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Trudeau’s Overreaction To The October Crisis In Quebec

2301 words - 9 pages

Throughout history, the actions of governments have always been debated; however, occasionally there are certain events which spark much controversy, both at the time of the event and by historians today. One of these controversial acts was the invocation of the War Measures Act in 1970, an act which suspended the civil liberties of Canadian citizens. In October 1970, in what became known as the October Crisis, the Front de libération du Québec, (commonly known as the FLQ) which was a French Canadian organization advocating independence from Canada, kidnapped two politicians. This initiated a series of events, one of which was the invocation of the War Measures Act by Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau. Many historians argue that Trudeau was justified in invoking the War Measures Act because the October Crisis ended shortly after the Act was invoked. However, this argument is invalid as justification; primarily because the War Measures Act was an extreme overreaction by Trudeau, as the threat of the FLQ was largely small-scale, and the demise of the FLQ was impending with the rise of the Bloc Quebecois. Furthermore, the Act may have inspired Quebecers who favoured separatism, as they saw the government desperately employ the most extreme measure to stop the FLQ. Finally, the War Measures Act suspended the civil rights of citizens within a democracy, violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Front de libération du Québec was founded in 1963 during the “Quiet Revolution”, and for seven years, they carried out several minor bombings, with few FLQ members involved in each of the bombings, as they were relatively small scale. However, the Canadian government took little notice of these actions until October 5th, 1970 when British Trade Commissioner James Cross was kidnapped by two members of the FLQ. Their demands for his return were simple, 500 000 in gold, the release of 23 FLQ prisoners, the broadcast and publication of the FLQ manifesto, and an aircraft to safely take the kidnappers to Cuba were the most significant. However, both Prime Minister Trudeau and Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa were not willing to give into the FLQ demands, External Affairs Minister Mitchell Sharp even claimed the demands to be “wholly unreasonable,” despite the fact the life of a prominent politician was at stake. On October 10th 1970, Bourassa finally comes back to Quebec from his a trip in New York, which he deemed as more significant than the crisis in Quebec. Later that evening, two FLQ members kidnapped Pierre Laporte, the Quebec Minister of Labour. Five days later after still refusing to meet the FLQ demands, Trudeau calls upon the War Measures Act. Under the regulations of the Act, which dated back to World War One, Trudeau’s government suspended the civil liberties of Canadian citizens, and were able to arrest and detain anyone suspected of belonging to the FLQ, or even supporting the FLQ. The body of Pierre Laporte...

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