25 Photos of the 1970 October Crisis in Quebec

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The October Crisis occurred in October 1970 in the province of Quebec in Canada. Members of the Front de Libération du Quebec (FLQ) kidnapped the cabinet member Pierre Laporte and the British Trade Commissioner James Cross. The FLQ, a terrorist organization founded in the early 1960’s, was a paramilitary faction of the Quebec sovereignty movement that conducted over 160 violent attacks between 1963 and 1970. FLQ called for not only independence from Canada but for a socialist insurrection against ‘Anglo-Saxon imperialism the formation of a “worker’s society.”

On October 5, two members of the FLQ kidnapped Cross, leaving a list of demands, including the release of political prisoners, and the CBC broadcast of the FLQ Manifesto, with the authorities. On October 10, members of the FLQ kidnapped Laporte, the Minister of Labor.

On October 16, in response to this hostage situation, Premier Bourassa of Quebec formally requests that the government of Canada grant emergency powers allowing the suspension of habeas corpus. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau invoked the only peacetime use of the War Measures Act. This declaration suspended the civil liberties and personal freedoms of Canadian citizens until the crisis could be resolved. Through the War Measures Act, 397 civilians were arrested and detained without bail. The Quebec government also requested military aid to help maintain order.

On October 17, the FLQ announced that Pierre Laporte had been executed and that Cross would be held until all their demands are met but would be executed if the “fascist police” attempt to intervene. The FLQ demands were as follows: 1) The Publication of the FLQ manifesto. 2) The release of 23 political prisoners. 3) An airplane to take them to either Cuba or Algeria (both countries that they feel a strong connection to because of their struggle against colonialism and imperialism). 4) The re-hiring of the ‘gars de Lapalme’, more than 600 former employees of a private contractor who had delivered the mail in Montreal. 5) A “voluntary tax” of 500,000 dollars to be loaded aboard the plane prior to departure. 6) The name of the informer who had sold out the FLQ activists earlier in the year.

62 days after Cross is first taken, on December 4 he is released by the FLQ after negotiations. The five known kidnappers, Marc Carbonneau, Yves Langlois, Jacques Lanctôt, Jacques Cossette-Trudel and his wife, Louise Lanctôt, are granted safe passage to Cuba by the government of Canada after approval by Fidel Castro. The troops leave Quebec January 5, 1971.

The liberals wanted to improve economic and social standards for people in Quebec and to win greater respect for the French people of Canada. Studies showed the French-Canadians were earning the lowest wage and that the top jobs in Quebec were given to English speaking Canadians. Unless equal partnership was found, Quebec would separate from Canada and as long as they were associated with Canada they thought that they would never be treated equally. Pinterest
Police and protesters clash in Montreal, March 1969. PHOTO- BORIS SPREMO, THE TORONTO STAR: THE CANADIAN PRESS
Pierre Laporte, home with his wife, Francoise, and their children, daughter Claire and son Jean, announcing his candidacy for Liberal Party leadership in 1969. Montreal Gazette
Security guard inspecting one of the many mailboxes for potential explosives. The FLQ utilized bombs in mailboxes in protest of the more than 600 employees of a private contractor who had delivered the mail in Montreal who had lost their jobs.  The October Crisis
Reporters Tim Ralfe, right, and Peter Reilly, center, question Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau on the steps of Parliament Hill about the FLQ crisis and the invocation of the War Measures Act. PETER BREGG: Peter Bregg: CP
‘Just watch me,’ Pierre Trudeau famously said, when asked just how far he would go to maintain law and order in the face of the FLQ. fivedecadesofchange
A newsboy hits the streets in Ottawa, Oct. 16, 1970. PHOTO- PETER BREGG, THE CANADIAN PRESS
Left- Telegrams protesting the War Measures Act. To Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Schreyer. Sign Here. Right- We do NOT support FLQ. We do oppose the suspending of YOUR civil liberties. fivedecadesofchange
An army convoy rolls into Montreal along University St. during the October Crisis of 1970. GARTH PRITCHARD: MONTREAL GAZETTE
CANADA – OCTOBER 12: Ready for action: Soldiers check out a ferret scout car and stand guard during the 1970 October Crisis. Reaction extended well beyond Quebec. Photo by Doug Griffin/Toronto Star via Getty Images
Civilians pass soldiers guarding Montreal’s city hall, Oct. 15, 1970. PHOTO- THE CANADIAN PRESS
The October Crisis began 5 October 1970 with the kidnapping of James CROSS, the British trade commissioner in Montréal, by members of the Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ). Library and Archives Canada