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On April 29, 1970 the Liberals took back the National Assembly in Quebec in a provincial election which gave them 72 seats, the reigning Union Nationale 16 seats, the Creditistis 13 seats and the new separatist party, the Parti Quebecois 7 seats. The PQ had won the second highest percentage of the vote at 24% but their support was mainly spread across the urban ridings. Many supporters of the separatist cause were bitterly disappointed by what seemed an unfair electoral result.

By the end of May a bombing spree had blasted it's was across Montreal with 9 explosions rocking office buildings and homes. The new Liberal Premier Robert Bourassa blamed the attacks on frustrated separatists protesting the election results. Two FLQ cells felt that more had to be done then setting bombs and that the next level of escalating the terrorism would be to kidnap prominent public figures or symbols of the establishment.

On October 5th, 1970 one of the most traumatic episodes in Canadian political and social history began when members of the Liberation cell of the FLQ (Front de libération du Québec) kidnapped James Cross, the British Trade Commissioner, from his home on Redpath Crescent in Mont Royal in Montreal. Cross was a symbolic victim for the FLQ because of the English connection with what was considered the imperialistic blight on the conscience of the separatists. The kidnappers issued demands for the release Cross which were

  • The release of 23 FLQ/nationalistic prisoners, serving time in prison

  • The ability for FLQ members on bail, awaiting trial, to be able to depart the country

  • The ability for family members, of those FLQ members on bail, to be able to join them outside of Canada

  • $500,000 to be paid in gold

  • The publication and broadcast of the FLQ Manifesto

  • The exposure of a police informer in the FLQ

  • Transportation by helicopter of the kidnappers and their lawyers to Cuba or Algeria

  • The rehiring of 450 postal employees who had been fired because of their support for the FLQ through job action

  • Stopping the police and other authorities from investigating the kidnapping and searching for the kidnappers.

The Bourassa government was thrown into a flurry of action and discussion concerning the demands and what direction the government should take. Pierre Laporte, the Deputy Premier of Quebec, announced the Quebec governments denial of the FLQ demands and on October 10 he was kidnapped, by the Chénier Cell, from his home. Bourassa and the rest of his cabinet when into a lockdown.

The FLQ and the Quebec separatists called for a general strike to support the kidnappers in the universities and rallies to show their backing of the terrorists actions. As the army arrived the pressure in Quebec began to build and on October 17th word was called into a radio station that Pierre Laporte had been executed and his body could be found in the trunk of a car near the airport. The police found his murdered body and the entire nation went into shock as the ghastly image was broadcast across the country. Bourassa  called on Prime Minister Trudeau to invoke the War Measures Act and have the army come in to re-establish order.

Trudeau began to take pressure from the press about the arrest of suspects and potential FLQ affiliates which climaxed on the steps of the Parliament buildings when the reporter Tim Ralfe suggested that government officials should leave themselves open to kidnapping and murder in the name of individual rights and then challenged Trudeau to state how far he was willing to go, to which Trudeau responded, "just watch me".

By December 2nd the location of James Cross and his kidnappers had been discovered and after negotiating with the terrorists he was released in exchange for the kidnappers safe conduct to Cuba. The murderers of Laporte were captured in late December including Paul Rose and they were tried and convicted.

After these actions and the shocking murder of Laporte, the violent terrorist actions of the FLQ began to decline dramatically as legitimate political action by the Parti Quebecoise began to accelerate.

During the crisis 453 people were arrested under the War Measures Act and some were held for over 3 weeks. The question of civil rights vs. the right of the legitimately elected government of a state to defend itself had been one of the central questions which is still debated today.

The Parti Quebecoise was elected in 1976.



Trudeau and the War Measures Act



The War measure Act



October Crisis