[an error occurred while processing this directive] FactsCanada.ca -- Friday Feature 2000-08Fr -- The October Crisis
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The October Crisis.

October 13, 2000.

Today, in recognition of its 30th anniversary, we take a very brief look at the October Crisis.


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The October Crisis
By Michael Hora (mike@factscanada.com)


On October 5, 1970, diplomat James Cross was kidnapped. Cross, the British trade commissioner to Canada, had been taken by the Front de Liberation, the terrorist organization that came to be known to all Canadians as simply, the FLQ. For a period of approximately four months the FLQ, and the terror they unleashed, did not only kidnap Cross, but they also held all Canadians hostage. The period came to be known as the "October Crisis" and the country feels its effects to this day.

Cross was only the first to be snatched and was the only one taken to be found alive. This came about after the police discovered the identities of several of the cell members holding him. His eventual release came only after intense negotiations. Conditional to his release was that the authorities grant the kidnappers and some family members safe passage to Cuba. He was released, shaken but unharmed by his ordeal, in early December.

Soon after Cross fell victim to the FLQ, a disturbing communique was sent to the offices of Radio-Canada. The kidnappers' demands included one that it be aired on public TV. These demands were met and the long and disjointed FLQ manifesto was beamed into the households of the nation. It was a long and rambling diatribe that railed against the federal government and all established authority. On October 10, 1970, the Quebec justice minister offered safe passage to the kidnappers for the release of Cross. That very same day, a second cell of the FLQ kidnapped Quebec's Minister of Labour and Immigration, Pierre Laporte.

On October 17, his body was found in the trunk of a car near the St. Hubert airport. LaPorte had been strangled. Four weeks after the release of Cross, the second cell was apprehended. They were eventually charged and found guilty of kidnapping and murder.

October was a month of deadly intent. On the 15th the province of Quebec asked for and received the assistance of the Canadian Armed Forces to combat the threat. The War Measures Act was installed specifically for use against Canadian citizens for the first time. Under the Act, ordinary liberties were curtailed and arrests and detentions were authorized without charge. Over 450 people were arrested and later released, without charges being laid against most. (The War Measures Act was replaced in December of 1970 by the Public Order Act. This temporary measure was similar to the previous one in its far ranging powers and lapsed on April 30, 1971.)

This period of tumult in Canadian history is again being felt in contemporary Canadian society and is eerily echoing across the nation. Two very recent events, that if viewed separately would seem rather unconnected, have shown all Canadians that history has a way of coming back to haunt them.

On October 2, 2000, the Supreme Court of Canada heard the appeal of Richard Therrien, who was a judge with the Quebec Circuit Court until an order for his removal came down from the judiciary council. He had been convicted by his former peers for failing to report his past criminal activities. At age 19, he had hidden FLQ terrorists at his sister's apartment in Montreal. His sentence for that crime was one year and four months. He received a federal pardon in 1987. He is challenging a Quebec Court of Appeal decision that ordered him removed from his position. The Supreme Court's verdict is due to be released next month.

The other and vastly more important ripple in the historical pond came with the death of the man who was Prime Minister of Canada during the October Crisis. On October 3, 2000, Pierre Elliot Trudeau was laid to rest in Montreal. He died on September 29, 2000, at the age of 80 years.

James Cross just turned 79 and lives in England.


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Last Sunday we ran a "Pet Peeve" that referred to people who have the wrong date and time set on their computer. Just in case you think we're not following our own advice, I'll explain briefly why the times on our last two newsletters have seemed a little off. For technological reasons, the final version of each newsletter is actually sent from Craig's computer, although the return address is actually mine (John's). Last Sunday Craig was in the UK, and today he is in France. If all goes well he'll be back in Vancouver on Sunday. See you then.


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