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(Ex members of the Executive Committee of the now illegal Finnish Organization of Canada, Inc.)
Hon. Louis St. Laurent
Minister of Justice
Re: Finnish Organization of Canada Inc.
As ex members of the Executive Committee of the now illegal Finnish Organization of Canada, Inc., we deem it our duty to submit to the Government for its consideration the following statement re the Finnish Organization of Canada and its activities. We consider it all the more necessary as we understand that the continued ban on the Finnish Organization of Canada is largely due to the misleading information supplied to the Government about the activities of the Finnish Organization of Canada by its opponents.
Winning the war is the most important task at this moment
As democratic and loyal Finnish-Canadians we understand that at the present moment, when Canada and all democratic nations are threatened with the greatest danger in history, by the aggressive fascist hordes of Hitler and his Axis partners, all democratic forces must be unleashed and united in an all-out war effort to smash the fascist war machine. In such a situation the Government not only has the right, but it is its duty, to take all necessary measures to safeguard the country against possible destruction by enemy agents and admirers of fascism.
But a great majority of Finnish-Canadians and especially all the ex members of the Finnish Organization of Canada are giving their undivided support to the Government's war effort against the fascist Axis. They are participating in the Red Cross activities and other war charities, they supported and in many localities took active part in the recent second Victory Loan Campaign, they were working to mobilize all Finnish-Canadians to vote "Yes" in the recent plebiscite campaign, and many of them have volunteered to Canadian armed forces. They have also strongly condemned the action of the present rulers of their old homeland, Finland, in joining the Hitler's fascist front to fight against democratic governments and nations, and are working to expose Mannerheim agents working among the Finnish-Canadians.
When the Finnish Organization of Canada was declared an illegal organization in June 1940, there were about seventy (70) functioning local branches, sixty (60) of them had their own halls, which were confiscated along with other properties when the organization was banned. If this organizational apparatus and "its halls and other properties were now at the disposal of democratic Finnish-Canadians, they could carry on much more effectively their activities in support of the war effort. What a great service these halls could have rendered for example in the recent plebiscite campaign among the Finnish-Canadians. Instead of that they now are in many cases entirely unused or are used for less important purposes, such as warehouses, etc.
It is our sincere opinion that the continued ban on the Finnish Organization of Canada does not advance Canada's war effort, but on the contrary hinders it. We therefore, submit to the Government for its consideration and decision, that the legal rights of the Finnish Organization of Canada be restored and its halls and other properties be returned.
A Canadian organization
It is at times alleged that the Finnish Organization of Canada was only a branch of some larger organization, the main body of which is situated either in Finland or in some other foreign country. We do not know how this conjecture has originated, but at any rate it is incorrect. Finnish Organization of Canada was an independent organization; it had no organizational connections with any other society, either in Finland or anywhere else. It was the oldest and widest, and in fact the only country-wide organization that the Finns ever had in Canada.
Finnish Organization of Canada was formed by the earlier immigrants from Finland at the beginning of the present century. The first local organizations were formed in Toronto, Nipigon, Port Arthur, Cobalt and other places in the period from 1902 to 1907: The objects of these local organizations was to be a connecting link between the Finnish speaking people in Canada, to serve their longing for social life and to give them an opportunity to satisfy their cultural aspirations. But it was realized very early that these organizations must also help the Finnish-Canadians into closer contact with the Canadian people as a whole and to participate in the general community life. And when these local organizations were formed into one country-wide organization in 1911, its objects were described to be:
1. "To assimilate the Finnish speaking people of Canada with the native population by instilling in their minds the benifits of Canadian citizenship, by the teaching of the English language, by disseminating true information about the laws, customs, traditions, history and current events in Canada, and by the lawful and intelligent use of the rights and the duties of Canadian citizenship."
2. "To advance the standard of life of the Finnish speaking people of Canada by encouraging and developing co-operative enterprises tending to secure their material interests."
3. "To develop the mental faculties of the Finnish speaking people of Canada by the holding of educational lectures, by furthering artistic endeavours, such as singing, music, theatricals, gymnastics, etc., and by maintaining libraries and reading rooms."
4. "To own such buildings and other property and to carry on such business as are necessary for the efficient execution of these activities"
(Section 2, Chapter 1, Constitution of Finnish Organization of Canada, Subsection 4 having been added when the organization was incorporated in 1923).
Finnish Organization of Canada has at all times followed the principles stated above. It has continually explained to Finnish-Canadians that no matter what ideas they may have had when they left Finland for Canada, they must become permanent residents of Canada, with very few exceptions perhaps; has encouraged them to make themselves acquainted with the customs and language of Canada, to participate in the community life and to apply for naturalization; and has helped them to achieve these ends. But the activities of the Finnish Organization of Canada have been hindered in this connection by its opponents, who have done their utmost to prejudice the RCMP., the judges and other authorities against the members and supporters of the Finnish Organization of Canada, as being "reds", "communists", and "bolsheviks" to whom no rights of citizenship should be granted. And the authorities have only too often listened to their stories, which has in many cases led to the rejection of the application for naturalization of the members and supporters of the Finnish Organization of Canada. This has discouraged many Finns in applying for naturalization, and is one of the main reasons why there are so many Finns in Canada today who are not naturalized, although the immigration from Finland has been suspended for many years.
An Independent Democratic Organization
One of the most common accusations that has been made against the Finnish Organization of Canada by its opponents is that the Finnish Organization of Canada was a communist organization, or at least a communist controlled organization. The fact, however, is that the Finnish Organization of Canada was formed long before there was any communist movement in Canada. And while it is true that the organization in its early days was at times affiliated with different political parties, such an allegation today is childish. For the last fifteen years of its existence the Finnish Organization of Canada did not have any organizational connections with any political parties.
Finnish Organization of Canada was a broad people's organization. All Finnish-Canadians who approved of its activities and observed its rules and decisions were welcome to its membership. Applicants for membership were not asked to what political party or church they belonged. It is possible and even probable that there were some communists among its members, but there were also liberals, CCF'ers and even conservatives, and yet it has not occurred to anyone to call the Finnish Organization of Canada a Liberal or a Conservative organization.
In its organizational structure and its activities the Finnish Organization of Canada was as democratic as an organization generally can be. The members themselves decided all questions and elected directly all their officials, from the branch functionaries to the Executive Committee, which was the highest authority existing in the interval between the national conventions. The Convention even elected the natioal secretary, not leaving it to the Executive Committee, which is the case in many organizations. There were no privileged groups in the Finnish Organization of Canada, and its activities could not in any way be controlled by any outside group. It was an organization controlled completely by its membership. In fact it was the only organization the Finnish-Canadians ever had that was truly controlled by its members.
It is true that the Finnish Organization of Canada at all times supported the worker's struggles for higher wages and better working conditions, but this was by no means due to any mysterious power, within or outside the organization. It was very simply due to the fact that an overwhelming majority of its members were workers and small farmers, just as a great majority of all Finnish-Canadians belong to these sections of people. It was only natural then that the members of the organization were helping themselves by supporting the struggles of worker's generally. Besides, such activities were one of the regular objects of the Finnish Organization of Canada, as stated in the above quotation from its constitution. And such activities have not been criminal in Canada, and according to our knowledge is not regarded as such even today, although, due to the critical war situation, all stoppages of work must be avoided, so as not to interrupt the production of armaments and other war materials.
Before the war, the Finnish Organization of Canada also supported the peace movement, in the form of collective security. But this movement was a wide people's movement, in which participated most of the progressive organizations, and not a communist movement even if the Communist Party took part in it. And today even many of those who then either underestimated or opposed it, admit that it was a justified movement, which could have saved humanity from the present terrible war, if it had then received general approval and support.
Finnish Organization of Canada was a progressive educational and cultural body of Finnish-Canadians, and it never tried to keep impartial regarding the social questions. On the contrary, it at all times supported all progressive tendencies and movements. But this did not make it a communist organization. Those opponents of the Finnish Organization of Canada, who accuse it for being a communist organization, are very closely related to those reactionary elements who are fomenting the red scare among the Anglo-Saxon Canadians and French-Canadians, who are obstructing the unity of Canadian people and thus weaken our war effort against Hitlerism.
An Anti-Fascist Organization
Finnish Organization of Canada has a democratic progressive tradition. Its founders and original membership was composed of men and women who had come to Canada, not only in search of a better livelihood, but also social freedom.
Many of them had been compelled to flee from Finland to escape Tzarist oppression, when the Russianizing of Finland was at its height. This gave the organization a progressive social character right from the start. This tradition has continued through all the years of its activities and explains why it always supported all progressive social tendencies and movements, such as trade union movement, co-operative movement, movement for collective security, anti-fascist movement.
We can state without hesitation that in all the records of the Finnish Organization of Canada, which were seized and are now held by the Government appointed custodians, there cannot be found anything to show that the organization ever had connections with any reactionary fascist organizations or groups. The same thing can be said about the repertory of the organization. Among the hundreds of plays, poems and songs, that the repertory contains, there is not a single one that admires fascism or in any way helps to promote fascist ideas, not even jokingly. On the contrary, it contains much material which could be used to advantage even in the present situation, to raise the anti-fascist fighting spirit and morale.
Finnish Organization of Canada was an educational and cultural organization as has already been stated, and its educational and cultural activities have always been progressive, anti-fascist activities, it has always endeavored to organize its activities in conformity with the Canadian progressive movement, thus helping the Finnish-Canadians in getting closer to and to join the general progressive movement in Canada. It is largely due to the work of enlightenment carried on by the Finnish Organization of Canada during the years gone by, that a great majority of the Finnish-Canadians today realize the significance of the gigantic struggle now going on between the forces of reactionary fascism and the forces of democracy, and that they are doing their utmost to ensure the victory of democracy over fascism.
But although the Finnish Organization of Canada was an educational and cultural organization, it was not a pacifist organization. It supported the peace movement in the form of collective security, but it never said to its members and supporters that they should never fight under any circumstances. On the contrary, a great number of those who later became members of the Finnish Organization of Canada fought against the Mannerheim-German forces in the civil war of Finland. About one hundred of its members went to Spain to fight against fascism, and about sixty of them now lie buried in the Spanish soil. Many of them served overseasters with Canadian forces in World War 1, and many of them and their sons have volunteered to Canadian armed forces during this war. The members and supporters of the Finnish Organization of Canada know that the independence, freedom and future happiness of Canada, Finland and all other countries and nations depends on the victory of the United Nations, and they are willing to do their part to bring this victory about.
The Properties of the Finnish Organization of Canada
During the 30 years of its activities the Finnish Organization of Canada had acquired a considerable amount of property, sixty of its local branches had their own halls and seven branches had their own summer camps; the organization also owned a printing plant and a repertory. We have no detailed figures at our disposal about the value of these properties, as they were seized together with the other records of the organization. But we can estimate their value at about $200,000.00 in round figures.
Considering that the Finnish population in Canada is relatively small, about 45,000, and that only a part of them belonged to the Finnish Organization of Canada, we can understand that the accumulation of this property has involved a considerable sacrifice. But the worst of it is, that they are denied the use of these properties just now, at a time when they could utilize them most advantageously to speed the common effort, not only of Finnish-Canadians but of the Canadian people as a whole-the defeat of Hitlerism.
Instead of being utilized to advance Canada's war effort, these halls in many cases now stand empty, especially those in the rural districts which are almost without exception standing empty and deteriorating. So far as we understand, nobody is taking care of them, keeping them in repair, paying the taxes, etc. In this connection we have to take note also of the point that many of the halls of the Finnish Organization of Canada have become community halls. This is the case especially in the rural districts, where they are, in many cases, the only halls in the locality, and have been used by all different organizations. In some localities they have also been used as school houses. So that the closing of these halls does not affect the Finns only, but also the activities of many other organizations, and in some cases the whole community life of the locality.
Division in the Ranks of Finnish-Canadians
The present division in the ranks of Finnish-Canadians is often incorrectly attributed to communist propaganda or influence among the Finnish-Canadians. This division, however, is older than the communist movement in Canada, and in fact it did not originate in Canada. The post-war immigrants from Finland brought this division with them from their old homeland. The true cause for it was the Finnish civil war in 1918.
The civil war of Finland is one of those events in the human history which has been distorted more perhaps than any other historical event. The present rulers of Finland and their supporters here, call the civil war a war of "independence". They are trying to make the world believe that Finland won its independence by that war, and that those who in that war defended the legitimate government of Finland fought with Russians against the Finns. And due to the fact that they have had at their disposal the government's representative apparatus, consuls, etc., and other facilities of publicity, they have succeeded in this only too well. During the Finnish-Soviet war of 1939 to 1940, they utilized this distortion with special eagerness to further their interests, and they succeeded in misleading great masses of people here in Canada and in other countries, who were not familiar with the facts, and thus provoke public opinion against the "reds" and the Soviet Union. The historical facts, however, are that the Soviet Union granted Finland its independence before the civil war started, and that this war is not responsible for the independence of Finland.
On December 6th, 1917 (since proclaimed the Independence Day of Finland) the Diet authorized the government to propose to the Soviet government that it recognize the independence of Finland. On January 2nd 1918 the Council of People's Commissars decided to recommend to the Central Executive Committee that the independence of Finland be recognized, and on January 4th 1918 the all-Russian Central Executive Committee granted Finland its independence. Sweden recognized the independence of Finland the same day, and France and other countries in the followings days.
January 18th, 1918 is generally regarded as the day when the civil war in Finland started. On that day Mannerheim with his collaborators escaped to Vasa and small skirmishes were already taking place in different parts of the country. But it was not until January 25th that the rebels formed their "government" in Vasa and Mannerheim, who a few days previous had been appointed as commander in chief of the rebel forces, gave his order to attack upon January 28th, and the fighting of the civil war started on a larger scale.
These historical facts show that Finland obtained its independence from the Russian Soviet government without fighting, and that the civil war in Finland started several weeks after the Soviet government had granted this independence. Finland's independence had even been recognizd by various other governments. The most reactionary elements among the upper classes in Finland started this bloody civil war without justification. They could not tolerate an independent democratic people's government. So far they had been able to rely on the Tzar's whip. But now that the Russian revolution had done away with this and granted Finnish people their independence, they saw a danger facing them if the people were freely allowed to exercise their democratic rights. Because the workers and peasants of Finland had already once elected their own majority to the Diet.
Knowing that the people would defend their rights, these reactionary people's enemies hastened to the German Kaiser for help. They bartered the independence of the young Finnish republic for the assistance of the German army in a fight against their own people, and for a German Prince to the throne of Finland. German imperialists saw in this offer an easy opportunity to extend their domain, since the Russian army which had protected Finland earlier, had in the meantime been transferred away. The Germans accepted the offer of the rebels and sent troops to help them.
After obtaining assistance from the well trained and armed German army, the rebels soon succeeded in breaking the stubborn resistance of the loyalists. The loyal Finns were poorly armed and they lacked military training, and especially leadership, as Finland had no military institution of its own during the previous fifteen years. On May 16th Mannerheim marched into Helsingfors and the rebels instituted their bloody terror against the people in revenge for daring to defend their legal rights. They slaughtered outright and starved to death in their concentration camps over 30,000 men and women (according to some estimates - over 50,000.) That is why the rebels were generally known among the people for years as "butchers". Only the Allied victory over the Germans in World War I prevented Finland from becoming wholly a German colony, and retained for Finland the republican form of government in appearance, but no real democracy has existed in Finland from the rebel victory to this day.
The historical facts about the civil war in Finland show that the movement was the same as that which took place in Spain 20 years later, when a small minority seized state power with the aid of foreign armies. Those who defended the legal government of Spain were branded as "reds" by reactionaries, and the rebels were called "nationalists". The same thing happened in Finland. By their deceitful propaganda, the Finnish rulers have been trying, and are still striving, to make the people here in Canada believe that the "reds" were traitors of their country, "Moscow agents", and generally people who are not trustworthy. The facts, however, are that these "reds" were the true patriots of Finland, who fought for the independence and freedom of the Finnish people. They are the ones who fought against the Tzarist oppression and Russianization of Finland, while those who now pose as heroes and liberators of Finland were competing for favors from the Tzar.
The present rulers of Finland came into power with the aid of a German army, and although they were at the time prevented from surrendering Finland completely to Germany, they continued close relations with German Junkers and later with the Nazis. They are more pro-German than anything else, and the independence of Finland has been only a formality. Their present alliance with Hitler did not come as a surprise to anyone who knows their past history. It is a natural result of their earlier collaborations with the Nazis and their strong fascist leanings in their internal policies.
The rulers of Finland and their supporters have wasted a lot of fine words about the supposed democracy in Finland, especially abroad, but in reality the Finnish democracy has been only an illusion. The rights of the common people have been very limited. All those who were known to be opposed to the new regime were disfranchised right after the civil war, and the workers were deprived of the freedom of organization, speech, press and assembly, except such organizations and press which agreed with.the ruling clique - even Mussolini and Hitler have their "Labor" organizations. The parliamentary immunity of people's representatives has been violated whenever they have shown signs of disagreement with the powers that be. Actually, the present regime in Finland has always been a semi-fascist rule, carried on behind the parliamentary smokescreen. The hundreds of political prisoners who have languished in prison ever since the present rule was established bear ample witness to this fact.
Supporters of the present Finnish rulers here in Canada have lauded Mannerheim as a great soldier and hero, the "liberator" of Finland, a man who never had anything to do with politics. While it is true that Mannerheim never has been a dictator openly, the fact remains that ever since the present rulers got into power none of the governments has done anything without Mannerheim's agreement. Mannerheim's face has been visible behind every government to those who are familiar with the Finnish affairs.
The civil war split the entire population of Finland into two opposing camps, and with the immigrants from Finland this division soon found its way to Canada also.
Later Organizations Among the Finnish-Canadians
Before the civil war, Finnish Organization of Canada was practically the only organization among the Finnish-Canadians, with the exception of the various church congregations. Its members followed with great interest the events of the civil war in Finland and their sympathy was on the side of the loyalists, as was the sympathy of all progressive people at that time. After the war, Finnish Organization of Canada collected twelve thousand dollars (12,000.00) to alleviate the distress caused by the civil war and white terror, especially among the orphaned children and refugees.
When immigration was reopened after the war, there began to come from Finland to Canada both loyalist and rebel immigrants. Having arrived here, the loyalists saw in the Finnish Organization of Canada an organization such as they were longing for. They joined it great numbers and they were welcomed. But the rebel arrivals began to form their own separate groups in different parts of the country. It is to be understood that there existed bitter enmity between the loyalists and the rebels for a long time after the civil war, and that the factions could not be adapted into the same organization. Each sought the company of sympathizers, and, as a result, the whole Finnish population in Canada was divided into two groups, the loyalists and the rebels.
The members of the Finnish Organization of Canada, however, realized years before the present war that the rank and file of these different organizations were generally in the same position and should agree to work together, and Finnish Organization of Canada was triving to achieve unity between these various organizations. Some headway was made in this. But the leadership of the rebel organizations, the official and unofficial representatives of the Finnish government, opposed this unity. They deliberately wanted to continue this division. So Finnish Organization of Canada could not get very far with its efforts for unity, and when the Finnish-Soviet war of 1939 to 1940 occurred it made co-operation between these organizations impossible. Because with the exception of the Finnish Organization of Canada, all the organizations among the Finnish-Canadians supported the Finnish government in war against the Soviet Union.
Considering the above described background and the fact that the Finnish rulers had always conspired against the Soviet Union, and knowing that the independence of Finland was not in any way involved in that war, as the Finnish rulers and their supporters tried to make the world believe, since the Soviet Union only wanted an exchange of certain strategic areas held by Finland, and was willing to give in return for it to Finland an area twice as large, the Finnish Organization' of Canada could not in any way support the Finnish government in that war. We knew, however, that the war brought suffering to the common people of Finland, who were not responsible for the war provoked by their government, and we tried to collect some funds to relieve destitution among the civilians; but even that was rendered difficult, so we abandoned it.
There are many divisions in the ranks of these rebel organizations, but they all have one thing in common; they all consider the Finnish Organization of Canada their enemy, and the Finnish-Soviet war served as an excuse for them to launch a general attack against it. We all still remember how these supporters of the present rulers of Finland posed here as great patriots and heroes of democracy during the Finnish-Soviet war in 1939-1940. They not only wanted to smash the Finnish Organization of Canada and seize its properties, but they threatened to hang all "reds", and they actually caused some embarrassment - breaking windows (Toronto and Montreal) and causing physical injury (South Porcupine). And above all, they were hustling very eagerly in support of the Finnish government and spreading all kinds of spooktales about the Soviet Union. But as soon as the Mannerheim Line collapsed and the Finnish rulers were compelled to make peace with the Soviet Union, and especially since the Finnish rulers joined hands with Hitler, the war enthusiasm of these heroes fell to zero.
These rebel Finns, who were trying by every means to hinder the activities of the Finnish Organization of Canada, like to call themselves "Loyal Finns". And they are indeed loyal, but their loyalty is not to Canada, neither is it to the people of Finland. They are loyal only to Mannerheim and the ruling clique of Finland, and thus naturally also to Hitler. They expound to the Finnish-Canadians that the Finns are here in Canada only temporarily, visiting; that it is their duty to maintain all their connections with the homeland, to deposit their savings in he Finnish banks, and to support the Finnish government financially. Their "educational" work serves to glorify the present rulers of Finland and Hitlerism. According to our understanding, they are least of all qualified to decide such questions as to whom the rights of Canadian citizenship should be granted, and what organizations should be allowed to function in Canada. The fact is that if there are those among the Finnish-Canadians who might be a danger to Canada's war effort, they are to be found among these admirers of Hitlerism.
The rebel Finns in Canada have never been able to form a country-wide organization, but they have local organizations under different names in all the larger Finnish settlements in Canada, and they have two newspapers. These organizations and papers have at all times supported one hundred per cent the pro-German rulers of Finland. Now that Canada is at war with Finland, they cannot say so openly, but they cannot hide the fact that their sympathies lie with Mannerheim and Hitler. None of the leaders of these organizations, or newspapers has to this day condemned the action of the Finnish government, or even stated their disagreement with it, for joining the war with Hitler against the democracies. This is because they are not truly independent organizations. Many of their leaders are official representatives of the Finnish government and others are aspiring for some similar positions. This makes them dependent on the foreign policy of the pro-German rulers of Finland.
When the news first started to come about the concentration of Nazi troops to Finland, they tried to deny the reports to the last, by explaining that all such news were baseless. When this was no longer possible, they explained that Finland is waging a separate defensive war, because the Soviet Union was again threatening the independence of Finland. This is the story they are repeating today, although the Finnish authorities themselves have made it clear that they are fighting in full partnership with Hitler. They continually co-ordinate the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, Stalin and Hitler, Communism and Fascism. The so-called Finnish Aid Societies are still apparent among them, and they do not give any encouragement to Finnish-Canadians to support Canada's war effort.
The worst in this connection is the fact that a continued ban by the Government against such an organization as Finnish Organization of Canada, which was generally know as anti-fascist organization, while these rebel organizations are permitted to function freely, tendst to strengthen the backbone of these Hitler admirers and encourages them in their activities.
In his statement regarding the declaration byCanada of the existence of a state of war with Finland, Hungary and Rumania, Prime Minister Mackenzie King is reported by the press as saying in part: "The government is fully convinced of the loyality of the overwhelming majority of these people, a loyality which extends both to Canada and to the great cause to which the Allied nations are committed. For this reason, measures, such as a state of war ordinarily demands, have not been taken to place such persons automatically in the class of enemy aliens."
We welcomed heartily the Government's stand on this question and appreciated it, because it makes the lot of Finnish nationals in Canada much easier than it would otherwise be. But the practical application of this Government's policy has brought us disappoinment. In the recent registration of Finnish nationals, many Finns who are generally known to be anti-fascists were classed as enemy aliens - were given a white ticket. We have even been told that the RCMP in some cases consulted the rebel Finns as to whom of the Finns should be classed as enemy aliens. We do not know whether or not any of the rebel Finns have been classed as enemy aliens, neither do we know if it is the Government's policy to class known anti-fascists as enemy aliens, or if it is entirely due to the local registrars - the RCMP. But the result is the same in both cases; it encourages the rebels in their admiration of Hitlerism.
In conclusion we wish to re-state that we support the Government's war effort unconditionally, and are doing our utmost to rally the masses of Finnish-Canadians in support of the war to defeat Hitlerism. We submit the above facts so that the Government may know the different currents of thought operating among the Finnish-Canadians, in their true light. In petitioning for the restoration of legal rights to the Finnish Organization of Canada and for the return of its properties, we are not striving for any petty group interests. We are appealing for justice and because we sincerly believe that it would help to strengthen the support of our country's war effort among Finnish-Canadians, and would also strengthen the unity of the Canadian people as a whole in the war to defeat Hitlerism.
Printed by Vapaus Publishing Co. Ltd., Sudbury, Ontario 1942, 15 p.
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