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Citizen Behaviour and National Security

(adapted from Army Bureau of Current Affairs, Oct. 1, 1942)

It is important to remember that during World War II, the Canadian Government and its Armed Forces placed significant emphasis on the premise that every citizen potentially possessed information valuable to the enemy. Even if he or she was not privy to War Cabinet plans, national security demanded that the dissemination amongst citizens of even the most trivial-seeming gossip be monitored in case it proved significant in regards to Allied war plans and strategies. The location of Allied ships, units, factories, and storage depots, as well as any other military information that citizens may catch word of, was considered top secret and to be handled with the utmost discretion.

Citizens accused of breaching national security were often unaware that they had said or done anything wrong. Still, the government eventually instilled the conviction into its population that the smallest bits of information pertaining to the war mattered greatly. The prevailing discourse was that battles, and even wars, were won by very narrow margins, and that no risk to national security through a citizen's careless tongue was worth the consequences.

The commonplace view was that security could be endangered in two main ways:

  1. Through indiscretion and leakage, by which valuable information finds its way to the enemy.
  2. Through gossip and rumours, which were thought to lead to a decline in national morale
National Security gallery

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