Revisiting a dark past

Soldiers stand guard in front of the Hotel-de-Ville de Montréal, October 1970

Forty years ago Montrealers were still reeling from the October Crisis, an unfortunate event in our city’s history. A terrorist organization, the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) wrapped up a seven year bombing and armed-robbery spree with two kidnappings and a murder. The response was swift and exacting – partial martial law was declared in Montréal, Ottawa and Québec City, the operations of the Government of Québec were moved to a ‘bunker’ of sorts in downtown Montréal, and thousands of federal troops were deployed to guard important buildings, set up checkpoints, and assist the Montréal Police (SPVM) and the Sureté du Québec (SQ). The murder of Québec cabinet-minister Pierre Laporte would spell the end for the FLQ, as the military and security forces cracked down on the terrorist organization and its suspected sympathizers. Hundreds were arrested and detained for (on the most part) a few days. The right to freedom of assembly was never denied, even though thousands of FLQ sympathizers applauded the news that Laporte had been killed. Makes me think that those who were arrested probably had more than a fleeting sense of sympathy for the FLQ.

Regardless, on the 16th of October, the Québecois nationalist organization, the Societé-St-Jean-Baptiste (SSJB) unveiled a new monument dedicated to those who were temporarily imprisoned during the Crisis for alleged terrorist sympathies. None of these people were incarcerated for very long, they were not treated as typical prisoners, and certainly, none of them were tortured or abused in any real sense. While unfortunate, it was a necessary evil to wipe out our very own home-grown terrorist network. For a list of FLQ activities during the 1963-1970 period, check out this link and judge for yourself whether you think the actions of the federal and provincial governments were out of line.

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