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Canada's Most Wanted: Rita MacNeil


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Rita MacNeil amused by spy file

Singer recalls days in Toronto Women's Caucus, appearing at `the occasional rally'

Aug 06, 2008 04:30 AM



Celebrated Cape Breton singer and songwriter Rita MacNeil said she was more amused than offended when she learned in news reports yesterday that the RCMP had her under surveillance when she lived and worked in Toronto during the early 1970s.

"All I was doing back then was writing songs, raising two children and singing at festivals, colleges, and the occasional rally in support of women's rights," MacNeil, 64, told the Star.

"I don't know what (the Mounties) were up to or why they decided to keep a file on me. It could have been fear ... in those days they weren't used to women talking about equality, subsidized daycare and empowerment."

Recently released documents show the RCMP, suspicious of left-wing agitators, kept an eye on women's groups, demonstrations and rallies in the 1970s.

One memo detailed a meeting of representatives of so-called women's liberation groups in Winnipeg in 1972. MacNeil, a member of the Toronto Women's Caucus, attended the gathering and was described in the notes compiled by an RCMP plant as "the one who composes and sings women's lib songs."

MacNeil, a member of the Order of Canada best known in the 1980s for her platinum-selling albums, a long-running CBC-TV variety show and sold-out concert tours all over the world, said the Toronto Women's Caucus was not a political organization.

"We met for a couple of hours every Tuesday night and talked about which politicians to approach with our concerns and issues. That was the extent of it," MacNeil said.

"We certainly weren't Communists."

She laughed at the suggestion that reports of having been an RCMP target might damage her reputation and career.

"If they're still looking for hidden messages, maybe the Mounties should check out the children's album I've been recording. They're bound to find something."

gotta keep an eye on them east coasters, ya know. ;)

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