The October Crisis began 5 October 1970 with the kidnapping of James CROSS, the British trade commissioner in Montréal, by members of the Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ).
The October Crisis began 5 October 1970 with the kidnapping of James CROSS, the British trade commissioner in Montréal, by members of the Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ). It rapidly devolved into the most serious terrorist act carried out on Canadian soil after another official, Minister of Immigration and Minister of Labour Pierre Laporte, was kidnapped and killed. The crisis shook the career of recently elected Liberal Premier Robert Bourassa, who solicited federal help along with Montréal Mayor Jean Drapeau. This help would lead to the only invocation of the War Measures Act during peacetime in Canadian history.
Origins of the Crisis
Fed by nationalist discontent and rising unemployment, and by the example of colonial states rising against foreign imperialism, the FLQ emerged in 1963 to further the creation of an independent Québécois state. It vowed to use any means necessary, including violence, and carried out almost 200 crimes, including robberies and bombings, from its inception to its last days.
Armed members of FLQ cell Libération kidnapped James Cross at his home, while members of the Chénier cell took Laporte as he played with his nephew on his front lawn. The kidnappers' demands, communicated in a series of public messages, included the freeing of a number of convicted or detained FLQ members, a half-million dollar ransom and the broadcast of the FLQ manifesto. The manifesto, a diatribe against established authority, was read on Radio-Canada, and on 10 October the Québec minister of justice offered safe passage abroad to the kidnappers in return for the release of Cross. On the same day a second FLQ cell, Chénier, acting independently, kidnapped Pierre Laporte.
Invocation of the War Measures Act
The kidnapping raised a swift response from the federal government under Liberal leader Pierre Trudeau. As CBC reporter Tim Ralfe questioned the Prime Minister concerning the armed soldiers on Parliament Hill, Trudeau responded with a now-famous diatribe: "Well, there are a lot of bleeding hearts around who just don't like to see people with helmets and guns. All I can say is, go on and bleed. But it's more important to keep law and order in this society than to be worried about weak-kneed people who don't like the looks of..." Ralfe interrupted: "At any cost? How far would you go with that? How far would you extend that?" Trudeau replied with a sentence that became a catchphrase of North American politics: "Well, just watch me."
On 15 October the Québec government formally requested assistance from the Canadian Armed Forces to supplement the local police, and on 16 October the federal government proclaimed the existence of a state of "apprehended insurrection" under the War Measures Act. Under the emergency regulations, the FLQ was outlawed as membership became a criminal act, normal liberties were suspended, and arrests and detentions were authorized without charge. Over 450 persons were detained in Québec, most of whom were eventually released without the laying or hearing of charges.
Laporte Found Dead
On 17 October, the body of Pierre Laporte was found in the trunk of a car left near Saint-Hubert airport. In early December 1970, police discovered the cell holding James Cross. The force negotiated his release in return for safe conduct to Cuba for the kidnappers , the best known of whom were Marc Carbonneau and Jacques Lanctôt, and some of their family members. Almost four weeks later, the Chénier cell was located and its members arrested, subsequently to be tried and convicted for kidnapping and murder. Of these, Paul Rose and Francis Simard received the heaviest sentences: life in prison for the death of Laporte. Emergency regulations under the War Measures Act were replaced in November 1970 by similar regulations under the Public Order Temporary Measures Act, which lapsed on 30 April 1971.
War Measures Raise Ire of Civil Rights Activists
The federal response to the kidnapping was intensely controversial. According to opinion polls, an overwhelming majority of Canadians supported the Cabinet's action, but it was criticized as excessive by Québec nationalists and by civil libertarians throughout the country. Supporters of the response claim that the disappearance of terrorism in Québec is evidence of its success, but this disappearance might equally be attributed to public distaste for political terror and to the steady growth of the democratic separatist movement in the 1970s, which led to the election of a Parti Québécois government (1976).
After the crisis, the federal Cabinet gave ambiguous instructions to the RCMP Security Service permitting dubious acts such as break-ins, thefts and electronic surveillance, all without warrants. All were later condemned as illegal by the federal Inquiry Into Certain Activities of the RCMP and the Keable Commission in Québec (Enquête sur des opérations policières en territoire Québécois). The federal minister of justice in 1970, John Turner, justified the use of War Measures as a means of reversing an "erosion of the public will" in Québec. According to some, Premier Robert Bourassa similarly conceded that the use of the War Measures Act was intended to rally popular support to the authorities rather than to confront an "apprehended insurrection."
During the 1960s, a national liberation movement sprang up in Quebec, calling for an independent province. One of its means of action was terrorism. In October 1970, a Quebec minister and a British diplomat were abducted.
The 1960s was a decade of profound change, both internationally and in Quebec. While Quebec was evolving due to The Quiet Revolution, many countries were achieving independence thanks to the trend towards de-colonization. Socialist groups, which had been popping up around the world for some time, started appearing in Quebec. During the 1960s, Quebec also witnessed the birth of groups that strove to achieve independence for the province without advocating terrorism or socialism. The most meaningful symbol of this movement was the creation of the Parti qu�b�cois.
Le Front de lib�ration du Qu�bec (FLQ) is a national liberation movement that was founded in 1963. Its goal was to achieve Quebec independence by resorting to terrorism, if necessary. After several bombing attempts, particularly in 1968 and 1969, the FLQ orchestrated the abduction of British diplomat, James Richard Cross, on October 5, 1970, and of provincial minister, Pierre Laporte, later on October 10. Meanwhile, negotiations were being held with Robert Bourassa's Quebec government, and the FLQ's manifesto was broadcast on CBC radio on October 8. Faced with an impasse in the negotiations, the Quebec government demanded the help of the army on October 15 to assist the Montreal police in their efforts. The following day, the federal government, led by Pierre-�liott Trudeau, proclaimed the War Measures Act. As a result, civil rights were curtailed and Canadian Armed Forces occupied several Quebec cities. Pierre Laporte was assassinated the next day, on October 17. Between 450 and 500 people were subsequently arrested, without warrant. The majority of the people were artists, unionists, intellectuals and individuals who supported Quebec nationalism. The crisis finally came to an end in December. James Richard Cross was released on December 3 in exchange for a safe-conduct to Cuba for Marc Carbonneau and the other abductors. On December 28, Paul Rose and his accomplices were arrested for the murder of Pierre Laporte.
Period between 1960 and 1966 marked by reforms that modernized the Quebec State and society.
Social doctrine that puts collective interests ahead of individual interests thanks to a form of State planning that ensures the development of a society.
Political party founded in 1968 that promotes Quebec independence paired with an economic union with the rest of Canada.
Political movement that strives to acquire the necessary tools for a people (laws, organizations, etc.) so that they can control their own social, economical and political future.
Climate of fear that a political group attempts to instill in a society in order to create insecurity among the general population. These groups systematically use violence. The FLQ is a terrorist group.
Front de lib�ration du Qu�bec (FLQ)
Revolutionary movement that strives for an independent and socialist Quebec. This movement used propaganda and violence to promote its message. The FLQ is a national liberation movement that uses terrorism.
War measures act
Adopted in 1914, the War Measures Act assigns emergency powers to the federal government when it perceives a real or suspected threat of "war, invasion or insurrection. This act limits citizens' civil rights.
These rights include, among other things, the right to be protected against unwarranted or arbitrary arrests, detentions, searches and seizures, and the right to an attorney.
National liberation movement
Movement that seeks to achieve the liberation of an occupied country or a subjugated people. The means used to achieve this goal can range from negotiation to the use of violence.
Politician born in 1921. A journalist and parliamentary correspondent for "Le Devoir" from 1945 to 1961, before being elected as a member of the National Assembly for the Quebec Liberal Party in 1961. He served as Minister of Municipal Affairs (1962-1966) and Minister of Cultural Affairs (1964-1966). He was one of the fiercest opponents of Maurice Duplessis and the Union nationale party. In 1970, he ran for leadership of the Quebec Liberal Party, but was defeated by Robert Bourassa, who later named him Minister of Immigration and Minister of Labour. He was abducted by the FLQ and assassinated the day after the War Measures Act was proclaimed. This event helped intensify the October crisis.
Politician born in 1919 to a Quebec father and a mother of Scottish ancestry. In 1940, he entered the Universit� de Montr�al to study law. This was during the World War II and as a student, Trudeau was obligated to join the Canadian Officers' Training Corps, even though he was opposed to conscription. After receiving his diploma in 1943, he pursued his studies in the United States, France and Great Britain. Upon his return to Canada in 1949, he supported unions and founded, with the help of other intellectuals, the magazine Cit� libre to defend his ideas. In 1965, he was elected member of the Liberal Party of Canada, and named Minister of Justice two years later. He took over the leadership of his party in 1968, and won the federal election thanks to "Trudeaumania." Following the abduction of British diplomat James Richard Cross, he proclaimed the War Measures Act. Trudeau stood for a united Canada and a strong federal government.
Member of the FLQ and one of the key players in the abduction of British diplomat James Richard Cross. A Montreal taxi driver, Carbonneau participated in a Taxi Liberation Movement demonstration in 1969. Following the abduction of Cross, his name appeared on a list of the 13 most wanted people in Canada. He managed to arrange a safe-haven for himself to Cuba through the Quebec government in exchange for the release of James Richard Cross. His exile in Cuba lasted from 1970 to 1973, followed by an exile in France from 1973 to 1981. He then returned to Canada where he was charged with abduction and forcible confinement. In March 1982, he was sentenced to 20 months in prison and 150 hours of community work.
FLQ cell leader, born in Montreal in 1943. He participated in his first strike at the age of 12 while working as a strawberry picker. In 1966, he worked as a French and math professor, then as a special education teacher for maladjusted children. He later became a member of the Rassemblement pour l'ind�pendance nationale (RIN) and participated in numerous demonstrations, in addition to becoming involved in several causes. During the October Crisis, he was named Ch�nier cell leader, and was responsible for Pierre Laporte's abduction, which landed him on the list of Canada's 13 most wanted people. He was arrested on December 28 and incarcerated for two and a half months in a small cell in Montreal at the Quebec provincial police headquarters. On March 13, 1971, Paul Rose was sentenced to life in prison.
James Richard Cross
British diplomat born in Ireland in 1921. He held a diploma in economics and political sciences and was a lieutenant in Britain's Royal Engineers Corps from 1944 to 1947. He later served as deputy secretary and assistant secretary of the Board of Trade until 1953. He then held several commercial attach� positions around the globe. In 1967, he was sent to Montreal. During the October Crisis, he was abducted by Marc Carbonneau, a member of the FLQ.
Politician born in Montreal in 1933, and who studied law. He was elected member of the National Assembly for the Liberal Party in 1966, and was later elected party leader in 1970. After negotiations failed with the FLQ for the release of James Richard Cross, he called in the Canadian army. 24 hours later, Trudeau proclaimed the War Measures Act. Despite the crisis, he was re-elected in 1973.
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