Following Igor Gouzenko’s exposure of classified documents describing Soviet espionage activity in North America, Canada found itself having to come to terms with the idea that a Soviet communist spy ring may have infiltrated the government. In response, Prime Minister Mackenzie King formed a Royal Commission to investigate. As a result, arrests were made, Canadian’s rights were endangered, and what many view as the beginning of the Cold War in Canada was set off.
Judith Robinson, through her regular column in newspaper NEWS titled "This Space", wrote a number of pieces from February to April 1946 on the topic of the Gouzenko affair. Her reporting on the affair reflected national fear of treason surrounding the war effort, Canadian citizens’ rights whilst under investigation, and the Canadian government’s poor handling of the affair and subsequent investigation. “This Space” was a place where Judith was free to report as she wished on hot political topics, social injustices, and other pressing matters concerning the state of the country. With a distinctly cutting, intelligent, and sardonic voice, Judith’s column was wholly hers.
Using “This Space”, Judith openly criticized the government for ignoring the Bill of Rights as well as the Habeas Corpus law during the treason trials and arrests of suspects identified during the Royal Commission investigation. She also exposed Louis St. Laurent’s attempts to stop the 'unsavoury' things being said about the government through parliamentary action. Through “This Space” Judith also publicly demanded that Canadians’civic rights not be jeopardized as a result of the Royal Commission, even if it makes police jobs harder, in order to guarantee liberty for all citizens.
Robinson’s column in NEWS had real impact, and her hard journalism produced tangible effects. Judith’s consistent reporting on Louis St. Laurent and PM King, as well as the events of the Royal Commission, directly resulted in the cancellation of the secret bill that suspended habeas corpus during espionage trials. Judith used her editorials to advance her critiques of the Canadian government’s handling of the Gouzenko affair. She used “This Space” as a locus for not only her opinion, but for opposition, demands, and exposure. Writing to her wide audience, Judith was able to expose details to the public that would not have had access to the sources she did, or perhaps lacked the investigative ability to do so. She held the government publicly accountable for their (in)actions, and made a real impact on Canada through her journalism in NEWS.
For further reading on Judith Robinson and her writing, consider visiting this project which surveys her obituaries following her passing for more details on her as a person and journalist. For more on Judith and women’s journalism of the era, visit here.