Paul Hellyer, onetime cabinet minister and a political chameleon who went through Liberal and Tory colours before founding two political parties of his own, has a new cause - UFOs. Hellyer is to be a featured speaker at a UFO conference in Toronto later this month and organizers are making much of his credentials as a former defence minister in the Pearson administration 40 years ago.
Former cabinet minister Paul Hellyer takes up the cause of believers in UFOs
September 11, 2005
OTTAWA (CP) - Paul Hellyer, onetime cabinet minister and a political chameleon who went through Liberal and Tory colours before founding two political parties of his own, has a new cause - UFOs.
Hellyer is to be a featured speaker at a UFO conference in Toronto later this month and organizers are making much of his credentials as a former defence minister in the Pearson administration 40 years ago.
Skeptics are, well, skeptical.
The 82-year-old Hellyer says he believes not only that UFOs are extraterrestrial visitors, but that some governments - the United States at least - know all about it and are covering up.
He says he believes American scientists have re-engineered alien wreckage from a supposed UFO crash at Roswell, N.M. in 1947 to produce modern technical marvels.
"I believe that UFOs are real" he said in a recent interview. "I'll talk about that a little bit and a bit about the fantastic coverup of the United States government and also a little bit of the fallout from the wreckage, by that I mean the material discoveries we have made and how they've been applied to our technology"
Hellyer was once a political star. He was first elected to the Commons in 1949 at the age of 25, at that time the youngest person ever to win a seat.
He went on to become a cabinet minister, ran for the Liberal leadership against Pierre Trudeau, switched parties to the Conservatives and ran for that party's leadership, too. He eventually founded two other political parties, Action Canada in 1971 and the Canadian Action party in 1997.
He says his conviction that UFOs are real arose from reading in recent years, not from anything gleaned from secret archives during his time in office.
"I've been a skeptic for quite a while but I've been exposed to more and more information recently and have just decided to take a stand" he said.
Organizers of the MUFON conference - the name is an acronym for the Mutual UFO Network - see Hellyer's participation as giving legitimacy to the cause.
The conference is billed as "Canada's first major UFO symposium calling for complete government disclosure concerning the reality of UFOs and the extraterrestrial presence on Earth"
"Mr. Hellyer's involvement will increase the impact of the symposium" says a conference news release.
Victor Viggiani, a retired educator who is an organizer of the event, calls him a featured speaker.
"We're depending on him to be a real focal point" Viggiani said. "We're using his sort of experiences to demonstrate that national political figures can come out and talk about this"
He says Hellyer has a simple point to make: "Let's start telling the truth about what we all know is really happening in the skies and journalists start paying attention, that's basically going to be his message"
Does Hellyer feel he's being used?
"I think they are trying to make the most of my appearance"
His participation is exasperating for David Gower, a spokesman for Skeptics Canada, a group dedicated to rational thinking and to debunking paranormal claims.
"This sort of thing is a big feather in their cap, to come across people like him" says Gower, who is dismissive of the whole UFO mystique.
"There's no convincing evidence that can be anything other than personal anecdotes or allegations that can't be proven" he said.
He said UFO enthusiasts have a quasi-religious fervour that often makes them impervious to doubt.
"There is a deep-seated need, a desire in people, to feel that there's something in control somewhere, bigger than they are, something that can give some kinds of answers"
Trying to wean people away from UFO beliefs is like "nailing Jello to the wall" he said.
Viggiani says UFOs could be a boon for mankind. He says they have technology that could solve the world's energy problems "in one fell swoop"
This is where the conspiracy theory takes off for him.
"For some strange reasons, our governments can't come forward to talk to us about what these energy sources are" he says. "Because oil is just about $70 a barrel and that would undercut a lot of the power structure, the World Bank . . . the fossil fuel industry.
"They are just not prepared to handle this"
Hellyer, too, thinks there are important secrets to be learned.
"I think, frankly, that the subject should be taken seriously, because there are consequences that have real effects or could have real effects on the people of the world and I think there should be discussion of it"
While some believers think western governments have actually negotiated with extraterrestrials, Hellyer doesn't go that far.
"To my knowledge, it's just visitations" he says.
Although his participation in the conference is likely to draw ridicule, Hellyer said he's used to that after his roller-coaster political life.
"It wouldn't be the first time, would it"