark about a youth labour federation and that alone earned an entry in RCMP files. Years later, after he was exiled to Poland, he reflected on this climate of mistrust in an essay published by the journal of the Polish Writers Union. ...