Well-kept secrets at the Russian consulate

The Russian Federation has a rich heritage with buildings totaling more than $16 million in the Montreal area. These properties, all acquired during the Cold War, are related to espionage and counterintelligence operations.

Our Bureau of Investigations has uncovered several pieces of interesting information about these properties, some of which are shrouded in mystery. The consulate did not answer our questions about this.

The Russian consulate in downtown Montreal has long been monitored by Canadian intelligence agencies, who even had a cache in a building across the street. The government complex consists of three magnificent residences on the Golden Square Mile worth almost $14 million. They were acquired by wealthy Montreal families, including the Molsons.

The sales documents for one of the USSR buildings are signed by Thomas Henry Pentland Molson. This member of the famous Montreal brewing family bought Club de Hockey Canadien with his brother Hartland in 1957. A few months after the birth of his grandson Geoff Molson, current owner of the Montreal Canadiens, he sold his opulent residence for $152,000.

The neighboring building is now the subject of a story worthy of a spy movie.

On January 14, 1987, a fire broke out in the central building of the consulate. Soviet guards initially deny firefighters entry while clerks toss communist government documents from the back of the building.

When the firefighters were finally able to gain access to the interior, they were closely watched by consulate staff who tried to prevent them from entering certain rooms.

Fire in the Soviet consulate

Photo archive, Journal de Montreal

Top secret operation

Despite Soviet efforts, Canadian intelligence services will get their hands on the remains of the house, which was completely devastated by the flames.

Government agents will comb through the rubble to find documents belonging to their Eastern Bloc rivals.

A few years later, a former Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) agent involved in this ultra-secret operation called Project F even filed a lawsuit against his employer.

Guy Chamberland said he became contaminated with bacteria while sorting the debris from the fire by hand.

Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, several citizens have demonstrated in front of the Russian consulate in Montreal.

Diplomats also had to deal with suspicious packages in March, our Bureau of Investigation revealed. The consulate stocked up on an airtight box to open its mail after finding white powder on two envelopes.

No penalties

  • Canada has not taken any action against Russian state property or diplomats since the start of the war in Ukraine. European countries such as France, Germany and Italy have already expelled many diplomats because of the invasion.
  • The five Russian Federation buildings, like all foreign government buildings in Quebec, are exempt from property taxes. Vladimir Putin’s country only has to pay the city of Saint-Colomban $100 a year for waste collection and recycling.

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