Jerome Choquette, who served as Quebec’s justice minister during the October Crisis, died of pneumonia on Friday at the age of 89.
Choquette became infamous during the crisis, holding the first press conference after the abduction of British diplomat James Cross. He was also the one who said the government would not acquiesce to demands to release sovereigntist prisoners and requested the Canadian military’s intervention in the crisis.
In the book ‘FLQ: History of a Clandestine Movement,’ author Louis Fournier accused Choquette of being aware of the police plans to arbitrarily arrest 450 people, an allegation that Choquette denied.
In a 1980 Radio-Canada interview, Choquette said he had tried to intervene to limit the damage.
“When I saw these arrests were massive and, in many cases, unjustified, I told (then-Surete du Quebec chief) Maurice St-Pierre that I didn’t want to see a single arrest without my personal permission,” he said.
In 2010, Choquette said he was “perfectly at peace” with his role in the crisis.
“I did what I had to do,” he said. “If I had acted otherwise, I would have failed in my duties.”
While the October Crisis regularly dominated any discussion of his governmental career, Choquette was also among the pioneers of Quebec’s legal aid system and helped create the province’s small claims court and sponsored the Youth Protection Act.
Choquette was born in Montreal on Jan. 25, 1928. A graduate of McGill University and holder of a law degree from the University of Paris, he began his political career as a Liberal MP for the riding of Outremont in the 1966 election.
After Robert Bourassa left the Liberal Party in 1975, Choquette followed, but was defeated in the 1976 provincial election.
He was elected mayor of Outremont in 1983, a job he held until 1991.
He ran for mayor of Montreal in 1994 as the leader of the Parti des Montrealais, but finished in third behind winner Pierre Bourque and the outgoing Jean Dore. Following his defeat, he returned to practicing law, founding the Choquette Beaupre Rheaume firm in 1998.