Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The FLQ and the Quebec October Crisis

The Movement Today

Where is the Quebec liberation movement today?

René Lévesque
René Lévesque

Two years before the kidnappings, René Lévesque, a member of the Quebec National Assembly, founded the Parti Québécois, which advocated Quebec's peaceful secession from Canada. In 1976 Parti Québécois won the provincial elections, and Lévesque became premier, a position he held until two years before his death in 1987.

Lévesque engineered a 1980 referendum that asked Quebec voters whether they wished to separate from Canada. It was roundly defeated, with only 40 percent in favor -- and 86 percent of the province's eligible citizens voting. A second referendum in 1995 had a result that was not so clear. It was narrowly defeated, with 50.6 percent opposed to and 49.4 percent in favor of secession.

Parti Quebecois has drafted a "2,000 Days Strategy" to regain majority political power in 2007 and bring a third secession referendum to voters in 2008, the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City.

In the meantime, secessionist violence continues to crop up.

In 2001, seven McDonald's franchises in Montreal were firebombed, apparently over the firm's use of English rather than French on its signs and its roots as an American company. That same year, Rhéal Mathieu, a former FLQ member from the 1960s, attempted to firebomb three coffee shops in Montreal. He complained that the franchise name was English, Second Cup, rather than a French equivalent.

He spent a month in jail. The sentence indicated to some observers that Canada has all but forgotten the October Crisis.

William Tetley
William Tetley

One who hasn't forgotten is William Tetley, who was acquainted with Pierre Laporte through his position as the minister of financial institutions in Quebec during that era.

Writing a few years ago, Tetley called the slaying of Laporte "senseless, cruel and evil."

He continued, "The murder of Laporte stripped the FLQ and all its supporters of the last vestiges of approbation from the public, while the members themselves, when tested by exile from Canada, preferred to come home, where they were treated justly and fairly, in a manner that they had refused to their victims. They are still living in Quebec, where they enjoy the legal and political society that they decried 30 years ago."

Canadian writer James Stewart, too, has puzzled over the lack of outrage by his fellow citizens.

But perhaps that is the Canadian way.

"The FLQ, fortunately, never even came close to achieving its revolutionary fantasies," Stewart wrote in retrospective in Maclean's magazine. "Terrorist bombs and banditry killed six people in the 1960s, but the promised workers' uprising never happened, the threats to destroy all colonial (federal) institutions proved empty, the FLQ's 'suicide-commandos' never got around to eliminating all collaborators with the occupier and wiping out all the Westmounts in Quebec. All this blasting and bluster was not universally condemned, as it should have been. As the FLQ paraded every old grievance and exploited the old but still virulent syndrome of the Quebecker-as-blameless-victim, it became fashionable to endorse the FLQ's secessionist ends while deploring its means -- as though the two could be separated."


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