A fresh take on Trudeau's act - Macleans.ca

A fresh take on Trudeau’s act

The October crisis


Chuck Mitchell/CP

In October 1970, Terry Mosher, the wonderful Montreal cartoonist known as Aislin, published a cartoon in Maclean’s. The subject was the FLQ kidnapping crisis and Pierre Trudeau’s invocation of the War Measures Act. Terry drew Jean Marchand, Trudeau’s justice minister, smoking a pipe and announcing, “Nous avons maintenant des listes de suspects!” We now have lists of suspects. Marchand is clutching the telephone directories for Montreal, Quebec City, Hull and Sherbrooke.

Ha! I don’t need to explain the joke, but what the heck: Aislin was saying the arrests under the War Measures Act were arbitrary and sweeping. He published his critique in one of the country’s largest magazines. And no ill seems to have come to him for his cheek.

This meditation is occasioned by the arrival on my desk of Trudeau’s Darkest Hour: War Measures in Time of Peace, October 1970, a fascinating anthology edited by Guy Bouthillier and Édouard Cloutier. The two men are long-time Université de Montréal profs. Bouthillier ran Quebec’s nationalist St. Jean Baptiste Society from 1997 to 2003, although the jacket bio doesn’t mention that. The book is published by Baraka Books, whose president is Robin Philpot, a likeable U.S.-born (UPDATE: Ontario-born, actually — pw) anglophone convert to Quebec separatism.

This month is the 40th anniversary of the October Crisis, when FLQ terrorists kidnapped British trade minister James Cross and Quebec labour minister Pierre Laporte. Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act to relax restrictions on police action. Almost 500 people were arrested. Laporte was strangled to death by his FLQ captors.

Bouthillier and his associates have chosen to mark the anniversary of that crisis by publishing English-language critiques of Trudeau’s actions. “Many English Canadians spoke up,” they write. By pointing that out, “we can cast some doubt on and perhaps even overcome the notion that ‘they’ stood united against Quebec.”

What follows will surprise people who’ve paid only vague attention to the events of that October. There are excerpts from two Trudeau cabinet ministers’ memoirs. Don Jamieson writes that, “In concrete terms, we did not have a compelling case to put forward” for invoking the act. Eric Kierans recalls speaking in favour of the act at cabinet and noting the look of relief on Trudeau’s face. Kierans was left wishing he had “said what I ought to have said,” which was what Jamieson thought.

There is a tremendously entertaining excerpt from our colleague Peter C. Newman’s 2004 memoir. Days before invoking the act, Trudeau calls Newman, who was editing the Toronto Star. These kidnappings, the prime minister tells the scribe, are part of a plot to replace the legitimate Quebec government with an insurrectionist provisional government. Newman asks: where’s your evidence? Trudeau replies: “I acted on information I’ve been accumulating since I was three years old.” Then he hangs up.

Newman cites an account, classified at the time, of a meeting between Trudeau and his RCMP commissioner William Higgitt. Trudeau was offering powers his top cop didn’t want. “The Commissioner said he saw no necessary action being prevented by existing laws. He said that a broad sweep . . . was not likely to lead to the abductors and that he could therefore not recommend the use of special powers.” Trudeau didn’t care.

Bouthillier and Cloutier survey all this and, in a concluding chapter, write: “The authors in this anthology do not mince their words in qualifying that denial of justice: ‘authoritarian,’ ‘totalitarian,’ ‘dictatorial’ and even ‘fascist,’ with all that those words bring to mind. Hugh Segal described it as ‘something right out of Mein Kampf. ’ Had the struggles of peoples throughout the centuries to conquer democratic rights and freedoms been of no avail?”

I think I can answer that. I think the struggles of people throughout the centuries to conquer democratic rights and freedoms were in better shape in Canada in October 1970 than in a lot of places. Dented, to be sure; manhandled, jostled, besmirched, but still of some avail. My evidence is that cartoon by Aislin, which Bouthillier and Cloutier print in their book. The regime that actually came right out of Mein Kampf would not have been so tolerant of open dissent. There seems to have been much of it around.

Historian Jack Granatstein reports a University of Toronto crowd shouting him down for criticizing Trudeau. But he had company. A critical pamphlet published at the height of the crisis was signed by June Callwood, Dalton Camp, Ramsay Cook, George Grant, Flora MacDonald, Roy McMurtry, Lloyd Axworthy and dozens of others. A petition against the War Measures Act was signed by Barbara Frum, Northrop Frye, Robert Fulford, Anton Kuerti and a dozen others.

Taken all in all, Bouthillier and Cloutier’s book is eloquent about Trudeau’s excesses, and more eloquent than they may have wanted about the limits to his villainy. And it’s a curiously federalist book: leading Quebec sovereignists conscripting English Canadians into their fight against the memory of a fellow Quebecer. It’s a funny country.


A fresh take on Trudeau’s act

  1. It IS somewhat ironic that the PM that did the most to limit arbitrary state powers especially police powers, also acted very thuggishly and excessively when the occasion arose.

    • sorry Mike T. but not so…
      I might debate whether PMT did the most to limit arbitrary state powers (only in the private spheres hippy teenagers thought was important – sex, OMG, wasn't it everything in the '70's?) but Trudeau supporters and detractors need to debate his actions re: violent separatists kidnapping and murder.
      This may be trite but how may have a Pearson, Martin(elder), Diefenbaker or Stanfield reacted? Not much differently I would guess.
      Historians are finally getting away from the Camelot vision of Trudeau and his acolytes to interpret in real terms the ways Trudeau et. al. looked at events and their futures in crass political terms.
      It can only get better for Trudeau when we begin to see him and his followers as the re-incarnation of the Brithish Empirical leaders leading the savage hordes, in his case, of the west, into civilization as they saw it.

    • ironic yes, but also true to the old tradition that created peace-order-and-good-government Canada, just think how many early Canadian leaders were one-time rebels who later converted to the cause of Canada as a British Dominion? Papineau, MacKenzie, McGee…

      • That is the key to the whole thing: "peace order and good government" not libertarianism.

    • Agreed. I have no evidence for this, but it makes me wonder whether the WMA in 1970 had a big impact on the Charter years later. There were plenty of opportunities to walk in the snow and think in the intervening decade.

    • October 1970 was Trudeau's finest hour. He absolutely crushed the FLQ. They were just never an issue again after that. Whatever misgivings I have about anything he did after that, his actions during the October Crisis were exactly what was needed.

      • Well, his actions were certainly decisive. But the FLQ was a bunch of incompetent bumbling ideological idiots that rose to the level of dangerous (yeah, yeah, unfair hindsight…). The people of Quebec recoiled in horror at what evil was being perpetrated by a few morons in the name of souveraineté.

        The FLQ would not have been an issue shortly afterwards, even without the WMA. I therefore conclude that his actions were NOT exactly what was needed. Their only value: in warning us all just how easily we can allow our individual rights and freedoms to be trounced upon.

        • The Provisional IRA was seen as a temporary flare up on an otherwise dormant militant Republican movement in Northern Ireland. They started up at about the same time, and shared the same Marxist ideology as the FLQ. I've read numerous books about the IRA written by former Provies, and the common theme among all of them was what a bumbling bunch of incompetents they were. They were often presented as ruthlessly efficient warriors by the media (and by the British services engaged against them), but in reality they were a bunch of dysfunctional outcasts, their cells rife with informants and double agents. The terror they invoked came from the random violence they carried out, not from any serious organization or ability. It's difficult to say whether or not the FLQ could have become that, but they were definitely headed in the same direction. Do not make the mistake of assuming that incompetence precludes the ability to create terror and havoc.

          • I will ask for your sense of the IRA, then: Didn't they have substantial pockets (maybe waves) of sympathetic support from within Northern Ireland's Catholic population?

            And doesn't that differ pretty substantially from the level of support from Quebec's sovereignists of the day?

          • There was strong support from certain minority segments of Quebec society, don't kid yourself. Thousands of students at UQAM, for example, were staging regular student strikes and marches, demanding the release of FLQ members that had been arrested. All this was before the October Crisis and the WMA.

            And the FLQ, like all Marxist insurgencies of that era, had considerable support among academics of the time. And let's not forget, many respectable Quebec sovreignists, including Jacques Parizeau and Claude Ryan, were secretly plotting a provisional government to take advantage of the chaos of the day. They felt it only a matter of time before the legitimate Quebec government was so destabilized that it would cease to function.

            The more visible actions of this same group (which included Parizeau, Levesque, Claude Ryan, Camille Laurin, (Parliamentary Leader of the P.Q.), seven union leaders and several social science professors) included signing the petition of the 16 "eminent personalities" that, among other things, demanded the immediate release of all suspected FLQ terrorists (whom they called "political prisoners"). And that was while Cross and Laporte were being held by kidnappers. Say what you want, but these weren't marginal players. These were the respectable, moderate separatistes.

            The FLQ compares very well with the IRA in that light. Many rank and file Irish Republicans loathe and fear the IRA and the violence they commit (the vast majority of which is against their own people, either against suspected "touts", or in "police actions" in their own communities). But a movement doesn't need broad support; it needs only a certain critical mass of support, which is sometimes much less than we think.

            I'm not saying with absolute certainty that the FLQ would have become like the PIRA. In fact, it seems likely they wouldn't have been that bad. But there was no way of knowing that in 1970, and Trudeau was right to worry about the possibility.

          • Thank you for that analysis. Your description of Lévesque surprises me, because I can still recall film of his emotional denunciation of these creeps upon the murder (pathetic former terrorist's 2010 attempt to re-write history: police-incompetence-induced suicide-by-sympathetic-unwilling-captor) of his former Liberal Party colleague Pierre Laporte.

            I agree with the "right to worry" bit. But, call me a bleeding heart (??!?), one can worry about something without imposing the suspension of personal freedoms.

          • No bleeding heart references necessary. The imposition of the WMA will always be a controversial chapter in Canadian history. It scared the crap out of a lot of people, including a lot of western conservatives, who were quite rightly spooked about a central government that could suddenly grant itself such awesome and absolute powers. People fear such things for good reason.

            EDIT: I should add that Levesque almost certainly regretted his actions at this time, and in fact I don't think he and Parizeau ever did see eye to eye or trust each other again. I've no doubt that Levesque's tears over Laporte's death were absolutely genuine.

          • Don't forget that it took the Premier of Quebec to ask Trudeau for aid to the civil power. He did not do it on his own. I cank't stand Trudeau or his memory but it is the Premier who was first in line. The only aid the federal government could give was to declare the War Measures Act, which is the vehicle for doing so. Admittedly, he could have refused aid but he would have had even more criticism form the Rest of Canada for not doing so.

            This was a rebellion in the making.

            The bad guys in Quebec were encouraged to rebellion by those who fled Algeria, I understand.

  2. Paul makes a great point that there was no satire available in Germany when Mein Kampf was published. His grasp of history, and thorough knowledge of Liza Minnelli's film ouevre, never ceases to astonish. http://www.enotes.com/genocide-encyclopedia/satir

  3. In the intervening years all that was wrong and unnecessary in Trudeau's invocation of the WMA has become clear; to me and to the nation.

    However, as an anglophone Quebec teenager, one of two sons of a single mother living in a largely francophone town outside Montreal, I felt quite differently at the time. Our home was repeatedly vandalized with FLQ slogans during and after the crisis. Calls to the local police were largely dismissed. My mother was afraid to let us out of the house. I was a paper carrier for the Gazette at the time. Paul Gérin-Lajoie's home was on my route. Delivering the paper one morning, it was far more reassuring than threatening to find soldiers on his porch.

    • Thank you for your note. I agree with you. I was there too, as a student at McGill, and one night we were told to go home and abandon our research projects because the FLQ members were planning a physical attack on McGill campus. I was both scared and outraged that my work would be ruined. When I saw the riot police at the gates of the campus, I was glad. It is too easy for people in Toronto to forget that innocent poeple were killed at that time in Quebec-postal workers maimed or killed, and a factory worker killed, in bomb blasts.

    • True enough. It's easy to judge his actions as excessive in hindsight. Given what was happening with similar Marxist movements elsewhere in the world at the time, he can be forgiven for his "over-reaction".

    • As I was only I was in my forties and saw it from the viewpoint of a family man bringing up kids If you think Montreal was bad, you should have see St. John (Jean) Iberville. I suspect it is still the heart of separatism. It seems that no one but me has mentioned the fact that a number of teacher-immigrants from Algeria were spewing the separatist crap to young kids in class without a word of protest from school officials.

      There was a palpable divide at the time and the two sides were French-speaking and English-speaking. Some in my extended family were perfectly bilingual because of mixed marriages where none of this horse p**p lasted for 30 seconds.

  4. Untidy words,"conquor ?? democratic rights and freedoms" , Mr. Wells.
    Surely you mean "support" or "strengthen"?. And the appalling sanctuary in Cuba granted to the murderers of Laporte ?
    Trudeau and his entire cabinet showed ( cite individual analyses to all Ministerrs *) only two as principled and intelligent::Warren Allmand, and Paul Hellyer, and both positively against the corrupt spending which Ottawa mathematicians * inside and outside the public service have recorded in its general expansion 1959-2010 *
    Trudeau's personal "palace guard" included elementary racketeers, whom we also expose.
    * http://ottawamaths.spaces.live.com (but an apologetic caution: currently part-way through site-redevelopment to a Word Press site, which leaves only two (at my last visit) of thirty "documents": the rest are yet to be retrieved from the old site. aguetta@rogers.com

    • Your strength obviously lies in 'maths'. Evidently with little carryover to more grammatical pursuits.

  5. Canada brought the army out for much less in 1990, amid much propaganda emanating from the federal Justice Department about Mohawks with machine guns. The federal government turned a badly handled blockade of a municipal road into a military invasion. I don't remember the great progressives in the Progressive Conservative party signing petitions that time.

    • yeah, and the debate is about what the Progressive Conservative party and their signatures have to do with what the reaction of the government did at the time.
      Monsieur Bourassa asked for assistance from the federal government . Monsieur Mulroney was reluctant. Possibly for political reasons, but heavens, not for the same political reasons Trudeau et al had for invoking the War Measures Act?
      Saving yer ass with a hint for the good of the people who make the place? Naw, only Liberals think that way…hmmm

      • "A critical pamphlet published at the height of the crisis was signed by June Callwood, Dalton Camp, Ramsay Cook, George Grant, Flora MacDonald, Roy McMurtry, Lloyd Axworthy and dozens of others. A petition against the War Measures Act was signed by Barbara Frum, Northrop Frye, Robert Fulford, Anton Kuerti and a dozen others."

        I'm not one or the other Pedro, but that list has prominent PC's and a couple of Liberals (and non-aligned) signatures during a Liberal decision. I'm saying I didn't see any PC's with a similar concern about civil liberties when the military was used as an hysterical over reaction to a minor conflict on First Nation land. And so what if the premier of Quebec requested it? The Mohawk Council didn't.

        My point is that Trudeau wasn't the only prime minister who invoked a military response within Canada's boundaries, and that he had a much tougher decision to make than Mulroney, who, if as you say was "reluctant" could have just said, "No, Canadians don't support the deployment of troops within our borders. We have police to do that."

        • From what I recall, the Canadian military managed to remove the Mohawk brigades and disperse the armed insurrectionists without a single casualty. Which means it was a smashing success for everyone involved, and certainly for the Mohawks, who likely would have come in second place had shooting actually ensued.

          • Yes. It is what is called in the constitution "Aid to the Civil Power"and requires the civilian head of the government involved (Quebec in this case) to request aid. The force that the Federal Government has at its disposal (in addition to the RCMP as Federal Police Force) is the Army, Navy and Air Force. It is perfectly legal; and legitimate. Possibly that an Indian reserve was involved may have had a Federal influence as well but I don't know.

  6. But the country was affected in less official ways, too. As in, how institutions reacted and decided they should behave in the new political environment. The late Rod Dewar, on CJAD airwaves: “I went to sleep in a free country last night and this morning I have woke up [sic] in a police state.” He was suspended by a jittery radio station, and promptly quit.

    But it is the "jittery radio station" that should have had (and should still have) everyone concerned about the effects of the WMA.

    • Dewar's was a stupid and ignorant comment.

      • Stupid and ignorant because he should have known better than to speak his mind on the radio airwaves of a station whose license depends on the federal government, so soon after the federal government assumed powers it should not have assumed?

        Stupid and ignorant because he should have known better than to condemn a "police state" the day after the WMA was invoked?

        And EVEN IF his was a stupid and ignorant comment (I will need some justification for such a claim), the "jittery radio station" as a reflection of media outlets generally still have me worried about the precarious state of our freedoms. I would hope that would trouble you more than anything one individual might have blurted into a microphone.

        • Those provisions have been there since Confederation. Why should you imagine they should not be used (Aid to the Civil Power). Those provisions were a part of or governmental set-up since our country was formed. It's still a free country and those provisions were put in place to preserve our freedom. That's why his comment was stupid.

          I hestate to characterize your reraction as such. It smacks of a libertarian reaction, that is, can you go around blowing up property and murdering and advocating the equivalent of a rebellion. Is that exercising your freedoms.? If you think so then you are not as intelligent as many of your posts have led me to believe. .

          • I am pretty sure I never implied that the provisions were not there. And I am absolutely convinced that this has nothing to do with anything, anyways. What I have been implying was that the justification for invoking the measures (insurrection) were not there.

            Rounding up hundreds of people without charge is to preserve our freedoms? Having media outlets pissing their pants (over what they could and couldn't say) is to preserve our freedoms? Care to expand on that? Because THAT would be an attempt to expose the stupidity in Dewar's statement. You have not yet done so.

            Your caricature of "a libertarian reaction" does not help your case. Having the police do their job and the provisions of the War Measures Act for a national emergency are, in most people's minds, I hope, very different kettles of fish.

          • Were you there, madeyooulook? The combination of bomb explosions, injured postal employee from a mailbox explosion, an injured (or was he killed) security man at a Legion hall, a murdered minister, a captured foreign (Brit) diplomat had already demonstrated that the police were unable or unwilling to bring things under control. Bourassa made the right decision to ask for aid to the civil power. In hindsight we know after the fact that the reality was a few rabid beanbrains in action. But the apprehension at the times was that it extended much further than it was in reality, considering also the influence of Algerian immigrants who were anything but meek and mild but evidenced more prpoblem with how they influenced the FLQ. . . It was only unwise in retrospect. Better to meet the threat with actions that seemed appropriate to the threat.

            As for the announcer he could not tell the difference in a free country and the measures to keep it free. The soldiers and police were not after him, were they?

            I think that the country as a whole thought that Trudeau and Bourassa knew (or felt they knew) their own province and the potential for trouble.

            I postulated libertarion because you seemed to value walking around freedom more important than quelling an insurrection.

            While I have little time for Trudeau, in this one decision together with the constitution he displayed foresight as to what was needed. In respect to the crisis, stamp it out quickly.

          • The soldiers and police were not after him, were they?

            I don't know if you were there or not, or if you read up much about it later, but they were after a whole heap of people who had absolutely nothing to do with the "apprehended insurrection." They rounded those people up, too. And that doesn't trouble you because…?

          • No, because they were suspect because of past actions or behaviour. It was a case of "round up the usual suspects." The soldiers and police were given a list, that is. And no, it doesn't bother me as much as the deaths and injuries. That had to be stopped. It is only circumstantial that the thing turned out to be the actions of a few but dangerous nutcases.

            And yes, I was there but not a participant but I was certainly rooting for law and order and not bombs in mailboxes. The French-Canadian population were rooting more for the FLQ than the army or the police, at least from my observations. .
            And it was not a police state but a misbehaving population in a province under martial law which was justified by a state of "äpprehended insurrection" at the time,. It was scary but almost laughable when the true state of things became knowsn AS A RESULT OF THE ARMY SWEEP BECAME KNOWN. . Your hindsight is 20/20 but your intelligence is blind to the apparent realities of the time. For the French it had the successful resullt of companies and families leaving Quebec , and even more so as a result of the stupid language laws.

            The principle being applied, I believe, was "peace order and good government", which is the principal objective of our government, not some ill-defined "freedom." Freedom to kill? Freedom to destroy properrty? And those rounded up were the ones who were perhaps on the sidelines but cheering the efforts of tghe FLQ. Bourassa did the right thing to call for help and Trudeau did the right thing to bring in strong measures to meet the apparent need.

          • It was a case of "round up the usual suspects." The soldiers and police were given a list, that is.

            Many of those "usual suspects" having NOTHING AT ALL to do with the apprehended insurrection, and not even sympathizing with the FLQ. Only that they were on the list of political trouble-makers for whatever reason.

            So you are/were not as troubled with the "police state" as Rod Dewar was, or I am. Fine. But don't then call Dewar's factual statement and denunciation "stupid and ignorant."

  7. “I acted on information I've been accumulating since I was three years old.”

    Vintage Trudeau. Sometimes these little snippets of private conversation are where we really see the man's genius. I'm not a Trudeau fan, nor would I ever have voted for him. But I can respect brilliance when I see it. The man was brilliant, and he carried that brilliance with a panache that we'll likely never see again.

    • Different people are going to have different reactions, but I don't think that quote speaks well of Trudeau. It sounds like the sort of thing Dick Cheney might say in roughly parallel circumstances: I know what I know and I don't need the kind of evidence lesser people might need. It sounds resounding if you share the convictions, but hollow if you don't.

      • What we do know is, Trudeau's fears of a conspiratorial provisional government plot were absolutely confirmed in the years that followed. Parizeau, Claude Ryan and a clutch of Quebec union leaders and academics were plotting a coup of sorts. Unlike Dick Cheney, who never did find those WMDs (because there were none), Trudeau was acting on (and perhaps over-reacting to) a real threat. And I think that is an important distinction.

        Obviously Trudeau knew a lot more than what he was prepared to state to the media at the time. Perhaps he played coy as not to jeopardize sources or ongoing investigations and intelligence operations. Or, maybe he was speaking more generally, implying that, "Hey, I know these guys. I grew up with / attended law school with / played in the school yard with / drank beer with many of these guys, and I know what I'm up against." He could have been thinking along any of these lines, or something entirely different, we'll never know.

        I'm willing to give Trudeau the benefit of the doubt here that he was in fact acting on solid information, not only because it was happening in the land of his birth, and involved many of his one-time peers, but also because history seems to have borne out exactly those concerns he expressed to Peter C. Newman at the time.

        • "What we do know is, Trudeau's fears of a conspiratorial provisional government plot were absolutely confirmed in the years that followed. Parizeau, Claude Ryan and a clutch of Quebec union leaders and academics were plotting a coup of sorts. Unlike Dick Cheney, who never did find those WMDs (because there were none), Trudeau was acting on (and perhaps over-reacting to) a real threat. And I think that is an important distinction. "

          Whaaaa?! Claude Ryan? Planning a coup with Parizeau?

          Radio-Canada has done quite some work on the whole Octobre 70 thingy tose last few weeks and the comments of the Star's Québec city's correspondent on PCNewman's assertions re: the coup are priceless. Basically, the guy's reaction was: "Peter, lay off the crack pipe, will ya?".

          This whole coup thing is a hoax. Pure, unsubstantiated, fabricated hoax. I would *love* to see where you got that "absolute confirmation".

          • Parizeau admitted as much to informant Carolyne de Vault.

        • But who are we to argue with your scared teenage self?

      • Actually, I think there was considerable confidence that he knew the score and wasn't going to tolerate it. . He wasn't shy in Cite Libre of calling shots, although I had to read the English translation – I read all his stuff, not necessarily in admiration. I have expressed my views about him elsewhere on this thrread.

    • And just where did he keep all this information, stuffed in the German helmet he used on his motorcycle rides around Montreal?

      Such a flippant response along with the "just watch me" quote are where we really see the man's arrogance and Philistine pig ignorance attitude rather than genius and panache.

    • I'm not a Hitler fan, nor would I ever have voted for him. But I can respect brilliance when I see it. The man was Brilliant, and he carried that brilliance with a panache that we will likely never see again.

      • I don't think so. Brilliant is the wrong word. He was a spoiled brat of a wealthy Quebec gas merchant.. He was the equivalent of a draft dodger during the war He flirted with Marxism. He, in my opinion was a poseur, a dilletante, an intelllectual left-wing dabbler – but a passionate one whose main goal was to install a recognitiion of the French fact in the constitution and in the government. His dream of a bilingual Canada was perhaps impractical, but millions of Englsih-speaking Canadfians rallied to the possibility of bilingualism by having their children enrolled in French language classes – everything from conversationial French to literary French to immersion UNTIL Quebec passed it's stupid language laws. That killed the attempts to realize Trudeau's dream in the rest of Canada. Enrolments dropped off until they became less than significant. TYherte was not an iota of recognition in Qujebec of what was being accomplished because they didn't care about the rest of Canada then hewing to their isolated view of events. Attempts to teach French to public servants becamse first, a joke, and then a sore point as French speakers who also spoke a sort of English started claiming access to the quota of English-Speaking positions in the Public Service, particularly in ministries in Ottawa, so that the great majority of Ottawa civil servants now are French. You can hardly get a letter from Ottawa that isn't signed with an obvious French name. That is what Trudeau's dream has turned into. What he couldn't get put in the constitution was the Quebecois tendency to nepotism, corruption and graft. But that lives on.

    • yes Trudeau was brfilliant but remember the difference between a genious and an idiot are minimal

  8. On a complete tangent here, I'd be interested to know if FLQ member Mario Bachand was really assassinated on orders from the Canadian government, as was asserted by author Michael McLoughlin in his book, Last Stop: Paris. He was gunned down by an unknown assailant in Paris in March of 1971, that much is known. In the book, McLoughlin builds a pretty good case that the Canadian government was behind the hit. I've never been able to decide if this is a serious hypothesis (for McLoughlin it certainly is) or if it's just some journo's flight of fancy. The world Bachand traveled in was full of terrorists, traitors, double agents, spies, arms dealers and mercenaries, and it seems likely he could have been offed by any number of these characters, or even one of his fellow Felquistes. Still, like any good mystery, the story always intrigued me.

    • In short, yes, he was. I trust you realize that the publisher did their due diligence, verifying every aspect of the research behind “Last Stop, Paris”.. The evidence – documentary; interviews of Canadian officials, RCMP Security Service officers, CSIS officers, ex-FLQ, foreign intelligence officers, Brigade criminelle officers in Paris, witnesses in France; visits to Paris and the site of the murder – is overwhelming, as it has to be with such a matter. Apart from two or three minor typos, to my knowledge no significant error of fact has been identified in the text,. which is exceptional in a work of such complexity and difficulty, on such a highly classified topic, hidden as it was behind a veil of disinformation and deception.

      • Hi Michael. I never had any question about the veracity of the facts presented or the research that went into your book. The only thing lacking was the definitive smoking gun that would have cinched it. Of course, I understand that the absence of such a smoking gun is to be expected. No government would do this without thoroughly covering their tracks.

        I guess my uncertainty stems from my impression that the theory hasn't really been embraced publicly by many others. I say that because, had I not happened across your book and been intrigued enough to buy it, I never would have heard of the idea that the Canadian government sanctioned a hit on a known Felquiste. My knowledge of the case – in fact, my very awareness of the case – begins and ends with your book. Is that because most other journalists don't believe it? Or is it because they're reluctant to taint Trudeau's legacy? Or was that veil of disinformation and deception just so effective that it threw everyone else off the case, as was intended?

        Anyway, thanks for your reply. I'm curious though, has there been any more information that has come to light in the decade or so since your book was published?

        • Wow. Looks like I have a book to pick up.

          So: What was the value of offing this one when others were also easily accessible for the offing (and, in many instances, happily wander into SRC studios to re-write history to this very day)?

          • Indeed, some former Felquistes are rewriting history, whilst others are firebombing Second Cup (as recently as 2001, in fact). :)

            But the answer to the question "Why Bachand?" is just way too much to get into here. So yes, I highly recommend the book. That the author can state with confidence, twelve years after publishing, that not one significant fact or assertion has ever been seriously challenged, shows you what a robust work it is.

  9. Toronto was recently turned into an armed camp with formal pass cards and 1000 people were arrested and imprisoned without charges — all without the benefit of war powers. Welcome to the new normal.

    • And the black clad terrorists that senselessly smashed and burned as part of a juvenile rant were just an oddity?

      • I think you're missing the context. Did you read Paul's article? The FLQ was doing much more than breaking windows. Pierre Laporte had just been murdered, and a bombing campaign was underway. But even so, this kind of arbitrary police power was considered scandalous and with a weak legal foundation.

        I live in Toronto, and nothing on that scale was going on here. A few dozen yahoos were breaking windows, causing trouble, and torched a couple of police cars — just like Montreal after a big Habs game. Yet the police arrested _without charge_ 1000 people. I'm just observing that the Police exercised expansive powers here needing any special authorization.

        • I think you've missed the point. Whether breaking windows, burning police cruisers, blowing up mail boxes, murdering or kidnapping innocent people, this ALL goes against social norms and falls into the category of terrorist activity, and that included the Toronto ninnies taunting police, attempting to become Pulitzers Prize winners with cheap digital cameras that were supposedly just "a few dozen yahoos."

          Do you remember the Oct. Crisis? I do.

          • As do I. Members of my family left Montreal for good because of the bombing in their neighborhood.
            I was also their earlier when Quebecois enthused at DeGauille's stupid "Vive la Quebec Libre" and the enthuisiastic reqction of the Quebecois part of the crowd. Trudea did right to cancel the rest of his visit to Canada, i.e. Ottawa.

          • I believe it was Pearson.

          • what was Pearson – looks misplaced.

          • Pearson cancelled the rest of deGaulle's visit.

          • Sigh indeed! I do believe you are right. This was at the time of the centennial and Expo 67; the October crisis was obviously much later. Thank you for correcting me.

  10. It is interesting to see first hand accounts of people's personal terror during events themselves. In less scrupulous governmental hands, it appears they could be as useful as the Taliban…

  11. Trudeau was by far the worst PM this country ever had. Dangerous and unfit for the office of PM. The use of the "War Measures Act" was an act of the extreme, a nuclear bomb on a zit. I'm sure history will be very unkind to Trudeau, and his so called legacy.

    • BS!!!!! The last two male conservative PM's were and are worse by far! The first had no scruples (and that's putting
      it mildly), and the second is loose with the truth and a few other things besides. Of coarse, none of that has ever bothered the right wing in their self-serving disgusting lust for power at any cost.

      • Oh? And are you claiming the Liberals didn't lust for power to the point that they held it arrogantly and corruptly. Get real!

  12. The most important effect of the declaration of the War Measures Act, and its total success, was in breaking the insurrectionist mentality of the separatist movement in Quebec. It's hard for us with the benefit of hindsight to understand what it was like to live in Quebec at that time. Separatists who chose violent insurrection over democratic means to achieve sovereignty were steadily ratcheting up their direct action, creating a "strategy of tension" and reinforcing the idea that the Quebec provincial government, as well as the federal government, were no longer in full control. Following the declaration of the War Measures Act and the expulsion of the terrorists to Cuba, the separatist movement gave up on armed struggle and the authority of the Quebec and federal governments was restored.

    In this context, when Trudeau said “I acted on information I've been accumulating since I was three years old” it would be easy, facile and of course, wrong, to interpret this comment as a Cheneyesque "I know what I know and I don't need the kind of evidence lesser people might need." Trudeau knew very well the intentions of the separatists who chose violence over democracy, and their way of working. He didn't need an intelligence analyst to tell him that that the terrorists intended to destabilize Quebec in order to destroy its institutions and confidence in its government. That is precisely where we were when the October Crisis happened.

    History has shown that Trudeau was right in both his analysis and the action he took. The declaration of the War Measures Act broke the back of armed insurrection, but more importantly, it brought those who believe in separatism to understand that the Canadian state would not tolerate political violence, even at a low level, and if separatists supported violence they would simply be locked up. The same man gave Canada the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He understood that democracy has to be defended on occasion with force against those who would wish to overthrow it with non-democratic means. Even Harper wouldn't have the stones to do what Trudeau did then.

    • Well said. Probably the one and only time I'll agree with you, but you nailed it. The insurgency was being fueled not only from within the radicalized Quebec left, but had received an injection of foreign Marxist radicalism, both in terms of funds and personnel. Basque separatists in Spain, Bretons in France, and the Provisional IRA in the UK and Ireland were receiving similar "professional help" at the time, and rapidly escalating the levels of violence in their own realms. When judging the potential threat of the FLQ, one must always consider that global backdrop. And Canada stands alone as the one country to have succeeded in crushing the revolt. It's all well and good to sit here forty years later and complain of "excesses". Trudeau had no such luxury.

      • Don't forget the Algerian immigrants.

    • Wonderful comment. I remember those times although I was quite young. The threat of insurrection was very real.

      • Agreed, and those who criticize Trudeu's actions as excessive have the luxury of assuming that had Trudeau not acted, everything would have turned out just ducky anyway. Which is, of course, impossible to prove or disprove. What historians call a counterfactual.

    • A very astute analysis.

  13. "Democratic rights and freedoms were in better shape in Canada in October 1970 than in a lot of places […]" and your evidence is a cartoon in an English newspaper and a pamphlet signed by English-Canadian intellectuals. Rights and freedoms were never suspended for English Canadians, they were suspended for French Canadians. French-speaking intellectuals would have been arrested on the spot at the time for signing the same pamphlet (if they were not amongst the 500 "sympathizers" already arbitrarily arrested). That's a distinction you carefully avoid.

    • That's a total crock. Numerous Quebec "intellectuals" spoke out against the War Measures Act without ever being threatened with arrest. Parizeau and a group of Quebec academics and union leaders signed a petition demanding the immediate release of all FLQ "political prisoners". They weren't jailed. Obviously you've steeped yourself in victim's psychology for so long that you can't even tell truth from fiction anymore. It's sad.

    • "Rights etc" Why would rights be suspended for "English Canadians"" as you call them? No need; they were not threatening a rebellion as were the FLQ and many Quebecois sympathizers.

      But i baulk at your characterization. The Rest of Canada consists of many ethnicities, not just Ënglish.

    • actually, I think there were Canadians other than French detained under the act all over the country. But hey, don't let facts get in the way of your insecurities.

  14. Trudeau was the revolutionary. Most FLQ terrorists were barely punished, and today, all are free to enjoy the distortions and denials of Quebec. Although for Trudeau, they made for a convenient excuse to practice his hidden authoritarian ideology.

    • Uh,huh. Kind of like………………….Harpers

  15. I think Stephane Dion's framework (from his days as an academic) for understanding separatist movements is useful here. He essentially argues that there is a tradeoff between addressing grievances and amplifying the view among separatists that they have the wherewithal to successfully form their own state. While he applies the framework by critiquing attempts to buy off Quebec, it certainly works in the October crisis.

    Yes, the War Measures Act resulted in a legitimate grievance for some in Quebec. However it also reinforced a sense of the efficacy of the Canadian state in protecting its citizens and government officials. Order, in many ways, is the first and most central of civil liberties. If a state is unable or unwilling to provide it, its legitimacy will suffer greatly. Not only might this spawn future terror and embolden the separatist mass movement, a climate of fear over one's physical well-being would have driven Anglophones to leave Quebec even more quickly than they ultimately did. Events, if left to spin out of control, have a tendency to snowball (I suspect Trudeau's biggest fear was something akin to the riots that ended De Gaulle's reign in France, not a violent terrorist insurrection).

    The war measures act was a strong statement about how far the government was willing to go in order to maintain order, and keep Canada together. The fact that it had costs – such as arbitrary arrests – is precisely what made it a credible statement of will. And it worked. Those that would seek to win Quebec's independence through violent means (both the FLQ, and people that might potentially have formed similar organizations) got the message.

    • "Events, if left to spin out of control, have a tendency to snowball (I suspect Trudeau's biggest fear was something akin to the riots that ended De Gaulle's reign in France, not a violent terrorist insurrection)."

      Yup, that's it. Delegitimizing the state in the federal system was what the terrorists were aiming for. The declaration of the War Measures Act was just as you described it – ils ont remis les pendules a l'heure.

    • Very astute.

  16. You know, I think it helps to have been old enough to have been there as an adult. A lot of the stuff on this thread I assume to the imaginings of those who definitely weren't, allowing for legitimate historical research. I was there as an adult and it was a scary time. As I said elsewhere, members of my family (of both French and English extraction) decided that Quebec was not a safe placve for their family – that and the stupid language laws inhibited a proper place to raise children. .

  17. I can't take seriously critiques of the political leadership of the time that fail to mention the police and firefighters strike which occured one year before the FLQ kidnapping. In 1969 the army was called in to Montreal where civil authorities had lost control of maintaining peace and an organized society.

    "six banks were robbed, more than 100 shops were looted, and there were twelve fires. Property damage came close to $3,000,000; at least 40 carloads of glass will be needed to replace shattered storefronts. Two men were shot dead."

    These events only a year prior had to weigh heavily in the decisions taken by the politicians.

  18. Interesting article. We are a funny country indeed.

    One point about something quite unrelated to the theme – I like how you used the terms "U.S.-born" and "Ontario-born".

    Normally Canadian writers would say "Canadian", rather than using the province, while using the name of the U.S. state.

    Thus either falling into the lazy trap of copying authors from the States because that is what they are used to. And/or falling into the other typical Canadian trap of self-conscious self loathing.

    In general, we shouldn't use the names of U.S. States any more than we use the names of Mexican States. We don't say "Cancun, Quintana Roo" we say "Cancun, Mexico". So why don't we say Dallas, USA? Mexico and the U.S. are both foreign countries. Equally foreign. Both 100% foreign.

    But we should always use the names of Canadian provinces. This is our country. Yet so many in the Canadian media and the tourist industry do not. They say weird stuff like Toronto, Canada.

    I also like how you used "U.S.", not "America".
    I like it because I believe that America is the name of a continent, or two, not any country (as do most Latin Americans, Bob Marley and the historians who wrote about Columbus' grand discovery). Just because the U.S. doesn't really have a name for their nation (more a description, or an address) doesn't mean they can take the name of the continent. Imagine if China decided that "Asian" only referred to themselves.
    In the same way that the English are considered confused for not considering themselves European, Canadians should be considered equally confused for not considering themselves American. We are American, as well as Canadian. Continent and country. Like Sudanese and African. Australian and, er, Australian. We could have been called the United Provinces of America (Quebec notwithstanding) but we thought an actual name for the nation would be nice.

    The U.S. should work on that. Yankeeland. Tankeeland. Yahooland. WASPland. Whatever…

    For now the more correct term to call someone from the States should at best be "U.S. American".

  19. where can i find the cartoon that Aislin published?