EThe Communist party was outlawed in 1940 by Mackenzie King's 'order-in-council government'
Dorise Nielsen, the Unity party member for North Battleford, was a member of the Communist party

The 1940 election victory of the Liberal party did little to discourage William Lyon Mackenzie King's "government by order-in-council." Of all the cabinet directives, none was so offensive as the defence of Canada regulations passed under the authority of the War Measures Act.

The Communist party was outlawed by order-in-council dated June 6, 1940, ostensibly because of its adamant anti-war position. Over 100 known communists were rounded up and interned. Publication of the party's Canadian Tribune newspaper was suspended. In the frenzy, even the Financial Post and the Ottawa Citizen were threatened with cabinet reprisals, the latter for having written that "when the lads come home from overseas, they may know better where to shoot than Canadian veterans did in the years of debt and privation after the last war."

"Subversive," the minister of justice called it in the House.

According to Communist Party of Canada records, Dorise Nielsen, the Unity party member for North Battleford, was a member of the Communist party. But this was a closely guarded secret, or so she thought. As early as October, 1940, the RCMP seized a pamphlet the member of Parliament had published. On March 4, 1941, during a debate on the defence of Canada regulations began a two-day scuffle between the hon. member for North Battleford and the minister of justice.

Doris Nielsen (North Battleford): Mr. Speaker, with regards to my own pamphlets, I think that was done deliberately in an attempt to intimidate not only me but the rest of this country who were interested enough to want to read what a member of this House had said. After all is said and done, the best laid schemes of mice and men and governments gang aft agley. In fact, I feel I should thank the government for some good advertising.

There is the Canadian Tribune. The Secretary of State (Pierre-François Casgrain) mentioned this paper to the House -- I quote from Hansard: "I have in my hand one of the last issues of this newspaper, dated Feb. 1, 1941. It contains references to certain speeches of a member of the British House of Commons."

How terrible! Fancy any Canadian paper publishing a speech made by a member of the British House of Commons!

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Nielsen did not remain in the House after her remarks. But that did not stop the minister of justice.

Right Hon. Ernest Lapointe - Minister of Justice (Quebec East): Mr. Speaker, I am sorry that my hon. friend the member for North Battleford is not present. With regards to the alleged confiscation of copies of speeches of the hon. member, it was not the speech that was seized but a leaflet entitled "Why I Oppose The Budget": You have been told by the press and radio that this budget was patriotic, that it ensured equality of sacrifice and equal participation in the war effort. That is a lie and this war budget is instead the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the nation.

I must say to my hon. friend for North Battleford that she really has not been treated as terribly as she would like us to believe. Her language this afternoon was very mild compared with what she has been stating on the platform. She stated everywhere that we are a few Charlie McCarthys sitting on the lap of big business; "democracy destroyed" -- and she said that this afternoon.

Is this fair? The mere fact that a lady member can make the speech she made this afternoon shows that we still have democracy. Does the hon. lady member believe that she could say that in Germany and get away with it? Does she think she could say that in Russia and get away with it? No. We still have democracy.

Richard Hanson - Leader of the Opposition (York-Sudbury): Limited democracy.

Mr. Lapointe: Yes. We must have limits. The regulations are enacted under the War Measures Act, the last clause of which provides that the act ends with the last day of the war. All these restrictions are temporary.

If the police have searched for those leaflets it is because my hon. friend keeps bad company, very bad company indeed.

Mr. Hanson: Be careful.

Mr. Lapointe: Yes, I have to be careful. But were I at liberty to say what there is on the files of the RCMP! In Regina, a young lady has been arrested for an offence against the regulations and all the documents which were found have been confiscated. Among these, there was a letter addressed by a communist leader in Saskatchewan in which he claims that the hon. member has the same ideas he has.

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The next day, as the Speaker called the House to order, Nielson sprang to her feet on a question of privilege. "I am in this House as a free and independent member, not belonging to any political party," she claimed.

Public apprehension of the Communist party eventually relaxed when Russia joined the Allied war effort in the fall of 1941 and Canadian communists began to openly support the war effort. By September, 1942, all communist internees had been released. By the end of the 19th Parliament, Dorise Nielsen had declared her affiliation with the Communist party. Although she was defeated in the 1945 election, the House of Commons had not seen the last of communist members.