The FLQ And The October Crisis In Canada

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The 1960’s and 70’s were a time of political turmoil and unrest in Canadian history. The October of 1970 in particular, is a period remembered for its violence and hate. The kidnapping of two Canadian politicians by the Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ), a terrorist group, changed Canadian society forever. The FLQ and the October Crisis ignited separatist feelings in French Canadians, changed the way the government handled national emergencies and altered Canadians’ opinions on key issues. The October Crisis is a truly significant moment in Canadian history for many reasons.

When the world thinks of Canada, the words that automatically come to mind are peace and unity. However, this almost changed in 1970 when the FLQ kidnapped politicians …show more content…

This event completely altered the way the government handled national emergencies. Firstly, the October Crisis marked the first time that the War Measures Act (WMA) was used during peacetime. The FLQ kidnapped James Cross on October 5, 1970, and later sent a ransom note to police. In exchange for Cross’ release, they demanded $500,000 in ransom, asylum in Cuba and the release of twenty-three of their members from custody. The Québec government refused to release the prisoners and, in retaliation, the FLQ kidnapped Pierre Laporte. The FLQ warned that Laporte would be killed if all the demands were not met. It was at this point that the Québec government turned to Ottawa for help. On October 15, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau sent the Canadian military to Québec to help protect the public and stop the FLQ. Suddenly, over 12,000 troops were patrolling the streets of Québec. They arrested 497 suspected nationalists; however, only 62 were convicted. The next day, October 16, Trudeau brought the WMA into effect. This act allowed the government and law enforcement to make arrests and conduct searches without warrants. This decision proved controversial as many said it turned the province into a police state. In addition, the October Crisis contributed to the creation of a new act and marked the final use of the WMA. Trudeau ended the WMA on April 30, 1971, and, on July 21, 1988, the …show more content…

Police effectively negotiated with the FLQ and secured the release of Cross. Tragically, Laporte was murdered by his kidnappers on October 17. The events of the October Crisis significantly changed Canadians’ opinions on many issues. Firstly, it changed separatist groups’ views on violent protests. The FLQ committed acts of domestic terrorism and, when the news broke of Laporte’s death, they quickly lost public support. Their plan to start a revolution to free Québec had ultimately failed. Since then, most separatist groups have used non-violent means to get their message across. One example is the 1980 Québec Referendum where a vote was staged on whether the province should leave Canada. If the public voted “yes”, the provincial government could begin negotiations about Québec becoming a sovereign state. The proposal was rejected; however, it is an excellent example of how separatist groups are taking peaceful approaches to elicit change. Secondly, the October Crisis initiated a conversation about civil rights. Under the WMA, authorities could freely make arrests and search homes. To many, the sight of soldiers roaming the streets was disturbing and resembled martial law. Those arrested were held in custody for up to 21 days and included journalists, activists, and nationalists. Prisoners were denied due process and were prohibited from consulting lawyers. Censorship was also implemented against the press.

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