What Was The October Crisis?

The territory in contention was Quebec, the second largest province in Canada. Quebec is different from the other territories and provinces in Canada as it is the only province that is predominantly French-speaking. Another special feature of Quebec was that while the rest of the country was predominantly Protestant, most of the population in Quebec was Catholic. These factors were the basis used by a group of influential Quebec activists who founded a secessionist movement known as “Front de Liberation du Quebec”(FLQ) or “Rally for National Independence” in 1963. The movement required the secession of Quebec and the establishment of an independent state of Quebec. The movement became increasingly popular among the general population and people were unhappy about the increase in unemployment within the province. The Front de liberation du Quebec wanted secession and would use all the necessary means, including the use of violence. The FLQ detonated 95 bombs between 1963 and 1970, causing at least three deaths and numerous injuries.

Violent accidents

In the months leading up to the October crisis, the FLQ had achieved a huge following by university students and teachers who took to the streets in solidarity with the movement. The FLQ has engaged in many violent incidents that occurred in waves with the first wave that occurred in March 1963 immediately after its formation. During the first wave, the FLQ engaged in infrastructure destruction by blowing up bombs placed on the railroad tracks. The second wave was led by a branch of the FLQ called the “Quebec Liberation Army” which was the main responsible for the robberies. The sixth wave was the last wave of the October crisis and was one of the most violent. A particular episode of the sixth wave happened on February 13, 1969, where the FLQ bombed the Montreal Stock Exchange,

The October crisis

After the attack on the Montreal Stock Exchange, dozens of FLQ members were arrested and imprisoned. In October 5th, 1970, two members of the FLQ abducted British trade commissioner James Cross and issued a statement calling for the release of FLQ members held in jail in exchange for the release of Cross among other requests. The government through the Canadian Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the Commonwealth declared that it would not surrender to the requests. In October 10th, the FLQ kidnapped the Labor and Employment Minister, Pierre Laporte. Alarmed by the second kidnapping of a government official, the Canadian government sent troops from the army to patrol the border between Ontario and Quebec. The two sides have also appointed representatives to start negotiations. In October 15th, around 3,000 students took to the streets in solidarity with the FLQ. The premier, Robert Bourassa, asked the Canadian government to grant the Quebec government permission to implement the War Measures Act which guaranteed exceptional powers to the police. The implementation of the act was successful with dozens of FLQ members arrested. In response, the FLQ executed Pierre Laporte.

End of the crisis

The October crisis officially ended in December 4th, 1970 after fruitful negotiations between the national government, the Quebec government and the FLQ. James Cross was released after 59 days and the kidnappers asked to be exiled to Cuba instead of facing a trial in Canada.

 

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