UCL Institute of the Americas


Just Watch Us: RCMP Surveillance of the Women's Liberation Movement in Cold War Canada

10 May 2018, 6:00 pm

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UCL Institute of the Americas


UCL Institute of the Americas, 51 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PN

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Christabelle Sethna (University of Ottawa) and Steve Hewitt (University of Birmingham) - From the late 1960s to the mid-1980s, the RCMP security service - prompted by fears of left-wing and communist subversion - monitored and infiltrated the women's liberation movement in Canada and Quebec. Just Watch Us investigates why and how this movement was targeted, weighing carefully the presumed threat its left-wing ties presented to the Canadian government against the defiant challenge its campaign for gender equality posed to Canadian society. It demonstrates that the Mounties' longstanding anti-Communist focus distorted their threat assessment of feminist organising. It considers the machinations of the RCMP as well as the evolution of the women's liberation movement from its broad transnational influences to its elusive quest for unity among women across lines of ideology and identity. A penetrating inquiry into spy policies and tactics in Cold War Canada, Just Watch Us speaks to the serious political implications of state surveillance for social justice activism in liberal democracies.

Just Watch Us: RCMP Surveillance of the Women's Liberation Movement in Cold War Canada (2018) is published by McGill-Queen's University Press (MGQUP)

Dr Christabelle Sethna, Professor in the Institute of Feminist and Gender Studies, University of Ottawa, is a historian who focuses on women's reproductive health. Her topics of research include the history of sex education, contraception and abortion. She has a particular interest in second wave feminist politics, the Cold War and representations of animals.

Dr Steve Hewitt, Senior Lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Birmingham, is a former President of the British Association for Canadian Studies. He has written extensively about security and intelligence in the past and present. Currently, he is working on a history of terrorism and counter-terrorism in Canada.