Click Here To Purchase The Fog of War: Censorship of Canada's Media in World War II

Author: Mark Bourrie

ISBN: 978-1-55365-949-5

Publisher: Douglas & McIntyre

Mark Bourrie's most recent tome,  The Fog of War: Censorship of Canada's Media in World War Two is an exhaustive researched and fascinating study of the Government of Canada's censorship during World War II. As Bourrie mentions in his introduction, there were two principal reasons for censoring the news: to keep military and economic secrets out of the hands the enemy, and to prevent civilian morale from breaking down.

It appeared on paper that the Canadian censorship system, backed by the War Measures Act, was among the most draconian media-controlled mechanisms among the Allied countries. However, as we discover, only the fringe Communist Party and ethnic presses suffered serious penalties. In fact, Prime Minister Mackenzie King and his cabinet played games when they ignored pro-Nazi and pro-Vichy forces in some of Quebec press while on the other hand sometimes strictly enforced censorship upon the pro-Conservative Montreal Gazette and Globe and Mail.

Realizing what was happening, the French-language press as Le Devoir, L'Action catholique, and L'Événement-Journal outrageously ran amok in publishing blatant anti-Semitic and pro-Vichy articles, even singing the praises of Mussolini and Franco. Unbelievable as it may seem today, Federal justice minister Louis St. Laurent and his deputy were very quick to approve prosecutions and warnings for the press outside of Quebec but generally turned a blind eye to the despicable behavior of some of the French-language newspapers and magazines within the province. On the other hand, there were times when press censors, backed by a few Ottawa mandarins, often acted with courage to protect some of the rights of vulnerable people as the Japanese Canadians even though the media, governments, many of the churches, and most of the public supported the mistreatment of these vulnerable people.

After giving us an overview of the genesis of the World War II censorship system in Canada, The Fog of War proceeds to convey a vast amount of detail exploring some of the sensitive issues that often ended up in a collision course between the Canadian government under the leadership of Mackenzie King, the bureaucrats and the press. All of this information was a result of the author's meeting with the late Fulgence Charpentier, Canada's last director of censorship. Apparently, according to Bourrie, it was Charpentier that carefully packed the voluminous records of the Directorate of Censorship in 1946 and hid them away in Canada's National Archives. As Bourrie further recounts, in 1998 Charpentier informed him about these records and hinted at some of the most interesting parts. And interesting they are particularly when we learn more about the U-boats attacks off the St Lawrence River near Quebec, the Battle of the Atlantic, the spy games in the Maritime provinces, naval war censorship and the killing of some of the most dramatic local stories of the war, censorship and the Quebec media, the Hong Kong cover-up where thousands of soldiers were killed or taken prisoner by the Japanese, the Battle of Bowmanville and the shackling of German prisoners in Canada, front lines's censorship, censorship of the Japanese-Canadian press, balloon bombs and atomic bombs, and the conscription issue wherein the King government spent a good part of the war walking on eggs on it.

Although, as Bourrie concludes, the censorship might have failed in Quebec and in several crisis in English Canada, nonetheless, it was still better than World War One's nasty, politically motivated system. As he further states: “The World War Two censors had a healthy respect for liberty, one that showed in their treatment of Tommy Shoyama and in their six-year defense of the voluntary censorship system. Their insistence on fairness and their fight for freedom of the press reflected well on them and on Canada at a time when liberty faced its greatest modern challenge.”

One gripe I do have about this book is that it is in dire need of a good proof-reader and at times I had difficulty in following the historical sequence of events. In addition, as I am not an historian nor do I claim to have any profound knowledge of Canadian history during World War II, I cannot comment on the accuracy of some of the details that are mentioned in the book. I will have to leave this up to the experts. However, it did prod me to do some research concerning some of the topics which I hope to do in the near future.

Mark Bourrie is the author of ten non-fiction books. He has a PhD in History from the University of Ottawa and a Master's in Journalism from Carleton University.

Click Here To Purchase The Fog of War: Censorship of Canada's Media in World War II