For many years Allyre Louis Sirois has been closely associated with freedom.
After being appointed to the Court of Queen?s Bench in Saskatchewan, his decisions as a judge had the potential to affect an individual?s freedom. Before stepping behind the bench, though, he was dealing with freedom of a different kind.
Instead of the law, it was liberation.
Serving as a spy during the Second World War, Sirois parachuted behind enemy lines into Nazi-occupied France in 1944. Along with other resistance fighters he helped play a key role in the liberation of Europe.
Born in Vonda, Sask. in 1923, Sirois volunteered for service in 1941. Two years later the 20-year-old Sirois was summoned to London, England and offered the opportunity to serve as a secret agent.
With Adolf Hitler?s Nazis posing a serious threat, Sirois immediately accepted. Besides his enthusiasm and willingness to accept his assignment, his French-language skills made him a particularly attractive candidate.
Sirois was recruited to join the Special Operations Executive (SOE), a covert British operations group that was formed in July 1940 to combat the enemy through subversion and sabotage. In areas of Nazi occupation, SOE agents worked to identify, aid and mobilize local resistance movements.
Agents such as Sirois, who was recruited and trained as a radio operator, were also employed to destroy military facilities, disrupt lines of communication and transportation, intercept German communications and direct Allied bombing runs.
Between 1941 and 1945 approximately 1,800 SOE agents were sent into France. Of these, only 25 were reported to be Canadian.
As evidence of the dangers faced by these agents, seven of the Canadians were captured and executed.
Following months of training, Sirois was dropped into France on March 2, 1944. He was assigned to the southwest area of the country.
Working as part of a three-man unit, Sirois was the liaison officer between his unit and Allied headquarters. Among his responsibilities was contacting London with information for aerial attacks.
Due to the nature of their work, deceit and dishonesty were an everyday part of life behind enemy lines. As such, it was not always clear who could be trusted.
Rene Bochereau, an Allied officer who was captured by German forces, turned traitor in order to save his own life. The information he provided led to the capture of the other two members of Sirois? unit.
Both men were later executed.
Sirois managed to escape capture and make it to a safe house.
In addition to arranging for the necessary weapons, ammunition and other supplies for the resistance,
he was still able to keep Allied headquarters up-to-date on the movement of German troops.
He also arranged for the death of the traitor Bochereau.
Through it all, the resistance fighters continued to attack German forces. Southwest France was liberated by August 1944.
In recognition of his acts of bravery, Sirois received the French Croix de Guerre. He was also made a Member of the Order of the British Empire.
Returning to Saskatchewan, Sirois enrolled at the University of Saskatchewan and received his law degree in 1950. He married and moved to Gravelbourg, where he practiced law before being named to the Court of Queen?s Bench in 1964.
Sirois retired in 1998 after 34 years as a judge ? albeit under a cloud of controversy. At the time of his retirement, Sirois was being investigated by the Canadian Judicial Council for demeaning remarks he made while sitting as a judge.
(Paul Spasoff is a freelance writer with an interest in Western Canadian history. Paul can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)