In October 1970, Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau invoked Canada’s War Measures Act to protect British Trade Commissioner James Cross and Pierre Laporte, Quebec’s Vice-Premier (second in command) and Minister of Labour.
On 11 October, the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) broadcasts a letter from Pierre Laporte to Robert Bourassa, the Premier of Quebec.
On 12 October, the Canadian Army starts patrolling the Ottawa region, Ottawa is Canada’s capital. They were requested to do so by the Federal government.
On 13 October the CBC interviews Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau (18 October 1919 – 28 September 2000). He says his now famous “Just watch me.”
On 16 October, Quebec Premier Jean Robert Bourassa (14 July 1933 – 2 October 1996) and Jean Drapeau, the Mayor of Montreal, formally ask for help on the part of the Government of Canada. The War Measures Act is implemented.
On 17 October, Pierre Laporte is “executed.”
On 3 December, after being held hostage for 62 days, kidnapped British Trade Commissioner James Cross is released by the FLQ Liberation Cell in return for their being granted safe passage to Cuba by the government of Canada after approval by Fidel Castro. They are flown to Cuba by a Canadian Forces aircraft.
On 23 December, Pierre Trudeau announces that troops will withdraw from Quebec on 5 January 1971.
On 28 December, members of the Chénier cell, who murdered Pierre Laporte, are arrested.
— Chénier Postcard
There are times when political leaders take a strong stand against persons who put explosives in mailboxes, threaten the bulk of society or kidnap important figures. Trudeau was criticized for involving the army in what was a serious crisis but not a war. He was condemned by Civil Libertarians. Pierre Elliott Trudeau would not allow what he thought was nonsense.
The Chénier cell, Pierre Laporte’s murderers, was named after Jean-Olivier Chénier, a medical doctor and patriote who was killed as he was leaving the burning church were many of the men he had led into battle had found refuge during the battle of Saint-Eustache (14 December 1738) FR. He died at the age of 31, but his memory lingers. He’s a saint to Indépendantistes and there was a celebration in Saint-Eustache on 10 May 2012: la Journée des patriotes.
During the October Crisis, 497 persons were arrested under the War Measures Act, 435 were released, 62 were charged and “32 were accused of crimes of such seriousness that a Quebec Superior Court judge refused them bail.” (October Crisis, Wikipedia.)
Félix Leclerc: “L’Encan” et “Le Patriote”
© Micheline Walker
29 October 2012