Societe St. Jean Baptiste to mark October Crisis with monument
Published Tuesday, October 5, 2010 8:24PM EDT
The Societe St. Jean Baptiste will erect a monument later this month to the many people imprisoned during the October Crisis, an event that began 40 years ago Tuesday and left a black eye on Quebec and Canada.
On Oct. 5, 1970 James Cross, the British trade commissioner in Montreal, was kidnapped by the Front de liberation du Québec. The October Crisis then saw Quebec labour minister Pierre Laporte kidnapped and killed, the first peace-time use of the War Measures Act, and led to the largest mass arrest in Canadian history until the G20 summit earlier this year.
"There is still lots we don't know," said Mario Beaulieu, head of the St. Societe Jean Baptiste, who maintains the suspension of civil rights and arrest of close to 500 Quebecers under the War Measures Act was never justified.
"The violence didn't bring us anything," he said.
Government refused to negotiate
William Tetley, former cabinet minister under then-premier Robert Bourassa, agrees.
"My over-riding emotion was shock," said Tetley, who recently published a book based on his diary entries during that time.
Tetley said he regrets that the Liberal government deliberated for two days before refusing to negotiate with the FLQ.
"We delayed making up our minds," he said. "We said, ‘We'll send you to Cuba or Algeria or anywhere you want to go if you release Cross and Laporte alive.' And one group did. The other group murdered Laporte. And it was a terrible, terrible consequence."
The consequence left a permanent imprint on the perception of sovereignists, said Montreal journalist and filmmaker Francine Pelletier.
"I do believe it create irreparable damage to the independentiste movement," said Pelletier.
Act is Trudeau's legacy
The event negatively affected not only sovereignists, but federalists as well, said McGill University Canadian studies expert Antonia Maioni.
"The October Crisis was a really seminal moment," she explained. "It comes up when we talk about Pierre Elliott Trudeau. It comes up when we talk about the legacy of Trudeau."
Montreal resident Estelle Markum said the event is deeply entrenched in her memory, and recalls seeing soldiers in the Town of Mount Royal.
"It's hard to believe that it happened, but it (did). People were really, really scared. They were scared for their children and it was pretty hard going at the time," she said, remembering Trudeau's famous words before instituting martial law.
"They didn't think he would do it," she recalled. "And he said, ‘Just watch me.'"