Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Canada's Real UFO Investigators [pre-1967]

If Wilbert Smith wasn't heading up Canada's real UFO investigations in the 1950s, does that mean that there weren't any investigations?


But if Smith wasn't a key player - and the evidence is clear that he was not - then who was? And what about the 1960s?

It turns out that the answers to these questions have never been much of a secret. The question was asked - and answered - a number of times in the 1950s and 1960s in the House of Commons. By looking at the answers in their entirety, a pretty clear picture emerges.

It began with this exchange from 21 April, 1952. The question was asked by CCF M.P. Joseph Noseworthy (York South - for Noseworthy's bio see

"Nosweworthy - I wish to direct a question to the Minister of Transport. Will he make a statement to the house on the news report to the effect that jet planes were engaged last night in chasing flying saucers over southwestern Ontario?

Lionel Chevier, Min. of Transport: I take it that my hon. friend's question is predicated on the assumption that flying saucers exist. I am not in a position to say that they do. I know, however, that planes over which I have jurisdiction in the Department of Transport were not chasing flying saucers in southwestern Ontario or any other part of Canada."

Noseworthy: Then may I direct the question to the Minister of National Defence.

Brooke Claxton, Min. of National Defence: This report was drawn to my attention. I looked into it and find that it almost certainly refers to an ordinary service flight of an R.A.F Canberra plane across Canada and the middle west of the United States at a speed of something of the order of 500 miles an hour."

[For more information on Chevrier, see
For more information on Claxton, see]

These answers demonstrate a critical point - it would not have been the Department of Transport that was looking into these reports, although elements within the Department, most likely in the Civil Aviation and Meteorological Sections, may have been consulted in some cases. It was the Department of National Defence - undoubtedly the Royal Canadian Air Force - that was investigating, much as the United States Air Force was heading up the investigations south of the border. It also demonstrates that the Minister of National Defence was aware of these investigations - indeed, as in this case, that they were "drawn to [his] attention."

This was followed, of course, by the statement of Minister of Transport George Marler in 1955 - which was corroborated by Wilbert Smith himself - that Smith's research into the UFO phenomenon at Shirley's Bay was done in his spare time, and not under the auspices of the Department of Transport (meaning it was not an official government project). See Wilbert Smith - Only a Pawn in Their Game, Part II (

This was followed in 1963 by an exchange between Harold Winch, the NDP Member of Parliament for Vancouver East (the CCF became the NDP in 1961), and Yvon Dupuis, the Liberal MP for Saint-Jean-Iberville-Napierville, at the time the Parliamentary Secretary to the Secretary of State.

1. Is Canada co-operating with the special United States program for investigation of unidentified flying objects, and, if so, is this entitled 'Project Magnet.'
2. Is 'Project Magnet' an unpublicized worldwide operation, using specially equipped, super constellations, non-uniformed pilots, and civilian scientists?
3. Was the late Wilbert B. Smith, a government scientist, the head of the Canadian section of the U.F.O. research operation?
4. Is any general data available from 'Project Magnet' to the general public?

1. The R.C.A.F. co-operates with the United States in the investigation of reports of unidentified flying objects as in other matters of mutual interest, but not as part of a special program. The United States program known as 'Project Magnet' is not directed to the investigation of unidentified flying objects.
2. 'Project Magnet' is a program conducted by the naval oceanographic office of the U.S. navy concerned with the compilation of the geo-magnetic data covering all the oceans of the world. The data are obtained in survey flights of U.S. navy aircraft carrying civilian scientists. Information concerning this program has been freely available for some years to interested scientists.
3. Between December, 1950 and August, 1954, a small program of investigation in the field of geo-magnetics was carried out by the then telecommunications division of the Department of Transport with a view to obtaining, if possible, some physical information or facts which might help to explain the phenomenon which was generally referred to as unidentified flying objects. Mr. W. B. Smith was the engineer in charge of this program.
4. It is understood that data obtained in 'Project Magnet', in the form of geo-magnetic charts, is available upon application to the naval oceanographic office of the U.S. navy."

[For more information about Winch, see:
For more information about Dupuis, see:]

Pro-Smith ufologists (and conspiracy theorists) have seized upon this one exchange as evidence that Smith's work (Project Magnet - not Shirley's Bay, which is a separate issue) was an important project within the Department of Transport, as opposed to being part-time work (a significant distinction). In doing so, they completely misread what Dupuis said, namely the use of the word "small" with reference to the Department of Transport "investigation."

The fact that some ufologists have pointed to this 1963 exchange in the House as "proof" that there was more to Smith's work than all the other statements simply demonstrates how desperate they are to fit the Smith story's "square peg" into the "round hole" of reality. In doing so, they also miss the forest for a tree - here was a member of the Canadian government again confirming that the R.C.A.F. was involved in the investigation of the UFO phenomenon, and that it co-operated in that investigation, where appropriate, with the United States Air Force. They also miss the proper characterization of Project Magnet, which was geo-magnetic research.

Worse, they often mis-identify who gave the answer to Winch's question. For example, Grant Cameron, at, writes, "Months after Smith died in late 1962 Mr. Dupuis, Minister of the Department of Transport, made his final positive statement in the House of Commons." As noted above, Dupuis was not the Minister of Transport, but the Parliamentary Secretary to the Secretary of State. He was not a cabinet minister, and he was certainly not in charge of the Department of Transport. In fact, he was fielding a question outside his normal purview, which often happens when the appropriate Minister or his parliamentary secretary is not in the House. He would have been given a basic brief, but would not have been acquainted with all the details. His answer must therefore be taken as less definitive than any statement given by someone from Transport, such as Marler in 1955. This is a significant error that indicates Cameron has not done his basic research, and which is misleading to the reader. Further, his contention that Dupuis' statement was the "final positive statement" on Smith's "work" is inaccurate, as we shall see. Finally, he and the other pro-Smith ufologists fail to see the significance in the fact that, even given the circumstances noted above, Smith's "work" was still described as a "small program."

That the R.C.A.F. was in charge of Canadian UFO investigations should not have come as a surprise to Mr. Winch. Four months earlier, in July 1963, the same answer as to who was investigating UFOs in Canada was given when the M.P. for York West, "Red Kelly" (a legendary pro hockey player - see, asked the following question:

"Kelly: Does the R.C.A.F., or any other government department or agency operate a centre for the compilation, collection and investigation of reports of unidentified flying objects and, if so, (a) who operates the centre (b) are the reports of the investigations available to the public (c) how many of these reports [have been] obtained?"

Just who responded for the government is unclear, as the M.P.'s identity is not specifically identified in the House of Commons record, but it might have been Hubert Badanai, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works, who was fielding questions that day (see
"Government: Yes, the R.C.A.F. While it is not the policy of the department to deny the public information on unidentified flying objects such reports are not produced in published form."

Again, the R.C.A.F. is identified.

Three years later, on 6 April, 1966, Tommy Douglas, the NDP M.P. from Burnaby - Coquitlam (Douglas is an iconic figure in the history of Canadian politics - see, raised the subject of UFOs again, this time with a question for Lester B. Pearson, the Prime Minister, ( ), which led to the following exchange:

"Douglas: Mr. Speaker, may I direct a question to the Prime Minister. In view of widespread 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?

Pearson: Mr. Speaker, I am well 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."

[As an interesting side note, Eric Nielsen, a Tory M.P. from the Yukon, and comedian Leslie Nielsen's brother, interjected after Pearson's answer - "It is the soaring cost of living," demonstrating a sense of humour often found in the House, and on Committees. Nielsen would later become Deputy Prime Minister under Brian Mulroney - see]

Again - the Department of National Defence (which obviously included the R.C.A.F.).

On 21 April, 1966, another NDP Member of Parliament, William Howe (, after a short speech about the subject of UFOs, asked:

"Howe: I would like to know, Mr. Speaker, what investigations Canada is now conducting, and what the government's intentions are."

The Associate Minister of National Defence, Leo Cadieux (he would become Minister of National Defence in 1967 - see , answered:

"Cadieux: I do not personally think there is a co-ordinated effort being made now, but I believe several departments of government are interested in the subject matter referred to by the hon. member. Speaking for the Department of National Defence, I am sure that our Defence Research Board will be interested in his remarks. It seems to me the National Research Council will also be interested and, to a lesser degree, the Department of Transport."

Again - the Department of National Defence is at the forefront (which is why Cadieux took the question; remember as well that the DRB was part of the DND, with the Chairman of the DRB holding the same rank as the Chiefs of Staff of the three armed services), with interest shown by the NRC and, to a lesser extent, the Department of Transport.

Two weeks later, on 2 May 1966, Howe asked another question about UFO investigations, this time to the Minister of Mines and Technical Surveys, Jean-Luc Pepin (see. :

1. Has the Department of Mines and Technical Surveys ever undertaken an investigation of reports of unidentified flying objects and, if so, are such investigations continuing at this time?
2. Have results of such investigations been made public and, if not, is consideration being given to making them public in future?

1. The geological survey of Canada and the observatories branch, both of the Department of Mines and Technical Surveys, investigate reports of sightings commonly called unidentified flying objects. These reports refer to a wide variety of phenomena and many of these reports are reports of spectacular meteors entering the atmosphere, for example, the one at 8:14 p.m. EDT on April 25, 1966. These may lead to the recovery of meteorites which are of great scientific interest to scientists of the department.
2. There is no attempt to restrict the results of such investigations and officers of the department frequently comment to various news media on this subject."

This answer was expanded upon when Howe asked yet another question on 2 June, 1966:

"1. Does the R.C.M.P. accept reports of unidentified flying objects and, if so, to which government department are these directed?

2. Are such reports investigated and, if so, by which government department or departments?"

Lawrence Pennell, the Member of Parliament for Brant-Haldimand ( and the Solicitor General of Canada (the cabinet minister responsible for the R.C.M.P.) replied:

"1. Yes, if the object is suspected to be a meteor or fireball it is reported to the Department of Mines and Technical Surveys. If it is not suspected to be a meteor of fireball it is reported to the Department of Defence.

2. Yes. Such reports are investigated by the R.C.M. Police and referred to the Department of Mines and Technical Surveys or the Department of Defence for whatever further action those departments deem necessary."

Again, it can be seen that the Department of Defence was the ultimate repository for reports that we would classify as UFOs - fireballs and meteors are, by their nature, IFOs, and these were the cases handled by the Department of Mines and Technical Surveys. This time, however, it is revealed publicly that the R.C.M.P. conducted the preliminary investigations. This makes eminent sense, given that there are far more R.C.M.P. detachments in Canada than there are DND bases. In most cases, particularly in the late 1960s, when a telephone was all that people had, the local R.C.M.P. would have who they called.

On 9 May, 1966, Howe, the Member of Parliament who asked the most questions about UFOs over the years, followed up his questions on 2 May, 1966, with two more questions, this time directed to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, J.A. Byrne (see

1. Has the Department of Transport ever undertaken an investigation of reported unidentified flying objects and, if so, during what period?
2. Have results of such investigations been made public?
3. Are such investigations being carried out at this time and, if not, is consideration being given to the institution of such investigations?

1. A small group within the Department of Transport conducted spare time investigations between December 1950 and August 1954. [Emphasis added]
2. No.
3. No."

As all of the documentation makes absolutely clear, Smith's work was done in his spare time (he did have a full time job, after all), and this was an important clarification by the Minister of Transport's Parliamentary Secretary on Dupuis's answer to Winch's question in 1963 (pro-Smith ufologists highlight this exchange and the 1963 exchange between Winch and Dupuis, and claim it was a cover-up in 1966, which is simply not supported by the totality of the evidence - which, of course, they conveniently neglect to mention).

More evidence surfaced on 25 May, 1966, when Maurice Allard, an Independent M.P. (see asked Cadiuex the following questions:

1. Has the government investigated, or does it intend to investigate, the alleged apperance of unusual objects, commonly called flying saucers, in the sky over Toronto, Montreal and elsewhere in Canada?
2. Does the government intend to ask other countries whether they produce such objects and allow them to fly over Canada?
3. Has the government any information on such objects?

1. The reports concerning the appearance of mysterious flying objects in the sky have been looked into by the Department of National Defence. All such information received during recent weeks indicates that the objects were: (a) Meteorites; (b) Satellites; (c) Airplanes; (d) Reflection of light, flame, etc. on low clouds.
2. No.
3. No."

Again, the Department of National Defence.

Until the end of 1966, then, it is clear that the investigations of UFOs were conducted by the Department of National Defence (the R.C.A.F., with interest in the investigations shown by the Defence Research Board), with assistance from the R.C.M.P. and, to a lesser extent, the Department of Transport.

Smith's research?

Part-time (Magnet) / spare-time (Shirley's Bay), and certainly not where the real action was happening, which, when you consider who Smith was and where he worked, is hardly surprising.

To come - 1967: A Watershed Year

Paul Kimball

1 comment:

RRRGroup said...

Well, one can see why and how some ufologists still cling to a Wilbert Smith/Department of Transport connection to UFOs: the tangential reference to same in the record keeps hope alive, even though they point to a niggardly investigatory approach by Smith and Transport, as you cite, Paul.

That's how it is in the UFO world; the slightest even oblique mention of a thing or person in connection to UFOs gives hope to ufologists for that golden key they keep looking for but never seem to find.

Rich Reynolds