JOHN LENNON'S DRUG TESTIMONY: "The Le Dain Commission of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs -- The Private Hearing of John Lennon", December 22, 1969, in Montreal.
Some questions and answers about this report
Question: How did you go about researching this document?
Answer: Being born and raised in Ottawa, I was aware of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's testimony since it was first reported in the Ottawa Citizen and Ottawa Journal on December 24, 1969. My efforts in tracking down this document began in August of 2002: My first attempt was at the National Library of Canada, located on the 2nd Floor, 395 Wellington Street here in Ottawa. The "Unclassified" testimonies that are preserved on microfilm are in alpha order and after going through 3 or 4 rolls of microfilm, I quickly concluded that John and Yoko's testimony was "Classified" since I had not found it. My second attempt to locate the testimony was made a few months later -- in the month of October to be precise -- but this time I went to National Archives of Canada which is located on the 3rd floor, one level above the National Library of Canada. Information found on the National Archives of Canada's database cites that over 507 submissions were made to the "Le Dain Commission of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs" between 1969 and 1971 (the Final Report was published in December, 1973). After 25 minutes of research, the document was confirmed to be on file but "Classified" -- meaning no one from the public could see it unless a formal request went into the "Access To Information and Privacy" (ATIP) unit to have it released. I decided to exercise my rights under the ATIP Act by putting in a formal request to have the document released. When it was finally made available, the next step was to seek publication rights which was eventually obtained.
Question: How do testimonies presented to the Canadian government become classified?
Answer: The "Access To Information Privacy Act" is subject to lawful restrictions under the following categories:
1) National security;
2) Law Enforcement;
3) Commercial interests;
4) Individual Privacy.
The above-mentioned lawful restrictions can be challenged by any Canadian citizen wishing to have testimonies released. When you put in a request to have a document released, an "Access To Information and Privacy" officer has 30 days to respond to such requests. The ATIP officer then follows the legal protocols as specified under the "Access to Information and Privacy Act" as to whether a document can or cannot be released.
Question: What were the particulars in having John Lennon's testimony released to the public?
Answer: The particulars concerning the testimony of John Lennon and Yoko Ono at the Le Dain Commission of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs, December, 22, 1969, are as follows:
1) The document was kept on file as: "RG/101 - Volume 148" as a "Classified" document at the National Archives of Canada. The document was "Classified" because John and Yoko's testimony was made in a "private hearing" before two Health and Welfare Canada officials, Campbell and Lehmann.
2) Under the "Access to Information" guidelines, John Lennon's testimony can now be released to the general public. The ATIP rules are very specific and clear: When a private testimony is given, the document remains classified while the person is alive. A further 20-year moratorium exists in keeping the testimony private when a person dies -- in this case, John Lennon passed away in 1980 and we are now into the early part of 2003 which means we've moved beyond the 20-year moratorium -- actually, just a little over 22 years since his untimely death. What this means is that any Canadian citizen could have put in a formal request for this document within the past two years and have obtained it.
3) Since Yoko Ono is still alive, her testimony cannot be shown and therefore the ATIP officer at the National Archives of Canada has "blacked out" all of her testimony. The "blacked out" information appears in the the original text as presented here in standard JPG format. As I understand it from the ATIP officer whom I dealt with has indicated to me that Yoko's testimony could be released provided she were to give permission to do so. At this point in time, I am not pursuing this angle unless Yoko Ono herself is interested having her comments released to the general public. She is certainly welcomed to contact me any time to make arrangements and I would be more than pleased to go through the necessary channels in getting her testimony released.
4) John Lennon's testimony has now been "Unclassified" under ATIP guidelines as follows: "Exemption/Access to Information Act -- 19(1)" based on what I've outlined in point No. 2. The date for which John Lennon's testimony finally became "Unclassified" was issued on October 16, 2002 through a formal request that I put in at the National Archives of Canada.
5) Since Health and Welfare Canada (now called "Health Canada") in 1969 were responsible for overseeing the "Le Dain Commission of Inquiry", I made a request to Health Canada's copyright department seeking publication rights for the Lennon interview. With some assistance from me, they were able to put in their own request to the National Archives of Canada for a copy of the report and, pending upon a review of the Lennon testimony, Health Canada would then make its own determination regarding publication rights.
Nota Bene: For the record, I would like to point out that after having read the document several times, there is absolutely nothing that John Lennon said in his testimony that would incriminate upon the legacy of the composer. I would not put in such a publication request if I had thought otherwise. What impressed me the most about this interview is how serious both the Commissioners of the Inquiry and John Lennon were in handling the "question and answer" session. Never once did the Commissioners delve in the John Lennon's famous celebrity background, i.e., "Like what was your favorite scene in a Hard Day's Night, John?" Nope, those kinds of questions never came up. Instead, John Lennon presented himself as a very credible and intelligent witness who tried to tackle the subject matter head-on regarding questions on drug problems associated with the mid-to-late '60s counter-culture movement, and, much to this researchers surprise, John's very own words appear here for the first time as to why he stopped taking LSD!
After a 33-year hiatus from public view, Lennon's testimony is now available for fans and historians to read which boasts 76 pages long! If there is a rock 'n' roll heaven (and I believe there is!) I can only hope that John Lennon is smiling up there! To this end, this never before published interview might aptly be dubbed as "The Final Chapter of John Lennon's Canadian Peace Initiative". The interview with John and Yoko occurred on December 22, 1969, in Montreal, aboard the Rapido train at the Canadian National Railway Station (CNR). Said past Le Dain Commissioner Ian Campbell in an e-mail correspondence to this writer: "We met in his private railway car in the CNR Station in Montréal. We held a very great many private hearings. In some cases, such as the meeting with Mr. Lennon, a tape recording was made of the conversation and this was later transcribed. But many of the meetings were not recorded. For instance, I met with The Grateful Dead, The Led Zeppelin, Grace Slick and no tape was made. We met with all manner of people who wanted to tell about their experiences or to offer their opinions. Often during the four year life of the Commission I would have two or three evenings a week filled with meetings with individuals or small groups. We seemed to gain the trust of a very large number of people. For instance, some drug dealers spoke to us very frankly about their operations. It was all a fascinating exercise." 6) On January 14, 2003, the Ottawa Beatle Site formally received legal documentation for the reproduction rights from Health Canada and on behalf of the Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada.
Le Dain Commission of Inquiry into the non-medical use of drugs.
"The Private Testimony of John Lennon", Dec. 22, 1969. Copyright, Health Canada 1969, 2003.
Reproduced with the permission of the Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2003.
Legal Notice: No part of the publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without first prior written permission of the exclusive copyright owner, Health Canada, as reproduced with permission from the Minister of Public Works and Government Services.
There are two ways you can read this document:
For those using 32,000 kbps modems, this document has been scanned in OCR text format. Click here for the OCR TEXT VERSION which downloads in seconds: "The Private Testimony of John Lennon"
For those using 58,000 kbps "high speed modems" and wishing to see the original document in jpg format, click on the numerical sequence below. Those who are on 32,000 kbps modem can still access these jpgs but it may require a little more downloading time before you can view a page.
The testimony starts off slow because both John and Yoko are just settling down at the round-table discussion. That said, John's testimony picks up steam on page 3...
Historical tid-bit: While waiting for a decision on publication clearance from Health Canada, on a particular weekend I decided to review two editions of the underground newspaper called "Octopus". These editions were given to me several months ago by a friend, long before I started my research on the Le Dain Commission of Inquiry. "Octopus" was published here in Ottawa in the late '60s and into the early '70s and was considered to be a very "left-wing" paper geared for young adults either in high-school or at the university campuses, i.e., Ottawa University and Carleton University. The two editions that were given to me were November 21 and December 11, 1969. I fail to understand why my memory did not take note of this from several months ago when I first glanced through the two papers, but the December 11, 1969 edition contains an advertisement for the "Le Dain Commission of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs." The ad provides the mandate and the scope as to how far it is willing to extend itself in procuring participants. The "Le Dain Commission of Inquiry" did indeed travel across the country listening to submissions. As for the month of December, Ottawa became a very busy place to hear testimonies... December 12th saw the commission go to three different locations for hearings: the National Library of Canada; Ottawa University and finally, Carleton University. December 13 saw the commission receive hearings once again at the National Library of Canada.
Of special interest below, is the cover of "Octopus". It is pretty much in tatters now which is why only the top part of the cover is shown. But if you click on the image, you will get the full-page Federal Government advertisement for the "Le Commission of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs". It is not clear to me whether the ad was paid for by the Feds at the time or whether the publishers of "Octopus" just happened to slip the ad in from another publication. My gut feeling is that the ad was paid for by the Federal government since they were casting their net as wide as possible regarding testimonies into the non-medical use of drugs. Interestingly, the publishers of "Octopus" decided to put up their own "left-wing" response to the government's ad. Click on the image to find out what they included on the same page of their edition...
Researched and written by John Whelan, Chief Researcher for the Ottawa Beatles Web Site, January 19, 2003 & September 28, 2020. All rights reserved.