When fanatics decided to rewrite history at the height of the street, by dismantling the statue of the racist Father of Confederation, John A. Macdonald, last September in Montreal, Justin Trudeau condemned the act of vandalism. At the same time, the Prime Minister of Canada has shown himself open to an examination of the “mistakes of the past” made by his predecessors, including those of his father.
The 50th anniversary of the October Crisis offers Mr. Trudeau an opportunity to begin this necessary work of introspection, in the hope of turning the page on a dark moment in contemporary Canadian history. The proclamation of the War Measures Act and the suspension of civil liberties by the government of Pierre Elliott Trudeau led to the warrantless arrest of some 500 innocent Quebecers, caught between a deceitful federal state and an infamous terrorist group .
When will we have an apology, Mr. Trudeau? Apologies for a liberticide committed against blameless Quebecers and against leftist movements that aspired to make Quebec an independent state. Apologies for having invented from scratch a plot for an apprehended insurrection in which René Lévesque, Jacques Parizeau and even the director of the Duty of the time, Claude Ryan. Apologies for allowing the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to infiltrate and destabilize democratic and militant organizations, including the Parti Québécois, well beyond the events of October 1970.
In the third edition of FLQ. History of an underground movement, the journalist Louis Fournier takes stock of the proclamation of the War Measures Act on October 16, 1970. From official sources, 497 citizens were arrested, including artists, trade unionists, lawyers and other Quebecers whose most formidable crime was to maintain ideas of the left, ideas of unborn countries. The average length of their stay in prison was one week. In the end, 87.5% of them were released without charge, Fournier writes. And 95% of those charged received an acquittal or a stay of proceedings.
Of course, there will be more on the federalist side to repeat that Trudeau Sr. had only acquiesced to the request of Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa by sending the army to the streets of Quebec. They will again lay the blame on the Sûreté du Québec and the Montreal police force for the mass arrests. The fact remains that Pierre Elliott Trudeau and his doves transmuted into hawks took advantage of the kidnapping of British diplomat James Cross and Quebec Minister of Labor Pierre Laporte, cowardly assassinated by the Chénier cell of the Front de liberation du Quebec ( FLQ), in an attempt to put down the rising sovereignist movement. Fournier rightly argues that it was the PQ, not the Trudeau government, that defeated terrorism. He achieved this by dissociating himself with vehemence and conviction from the senseless acts of violence committed by the FLQ, by articulating his project of independence in respect of democratic ideals and by integrating within it the aspirations for social justice of the French-speaking majority.
For ten years, from 1962 to 1972, the FLQ attempted, in successive waves, to advance the project of independence with violence, with bombings, kidnappings and a political assassination, that of Laporte. This bustling Quebec did not have a monopoly on revolutionary romanticism with Marxist sauce. On a planetary scale, terrorist groups wanted to draw with their guns a socialist revolution.
For the thinkers of the FLQ, the achievement of independence was the precondition for the establishment of a socialist state, a project which demonstrated its antiquated character at the very moment when the Felquist youth were dynamiting the symbols of oppression colonial and employer. As soon as the government of Jean Lesage was elected in 1960, Quebec society had begun a tremendous work of social, political and economic catching up to lift Francophones out of domination and lay the foundations for a more just society.
The election of a Parti Québécois government in 1976 and the passage of Bill 101 in 1977 were major milestones in the completion of the Quiet Revolution. Only the independence project, put back in the ground for an indefinite period since the referendum failure of 1995, has not materialized.
The murderous violence of the FLQ remains a stain in our history, but the sovereignist forces have been able to denounce it and give it the status of plague political action for posterity. In contrast, the federal Liberals instrumentalized the October Crisis, thanks to the emptiness of the Bourassa government, in order to impose undemocratic strategies to preserve Canadian unity. The unilateral patriation of the Constitution, the torpedoing of the Meech Lake Accord and the sponsorship scandal send the October Echoes back to us. When will we have an apology, Mr. Trudeau?