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Saskatchewan NDP calls on Ottawa to release security files on Tommy Douglas

REGINA - The Saskatchewan NDP wants the federal government to fully disclose decades-old intelligence gathered on socialist icon and former premier Tommy Douglas.

REGINA - The Saskatchewan NDP wants the federal government to fully disclose decades-old intelligence gathered on socialist icon and former premier Tommy Douglas.

The Canadian Press learned Wednesday that the party was planning to introduce a motion in the legislature calling on Ottawa to release all of the files on Douglas.

The New Democrats are the Opposition in the Saskatchewan legislature and would need government support to pass the motion. Leader Dwain Lingenfelter said a united front would send a big message to Ottawa.

"I think making this public ... not only is it the right thing to do, but I think students, people who were involved with Tommy, have every right to know everything there is to know about the file," Lingenfelter said in an interview.

The fight over the intelligence file began in November 2005 when The Canadian Press made an access-to-information request for the RCMP dossier on Douglas, who served as premier of Saskatchewan and federal NDP leader.

The information was gathered by the now-defunct RCMP security service, transferred to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and eventually sent to Library and Archives Canada.

Some material was released and showed that the RCMP had shadowed Douglas for more than three decades, attended his speeches and eavesdropped on conversations. His links to the peace movement and to members of the Communist party were of particular interest.

But CSIS wants to block the release of large parts of the dossier for what it calls national security reasons.

Lingenfelter doesn't agree with that argument.

"Nothing jumps out at me as to what could possibly be a security issue," he said. "This is not some sort of a crime scene. This is an exciting part of our history. It's the development of medicare.

"I can't imagine what could possibly be determined as life-threatening or (damaging to) somebody's reputation. This was a very public debate that was going on between the governments of the day and individuals of the day."

Lingenfelter argues that people deserve to know the full story of the man widely revered as the father of medicare.

"The history and legacy of this individual should be known by the people of Saskatchewan who debated with him, argued, supported, because it was a classic debate around medicare and the formation of the Crown corporations. And anything historically that can add to that file I think we should shine a light on it," he said.

"Far from hiding it, this is part of Canada's history."