Persistent controversy

[ The Norman gravestone ]

The Norman gravestone, Roger Bowen, 1984, University of British Columbia Library, Rare Books and Special Collections, BC2124-049, Norman's ashes were interred beneath a cypress tree in the Protestant Cemetary, Testaccio, Rome, a metre away from the grave of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley

On August 17, 1957, the Vancouver Province editorialized that with the latest Canada-U.S. diplomatic exchange, [i]t is to be hoped that the Norman case is now permanently closed. Over 50 years later, that editorial writer’s fervent wish has still not been realized. The immediate uproar over Norman’s suicide abated, but time has only added further layers to the debate about his loyalty.

This section presents a sample from across the spectrum of the arguments that have been advanced. What is your opinion of the tone of these arguments? Has the nature of the controversy about Norman shifted or remained approximately the same over the past 50 years?

In some high-profile Cold War cases, fresh evidence has emerged in the past decade to settle disagreements. These new data have come either from the archives of the former Soviet Union following its demise in 1991 or have been produced by the release of records under access to information laws in Western countries. You might ask yourself why these new tools have not produced a resolution of the Herbert Norman case.

More broadly than Norman’s loyalty, some of the disagreement in this area relates to the nature of the security relationship between Canada and the United States, and particularly to the liaison between the RCMP and the FBI. As the recent Maher Arar case illustrates, things can go tragically wrong when security agencies share highly-sensitive and speculative details about individuals who are deemed to be risks to national security. The danger is especially elevated at times of intense fear, such as the Cold War years and today’s post 9/11 era.

Diaries, Journals or Reminiscences

Government Documents


Newspaper or Magazine Articles