The untold story of how Antonin Scalia’s ‘gift to Canada’ shaped our spy services
As Donald Trump mulls a Supreme Court successor to the conservative firebrand judge, Sean Fine examines how a young, decidedly evenhanded Scalia helped the Canadian government in the 1970s to get a grip on domestic spy agencies that had begun to spin out of control
Sean Fine has this article in The Toronto Globe and Mail:
It was the 1970s – a time when this country was reeling from revelations about out-of-control spy services. The RCMP had burned down a barn in Quebec to prevent a meeting between Quebec separatists and U.S. radicals, broken into journalists’ offices, infiltrated legitimate protest groups, stolen political-party membership lists. In 1977, the Pierre Trudeau government had set up the Royal Commission into Certain Activities of the RCMP, to be led by Justice David McDonald of Alberta. The commission offered Mr. Scalia a contract to write a report describing how the United States had confronted the notorious excesses of its own intelligence agencies, including the attempt a decade earlier to push civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. to take his own life by sending him a threatening letter and an audiotape of extramarital sexual activities.
And Mr. Scalia, then in his early 40s, accepted – for the respectable, but not princely, sum of $7,500 U.S. (then worth $8,750 Canadian), based on 30 days’ work at $250 a day. The job wound up being much more onerous than he had expected: He was more than a year late delivering his report, though still in plenty of time to be useful.
The report’s scrupulously impartial (for the most part) author was not the larger-than-life figure he would one day become: a man obsessed with his own fame, and prone to scandalizing the court with his ridicule of its liberal members. (“What really astounds,” he wrote, dissenting from the 5-to-4 ruling legalizing gay marriage two years ago, “is the hubris reflected in today’s judicial Putsch.”) Here was the dispassionate, sober jurist of unmistakable power – the one who might have been. That’s the view of one of his biographers, Bruce Allen Murphy, a law professor at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, who read the report at The Globe and Mail’s request.
Read more here.