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The October Crisis of 1970: Terror in Quebec

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  1. Introduction
  2. The FLQ's direct support for the Quebec sovereignty movement
  3. The crisis facing the government of Canada
  4. Opposition for the War Measures Act
  5. Canada: A country that is extremely safe to live in
  6. Conclusion
  7. References

In October 1970, events took place in Canada that would draw the attention of the entire world. For the first time in its history as a country, terrorism would be brought right to the doorstep of the Canadian government by a radical left-wing organization called the Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ). In response to these events the government of Canada, under the leadership of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, invoked the War Measures Act for the first time ever during a period of peace. The debate rages about its effectiveness and whether or not the government was justified in putting it into action. Although the War Measures Act may not have been as effective in bringing a quick solution to the problem as it could have been, its enactment was justified because of the fact that this new violent revolutionary movement posed a direct and imminent threat to the state as well as its institutions. Increased terrorism in Quebec played a prominent role in the decision to use the War Measures Act.

[...] If Trudeau had not invoked the War Measures Act and had given in to the demands of the FLQ, not only would Canada's reputation be damaged but the government would be seen as weak and unwilling to stand up for the safety of its citizens. Although the government had enough justified reasoning to pronounce the War Measures Act, it turned out to be less efficient than planned. The hideout of the terrorists holding Pierre Laporte was found shortly after the proclamation of the War Measures Act, but it was too late because the terrorists had already decided to kill him shortly after they heard of the governments' decision. [...]


[...] Made up of R.C.M.P., Quebec Provincial Police and Montreal City Police officers, the largest manhunt in Canadian history was underway. Many Canadians opposed the War Measures Act, but the reality was that the government had no other choice. Trudeau justified his decision saying is more Important to maintain law and order than to worry about those whose weak knees tremble at the sight of the army.? This meant that even though the presence of the army in the streets of Ottawa and Montreal did evoke fear among many Canadians, it was a necessary step taken both to combat separatism and to take on the FLQ. [...]


[...] Negotiations between Robert Lemieux, the lawyer for the FLQ, and the government began but quickly broke down as the government was not willing to give in to the demands of the FLQ (Radawanski & Windeyer, 1971). It chose not to pave the way for the eventual overthrow of the Canadian government, a possibility that was looming ever closer during this dark month of October (Gustave, 1970). The Canadian government instead chose to call for the help of the military under the terms of the National Defence Act. [...]

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