The 1970 October Crisis - Westgate Mennonite Collegiate

Quebec Nationalism Revisited
FLQ and the October Crisis
The Great Darkness 1944 - 1959
The leader of Quebec during the period called The Great Darkness was
Maurice Duplessis. While he was a very strong supporter of provincial
rights, Duplessis did not support individual civil rights. He was also
adamantly anti-Communist. He limited education to the general
population and gave control of teaching to the Catholic Church. He was
anti-union, and he used the provincial police to violently stop labour
strikes at coal and asbestos mines. (NOTE: Pierre Elliot Trudeau was a
young lawyer representing the workers and the unions. During this
time, Trudeau began to formulate ideas about a Just Society).
The Quiet Revolution
After Duplessis’ death, Quebec awoke. In Quebec history, the 1960s is
called The Quiet Revolution (Révolution tranquille). It was a time of
rapid change and the modernization in Quebec.
 People began looking away from the church for advice and
 Social service such as welfare were established
 Francophone-Quebecers became Québécois with a pursuit of
political independence
 A Ministry of Education was formed to manage education
 Worker rights were legalized
 Hydro-Quebec was formed to manage electrical production
 Quebec took more control of its economy and established its own
pension fund (Nationalization)
 Many Québécois believe English-Canada do not listen to Quebec’s
concerns. The separatist party Parti-Québécois was formed in
1968, and separation from Canada became the focus of political
life in Quebec. Canada...with its British model...was seen as a
foreign, imperialistic power
 In 1968, French nationalist Pierre Vallières writes White Niggers
of America. The non-fictional story compares the forcible
exploitation of the Québécoisto black slaves in southern USA.
The Less-than-Quiet Revolution
The Quiet Revolution was not always quiet...especially for the hard line
nationalist and separatist.
 In 1963, Molotov cocktails and dynamite time bombs exploded in
the English areas of Montreal. Wilfred O'Neil, a 65-year-old war
veteran one month away from his pension, was killed and
 explosives expert Walter Leja was maimed for life.
 While visiting Montreal and Expo 67 during Canada’s 100 birthday
celebration, France’s President Charles de Gaulle proclaimed Vive
le Québec libre.
 On 13 February 1969, bombs exploded in the Montreal Stock
Exchange injuring 27.
 A new separatist group formed called the Front de libération du
The 1970 October Crisis
In 1970, Canada and Quebec were rocked by an increased number of
acts of domestic terrorism. By this point, the FLQ had carried out over
200 violent crimes including several bombings that resulted in the
deaths of six people. In addition, 23 members of the FLQ were in jail
including four members convicted of murder. On 5 October 1970, the
terrorist cell of the FLQ kidnapped British Trade Commissioner James
On 8 October 1970, the FLQ Manifesto was broadcast on CBC Radio. The
FLQ demands included:
• releasing 23 "political prisoners"
• providing $500,000 in gold
• broadcasting and publishing the FLQ manifesto
• publishing the names of police informants in Quebec
• providing an aircraft to take the kidnappers to Cuba or Algeria
• rehiring of the Lapalme postal truck drivers
• stopping all police search activities
On 10 October 1970, another FLQ cell kidnapped Quebec Labour
Minister Pierre Laporte. Canada looks more like a police state than a
democracy eight days after the kidnapping of British Trade
Commissioner James Cross. On Parliament Hill a reporter confronts
Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau: "What is it with all these men and
guns around here?" By calling in army tanks and men in full gear,
Trudeau boosted national security. But the military's presence makes
some Canadians feel a whole lot less secure.
When asked “How far would he go to extend law and order to uphold
Canadian society,” Trudeau responded in a now famous 13 October
1970 retort, “Just watch me.”
On 16 October 1970, the Premier of Quebec Robert Bourassa and the
Mayor of Montreal Jean Drapeau formally requested the Government of
Canada invoke the War Measures Act. The act provided for far-reaching
powers for police. Because of the parallel requisitioning of the military
during the crisis "in aid of the civil power" by the Premier of Quebec, the
event has been mistakenly thought of as invoking martial law. Under the
Act, the Government of Quebec can...and does...invoke emergency
powers to apprehend and jail anyone. The War Measures Act had never
been used in Canada during peace time. The same day, about 3,000
students gather in a Montreal arena to show support for the FLQ. On 17
October 1970, the FLQ announces that hostage Pierre Laporte has been
executed. Laporte's body is discovered strangled in the trunk of a car in
a parking lot.
A communiqué refers to Laporte as the "Minister of unemployment and
assimilation". On the same day and in response to the killing, James
Cross’ kidnappers declare they were suspending indefinitely the death
sentence against him, Cross would not released until FLQ demands were
met and he would be executed if the "fascist police" discovered them and
tried to intervene.
Over the next month, between 450 and 500 people were detained
without warrant as sympathizers to the FLQ. The majority of the people
were artists, unionists, intellectuals and individuals who supported
Quebec nationalism. Most were subsequently released without charge.
On 6 November 1970, police raid the hiding place of the FLQ cell
responsible for killing Laporte. One FLQ member is arrested.
On 3 December 1970...after eight weeks of confinement...British
diplomat James Cross is set free by his FLQ abductors. Simultaneously,
the five FLQ members holding Cross are granted safe passage to Cuba by
the Government of Canada. They are flown to Cuba by a Canadian Forces
On 27 December 1970, the three remaining killers of Laporte are
captured and charged. Two kidnappers receive a life imprisonment
sentence. At the time, opinion polls in Quebec and the rest of Canada
showed overwhelming support for the War Measures Act (i.e., 87% of
Canadians supported the Prime Minister). Politician and future Parti
Leader René Levesque wrote that he agreed it was necessary under the
circumstances. Since then, however, the government's use of the War
Measures Act in peacetime has been a subject of debate in Canada as it
gave police sweeping powers of arrest and detention. Some supporters
of the government's strong measures maintain that there have been no
equivalent terrorist incidents since 1970 because of the vigorous
response by all levels of government. On the other hand, the more
general consensus is that terrorism was found by Quebecers to be both
repugnant and unnecessary. Those who desire independence became
fully conscious that it can and should be achieved through the
democratic process.