"Fake News" media insinuations
by CSIS agents
For three weeks in the spring of 1985, Roy, Sylvia and Richard Sanders travelled to the Soviet Union with about 30 other Canadians. The places they visited on the "Adventure Peace Tour" are now in four different countries: Russia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Uzbekistan. (For more details about this trip see "Travels." Click here for information about the many messages of peace that were collected by Richard for delivery to Soviet groups during the tour.)
During the 23 weeks leading up to our departure (between Oct. 1984 to March 1985), trip organiser and tour director, Koozma Tarasoff, held a series of weekly "Living Room Discussions on East-West Relations" in his Ottawa home. Koozma is a Doukhobor Canadian pacifist, anthropologist and photographer who had known Roy and Sylvia since the 1960s. (See his comments at Roy's memorial service.)
The purpose of Koozma's open, public sessions was to promote dialogue and understanding between Canadians and Soviets. This discussion program took place during a period in the Cold War when there was great public concern about the possibilities of a nuclear war. Many millions of people were protesting against the US Star Wars missile program and the deployment of US nuclear weapons in Europe. Many within Canada's peace movement were working for disarmament, trying to de-escalate tensions between East and West, and opposing their government's participation in NATO, the "arms race" and the test flights of cruise missiles and other US weapons systems in Canada's airspace.
During Koozma's living room discussions (each attended by between 10 and 40 people), trip participants and others had the opportunity to to learn more about Soviet life and culture by meeting with Soviet poets, musicians, professors, scientists and embassy officials.
Unfortunately, the widespread media phobia of all things Soviet, fed by the paranoia and insinuations of Canada's newly-formed intelligence agency, CSIS, led to a libellous "fake news" story by CJOH TV.
On January 18, 1985, CJOH TV's 6 pm "Newsline" show aired a slanderous and defamatory story about the peace movement in general, which specifically targeted peace tour participants and the living room discussions. The story was the work of reporter Charlie Greenwell, who had never attended any of the discussions. To introduce Greenwell's story the CJOH news announcer made this statement:
Greenwell then cited unnamed "Canadian intelligence officials" who alleged that the "Peace Tour" discussion program was a subversive plot designed to allow KGB agents to recruit Canadian peace activists as Soviet spies. Koozma's closest allies in the struggle to counter this libellous story were Roy and Sylvia. Thanks to there efforts a lawyer was found who was willing to work on the case pro bono. Besides writing an open letter to peace groups asking for their support in this case, Roy also wrote to many others, including his MP, the Prime Minister, the Solicitor General, and the Commissioner of the CRTC.
On January 24, 1985, Roy, Sylvia and Koozma met with CJOH president Ted Billo and manager Bryn Matthews to request a full apology and retraction. When CJOH refused this request outright, the Canada-USSR Association launched legal proceedings against the media company and Greenwell. Later however this legal case was dropped. No apology, retraction or indication of regret for the news story was ever received from CJOH.
However, despite this controversy, the living room discussion program and the trip to the USSR were a great success!