It was 1946, and a dangerous Cold War paranoia was just beginning to creep across North America, one that would destroy reputations, careers and lives. In clear violation of his rights as a Canadian citizen, a brilliant young physicist named David Shugar was interrogated and imprisoned at an Ottawa military base for many weeks without access to a lawyer. The trumped-up espionage charges against him were eventually dismissed, but the ordeal left his reputation in shambles. A “man without a country,” Dr. Shugar persevered to lead a successful career, including eventual induction into the Royal Society of Canada. But for all his accolades, no one has ever apologized for the injustice he suffered nearly 70 years ago. As his 99th birthday approaches, David Shugar’s nieces and nephews are working diligently to right this historic wrong and bring closure to the sad story, described in more detail below.
In November 1946, in an Ottawa, Canada courtroom packed with 30 intimidating uniformed RCMP officers, David Shugar, Ph.D., a brilliant young physicist , was charged with conspiring to hand over official secrets to the Russians. This occurred following interrogation and imprisonment, without legal representation, at Rockcliffe detention center for many weeks. 53 years later, in 1999, in an equally formal Ottawa ceremony, Professor David Shugar, the founder of the Division of Biophysics and an architect of The Polish School of Molecular Biophysics, was inducted into The Royal Society of Canada.
His arrest had been based upon unsubstantiated allegations provided by a minor Russian clerk (Igor Gouzenko) who had just defected from his country's Ottawa embassy. Despite all charges being dismissed in court due to a lack of evidence, Shugar's reputation had been severely damaged by the many sensational newspaper articles that appeared surrounding his case.
Dismissed from his government job, his professional credentials tarnished, Shugar ran into continual roadblocks as he sought employment in Canada. He was eventually invited to travel to the Pasteur Institute in Paris to continue his research in Biophysics. However the French were being pressured, likely by the CIA, not to employ Shugar. He next went to Belgium to continue his work, with similar results. In effect, Shugar was made "a man without a country”.
He was finally invited by Professor Leopold Infeld ( a co-worker of Albert Einstein at Princeton) to come to Warsaw, Poland to pursue his research. He did this in spectacular fashion. He founded the Division of Biophysics at the University of Warsaw and has written well over 320 scientific peer reviewed articles and numerous books on his work in Molecular Biophysics, a field fundamental to medical research.
He has received numerous medals, honorary degrees and on many occasions has been honored at international conferences. Ironically, in 1999, Professor David Shugar, who has always remained a Canadian citizen, was inducted into The Royal Society of Canada
His relentless quest for knowledge and the difficult academic path he chose served as the inspiration for many of his students to pursue doctorate degrees, with many becoming professors and even Department Chairmen. He also inspired his nieces and nephews with his love of science, art and history; many of them, as a result, chose careers in those fields.
This September, as Dr. Shugar enters his 100th year, he will participate in The Eighth International Conference: Inhibitors of Protein Kinases, a topic highly relevant to cancer and antiviral research (he was the organizing chairman of the first seven of these conferences).
Despite all the recognition that he has received and the awards that he has won, the “accolade” that this humble and quiet man would value most, is a simple apology from the Canadian government for violating his civil rights and ruining his reputation so many years ago.
In a life filled with accomplishment and merit, this is now the only sadness that remains within him.
Please join in our family’s request for a simple letter of apology from the Canadian government.
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