The Case of the Missing Telegram

The Case of the Missing Telegram


One official document.

That’s
all I was looking for. Probably just one page, if that.

In
my research into official documents regarding the subject of UFOs, I came
across two particular mentions of them by the Prime Minister of Canada in 1966.

That
in itself was fairly significant, as any head of state publicly raising the
subject of UFOs was (and is) quite unusual to say the least. Of more
significance is that these circumstances were not in response to questions from
the media during a press conference, or in the context of banter on a network
TV show.

These
were during relatively staid and controlled government discussions among
debates about issues such as diplomatic missions, farm policy and military
concerns.

The
first instance under consideration was on April 5, 1966. Prime Minister Lester
B. Pearson was in a meeting with ministers and members of Parliament in his
cabinet, discussing the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, followed
shortly thereafter by a proposal for the Health Resources Fund, which was to
provide critical federal support in building hospital infrastructure.


Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson, and that other one.

But
in between those two topics under discussion was “Unidentified Flying Objects.”
This was not just a mention of UFOs in a joking way or a mention of shooting
stars mistaken for UFOs. This was an actual topic for discussion.

The
brief reference in the Minutes of Cabinet that day read:

The
Prime Minister said that, in view of the interest being shown in Parliament and
the press concerning reports of unidentified flying objects, he would ask the
Minister or Ministers responsible to provide him with reports on what had been
done in recent years in connection with such reports.

The
Cabinet noted that the Prime Minister would seek information from the responsible
Ministers concerning actions taken by the government in recent years as a
result of reports of unidentified flying objects.

That
was it.

A
few things to note: within Pearson’s Cabinet, the Minister of Defence at that
time was none other than Paul Hellyer, who in much later years claimed inside
knowledge that aliens were visiting Earth on a regular basis. But Hellyer also
said that during his time in office, he was not all that interested in UFOs.

Hellyer
admits that when he was defence minister, he never got any briefings on UFOs
from the military. He says he got reports of sightings, and that some of them
could not be explained.

https://www.ctvnews.ca/ex-defence-minister-defends-aliens-says-hawking-wrong-1.508105

 

And
at the Citizens’ Hearings on Disclosure in 2013, Hellyer said:
 

Although
as Minister of National Defence I had sighting reports of UFOs, I was too busy
to be concerned about them because I was trying to unify the Army, Navy and Air
Force into a single Canadian Defence Force.

http://removingtheshackles.blogspot.com/2013/05/transcription-of-paul-hellyer-testimony.html

 

            So while he was not that interested in UFOs, it does seem
that he was asked by the Prime Minister to provide reports on what was being
done about UFOs by the Royal Canadian Air Force and National Defence. It was
likely he did therefore get briefings
on UFOs from the military.

            Anyway, that was an interesting entry in the minutes of
the Liberal Cabinet of 1966.

            What was even more interesting, however, was what
happened the next day, April 6, 1966.

            The Hansard of the Canadian House of Commons recorded
that during Question Period, no less a political strategist than the famous Tommy
Douglas, former premier of Saskatchewan and the leader of the federal New
Democratic Party, stood up and asked about an issue making the national news at
that time: UFOs.

Mr.
Speaker, may I direct a question to the Prime Minister. In view of widespread
concern over press reports regarding unidentified flying objects, and in order
that these reports may not lead to unfounded speculation, I want to ask the
Prime Minister if this matter is being investigated by any department of his government.
If so, may I ask what department has been assigned this responsibility?

Douglas
was referring to a media frenzy that was taking place at that time in southern
Ontario regarding the case of 13-year-old Charles Cozens. On March 29, 1966, at
9:15 pm, he claimed to have seen two luminous oval objects about eight feet in
diameter descend and land, making a buzzing sound. He said the objects had a
row of multicolored lights around their rims that were “flickering like a
computer.”

Cozens
bravely got closer and even touched the nearest UFO, which he said felt hard
and smooth like metal. He noticed an antenna of some kind sticking out from the
object, and touched it as well, but there was a bright flash and he received an
electrical shock. Frightened, he ran home, where his parents confirmed that he had
a three-inch burn on his hand. Two days later, it had not healed well, so they
took him to a hospital where he was treated for the burn.

            This case was part of a very significant UFO flap that
flared through the region that month. According to one UFO historian, “It was
by far the most intensive and widely reported UFO ‘flap’ ever recorded in
Canada.” No wonder it was discussed in the Canadian Parliament!

            In fact, on April 4, 1966, a few days before Tommy
Douglas addressed the Prime Minister, a different politician, New Democratic
Party member William Dean Howe, had asked a question in open session about
Cozens, since the case had occurred in his own riding of Hamilton.

Mr.
Speaker, I have a question I should like to direct to the Minister of
Transport. In view of the increased sightings of unidentified flying objects
which are now getting past the point of being funny – a young citizen in my
riding is nursing a burn on his hand after touching the antenna of one of these
objects, and there are dozens of other reports in southern Ontario – can the
minister say whether his department is doing anything about investigating these
reports; and would he be prepared to set up a special committee for this
purpose in order to satisfy public curiosity?

This
was a very significant development, as a Canadian politician was asking the government
about the status of UFO investigations, and was taking the subject very
seriously.

            (Of course, despite noting the topic was “past the point
of being funny,” a Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament, Gordon
Fairweather, couldn’t resist a snide remark: “Ralph Cowan should be the chairman.”
This was because Cowan, a Liberal Party member, had a reputation for being a “renegade”
and often voted against his own party on bills before the House. He was the subject
of ridicule and was even considered a “windmill tilter.”)

            Unfortunately, Howe’s questions were never addressed
until April 21, 1966, when then Associate Minister for National Defence, Leo
Cadieux, stated that there was no such investigation underway but that he would
initiate one.

I
do not personally think there is a coordinated effort being made now, but I
believe several departments of government are interested in the subject matter
referred to by the honourable member.

This
in itself was interesting, because the Minister for Defence at the time was
Paul Hellyer, who chose to have his subordinate address the issue instead of
himself.

            But back to Tommy Douglas’ question of Prime Minister
Pearson regarding the flurry of UFO reports in Ontario. In response, Pearson
replied:

Mr.
Speaker, I am aware of these reports. Indeed, I had a telegram, a few hours ago
concerning another report from western Canada. These matters are being
investigated by the Department of National Defence.


            So on April 6, 1966, the Prime Minister of Canada said
that National Defence was investigating UFO reports, but two weeks later, the
public was told that there were no investigations underway but there would be
soon. Which was correct?

            Reading all this, my curiosity was piqued. What was in
the telegram that Pearson said he had received? Why was the Prime Minister sent
a telegram about a UFO report if there was no investigation already? Who was
keeping the head of state informed on UFO sightings in the country? How often
was he sent this information?

            I decided that taking a look at this telegram could yield
some insight into what the government was doing about UFOs at that time. I sent
off an Access to Information request (the Canadian equivalent of the FOIA
request) for this one specific document.

            While I waited for the response to my request, I dug
deeper into my files of historical Canadian UFO reports. Since 1989, I had been
coordinating the annual Canadian UFO Survey, taking a “snapshot” of all UFO
sightings reported in the country during the year. But in addition to keeping
track of current cases, I had been developing a parallel database of historical
Canadian UFO cases to better understand the characteristics of the UFO
phenomenon over the years.

            It turns out that 1966 was a pretty good year for UFOs in
Canada and elsewhere. It marked the beginning of the 1966-67 UFO wave that
affected North America, described by some as “the Mother of All UFO Waves.”

            In Canada, noted sightings included the aforementioned
Cozens case, and that same night of March 29, 1966, at 11:15 pm in London,
Ontario, a bright disc-shaped object with a dome was seen hovering above Westminster
Hospital for five minutes.

            But those were in eastern Canada, not the west. My
examination of the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) UFO files showed
there were five separate sighting reports on April 4-5, 1966, all around
Montreal – again not the west.

            However, there was one single report from western Canada,
on April 6, 1966, from Comox, British Columbia. The trouble is that it could
not have been the subject of a telegram to Pearson that same day, as the
sighting had occurred at 9:05 pm Pacific Time, or after midnight on April 7,
1966!

            Which case had been noted in the telegram, then?

            When I received the response to my ATI request after
three months of waiting, I was told that the telegram could not be found. The
archivists had searched through the Lester B. Pearson fonds, including the
general Prime Minister’s office correspondence, numbered subject files, secret
(!) subject files, diaries and personal papers, and files of the Privy Council
Office. They also looked in the House of Commons fonds, including files on
Debates, Proceedings, and Sessional Records.

            Further, they looked in the Department of National
Defence fonds, including the Central registry files of National Defence
Headquarters and the files of the Canadian North American Air Defence Region
Headquarters.

            Finally, they looked in the NRC files, and an archivist
noted: “I could not identify a sighting report in Western Canada that would
have occurred in the few days before April 6th, 1966.”

            No telegram sent to the Prime Minister about UFOs in
Western Canada could be found in any file. Why not?

            Well, there are several possible explanations.

·       
The Prime
Minister could have said Western Canada, but meant Eastern Canada.

·       
The Prime
Minister could have been using hyperbole, simply boasting that he was on top of
the situation and there was no such telegram. (If so, why be so specific?)

·       
It was not a
telegram, but a memo of some kind.

·       
The telegram was
classified higher than Secret.

 

            It turns out that there was an earlier sighting from
Western Canada in the NRC files that is also noted by UFO historians. According
to media reports, on March 27, 1966, in Vancouver, British Columbia, about 100
people watched a revolving disc-shaped object that hovered for an hour,
flashing red, blue, green, and white lights. This case was even in the NRC
files, but seemed to have been explained as an astronomical object, probably
Jupiter, which was prominent in the southwest that night.

            However, there was no telegram about a UFO sighting in
western Canada on or around April 6, 1966.

            Yet there could have been such a telegram. The day before
in Cabinet, as noted, Pearson said that he was going to ask the Minister of
Defence “to provide him with reports” on UFOs. It makes sense, therefore, that
a day later the Minister of Defence would have given Pearson something about
the current UFO situation at that time. And if there had been a UFO case around
that time, it could have been the subject of that missive. Was it the missing
telegram?

            Further, according to Pearson’s comment in the House of
Commons, the Department of National Defence was investigating UFO reports in
1966. This is remarkable, because research by journalist Daniel
Otis found that in 2021
, “Canada’s military says it does not typically
concern itself with UFO reports, unless they represent emergencies or ‘credible
threats.’” Further, a
later paper
noted that credible UFO reports routinely get ignored by the Canadian
military.

            So what exactly does Canada’s Department of National
Defence do with UFO reports? Did it ever investigate them in any detail?

            What did Lester B. Pearson know?

            I suppose a follow-up question would be: what does the current
Prime Minister know?

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