The FLQ and the October Crisis
The October Crisis refers to a chain of events that took place in Quebec in the fall of 1970. The crisis was the culmination of a long series of terrorist attacks perpetrated by the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ), a militant Quebec independence movement. Felquistes were responsible for more than 200 bombings and dozens of robberies between 1963 and 1970 that left six people dead. Their actions culminated in the kidnapping of British trade commissioner James Cross and the kidnapping and subsequent murder of Quebec cabinet minister Pierre Laporte in October 1970. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau deployed the Armed Forces and invoked the War Measures Act — the only time it has been applied during peacetime in Canadian history.
March 01, 1963
Founding of the FLQ
The FLQ is founded by two Quebecers, Raymond Villeneuve and Gabriel Hudon, and a Belgian, Georges Schoeters, who had fought with the resistance during the Second World War. Their thinking — and their membership — is shaped by the more radical elements of other independence movements in Quebec. These include the Rassemblement pour l’indépendance nationale (RIN, founded in 1960); the Comité de libération nationale (founded in 1962), which promoted violence to achieve political ends; and the Réseau de résistance (RR, also founded in 1962), which believed in protesting through vandalism. The FLQ is also influenced by anti-colonial and communist movements in other parts of the world, notably Algeria and Cuba.
April 16, 1963
The first FLQ manifesto, “Message du FLQ à la nation,” is published.
April 20, 1963
Killing of Security Guard
Wilfrid O’Neil, a nighttime security guard at the Canadian Armed Forces recruiting centre on Sherbrooke St. West in Montreal, is killed when a bomb explodes at the centre. The FLQ claims responsibility.
May 19, 1963
The City of Montreal announces a $10,000 reward for information on the FLQ. The next day, the Quebec government announces a $50,000 reward.
June 12, 1963
18 FLQ Members Arrested after Military Faction Formed
On 1 June, the FLQ leadership meets and decides to form a separate military faction, the Armée de libération du Québec (ALQ). However, one of the people at the meeting denounces the group and informs the police of the FLQ’s plans. By 12 June, 18 FLQ members have been arrested.
October 01, 1963
First FLQ Publication
The first issue of La Cognée (“The Hatchet”), the official publication of the FLQ, is published. More than 60 issues will be published by April 1967.
October 07, 1963
Four FLQ Members Plead Guilty
Gabriel Hudon, Raymond Villeneuve, Jacques Giroux and Yves Labonté, four of the 18 FLQ members who were arrested by 12 June, plead guilty to manslaughter in the death of security guard Wilfrid O’Neil. Their sentences range from 6 to 12 years in prison. A murder charge against George Schoeters is dropped due to a lack of evidence.
August 29, 1964
International Firearms Robbery
The FLQ robs the International Firearms gun store in Montreal, stealing several cases of guns and killing employee Leslie McWilliams. Another employee, Alfred Pinisch, is mistaken for a robber and killed by police.
July 28, 1965
CIBC Building Bombed
A bomb explodes at the head office of the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) in Montreal.
May 05, 1966
Mail Bomb Kills Secretary
Thérèse Morin, a secretary at a shoe factory in Montreal, is killed by a mail bomb.
July 14, 1966
FLQ Member Killed
Jean Corbo, a 16-year-old felquiste, is killed in Saint-Henri when his bomb explodes as he tries to arm it.
April 15, 1967
FLQ Publication Replaced
The last of more than 60 issues of La Cognée, the official publication of the FLQ, is published. In November 1967, the FLQ publishes the first issue of its new journal, La Victoire. It includes bomb-making instructions.
June 25, 1968
Liberal Party Wins Election
Pierre Trudeau’s Liberal Party wins a majority government in the federal election.
October 13, 1968
Parti Québécois Founded
The Parti Québécois (PQ) is established through the merger of the Mouvement souveraineté-association (MSA), led by René Lévesque, and the Ralliement national (RN), led by Gilles Grégoire. The Rassemblement pour l’indépendance nationale (RIN), an early independence movement that led to the creation of the FLQ, was dissolved. Its members were invited to join the PQ.
November 22, 1968
Eaton’s Store Bombed
One bomb explodes at the Eaton’s department store in downtown Montreal. A second bomb at the store is removed and deactivated.
December 31, 1968
One bomb explodes at Montreal City Hall, while another is defused. A third bomb explodes in front of the National Revenue building in Montreal, while a fourth bomb explodes in a mailbox in Ottawa.
February 13, 1969
Stock Exchange Explosion
Twenty-seven people are injured when a bomb explodes at the Montreal Stock Exchange building. It causes an estimated $1 million in damage.
March 03, 1969
Pierre-Paul Geoffroy Arrested for Bombings
Pierre-Paul Geoffroy is arrested at his apartment in downtown Montreal. He has 161 sticks of dynamite and 35 cylinders of Pento-Mex, an industrial explosive. Geoffroy eventually pleads guilty to 31 FLQ bombings between May 1968 and March 1969, including the explosion at the Montreal Stock Exchange. Faced with 129 charges, he receives 124 life sentences plus 25 years — the longest prison sentence ever levied in the British Commonwealth.
May 05, 1969
FLQ Members Hijack Plane
Having fled from Canada to the United States, FLQ members Jean-Pierre Charette and Alain Allard hijack a National Airlines Boeing 727 out of New York City and order it to fly them to Cuba.
June 24, 1970
National Defence Headquarters Bombed
An explosion at the National Defence Headquarters building in Ottawa kills communications supervisor Jeanne d'Arc Saint-Germain.
July 12, 1970
Bank of Montreal Bombing Attempt
A bomb consisting of 150 lb of dynamite in a parked car is defused before it can explode outside the Bank of Montreal in downtown Montreal.
October 05, 1970
Kidnapping of James Cross — October Crisis Begins
British Trade Commissioner James Cross is kidnapped from his home in Montreal by three armed men, one disguised as a deliveryman, shortly after 8 a.m. Ransom notes received by police that afternoon identify the kidnappers as the Liberation cell of the FLQ. (The members of the Liberation cell are husband and wife Jacques Cossette-Trudel and Louise Lanctôt, her brother Jacques Lanctôt, as well as Marc Carbonneau, Nigel Barry Hamer and Yves Langlois.) In exchange for the release of Cross, the cell issues seven demands, including the release of 23 FLQ “political prisoners,” $500,000, the broadcast and publication of the FLQ manifesto, and safe passage to Cuba or Algeria.
October 06, 1970
Mitchell Sharp, the federal minister of external affairs, describes the FLQ’s demands as “wholly unreasonable” but allows for further negotiations. Prime Minister Trudeau makes it clear that any decision will be made jointly by the federal and Quebec governments. Radio station CKAC receives notes from the FLQ, threatening to kill Cross if their demands are not met.
October 07, 1970
Police arrest 30 people following a series of dawn raids. Jérôme Choquette, Quebec’s Minister of Justice, states publicly that he is open to negotiations. Several French newspapers publish the FLQ manifesto. More radio stations are notified of threats to Cross’s life. CKAC reads the FLQ manifesto on air.
October 09, 1970
FLQ Extends Deadline
The Liberation cell provides proof that Cross is still alive and extends its deadline for its demands to be met to 10 October at 6 p.m. Otherwise, the cell says, it will execute Cross.
October 10, 1970
Kidnapping of Pierre Laporte
Premier Robert Bourassa returns from a trip to New York, where he was promoting Quebec’s business interests. He faces criticism for having left at a time of crisis. René Lévesque calls on the Quebec government to save the hostages by meeting the FLQ’s demands. At 5:40 p.m., shortly before the deadline, Quebec justice minister Jérome Choquette announces that if Cross is released, the Liberation cell will be granted safe passage out of Canada, but none of their other demands will be met. Shortly after the deadline passes, two masked members of the Chénier cell kidnap Quebec Minister of Labour and Minister of Immigration Pierre Laporte while he is playing with his nephew on his front lawn in Saint-Lambert (they had found his address in the phone book).
October 11, 1970
Elected officials in Quebec flood the police with requests for protection. Robert Lemieux, a lawyer representing the FLQ, is arrested. The Chénier cell (Paul and Jacques Rose, Bernard Lortie and Francis Simard) strikes a more militant tone in its communiqué than the Liberation cell; it threatens to kill Laporte unless all seven FLQ demands are met by 10 p.m. It also releases two letters written by Laporte — one to his wife and one to Premier Bourassa. Shortly before 10 p.m., Bourassa announces on the radio that he will not meet the FLQ’s demands but that he is open to further negotiations. The Chénier cell postpones Laporte’s execution.
October 12, 1970
The Liberation cell contradicts the Chénier cell by issuing a communiqué saying that Cross and Laporte will be released if the 23 FLQ prisoners are set free and the police cease all actions against the FLQ. Meanwhile, soldiers are deployed in Ottawa to protect high-profile people and locations.
October 13, 1970
“Just Watch Me”
CBC reporter Tim Ralphe questions Prime Minister Trudeau at the front entrance of the Parliament Buildings. Ralphe expresses concern about the heavy military presence in the city. Trudeau replies, “Yes, well there are a lot of bleeding hearts around who just don’t like to see people with helmets and guns. All I can say is, go on and bleed, but it is more important to keep law and order in the society than to be worried about weak-kneed people.” Ralphe asks Trudeau exactly how far he is willing to go. Trudeau responds, “Well, just watch me.” Robert Demers, a senior official within the Quebec Liberal Party, begins negotiating with FLQ lawyer Robert Lemieux.
October 14, 1970
Negotiations between Demers and Lemieux continue. Lemieux is now representing both cells, who have issued a joint communiqué. A signed statement from 16 leading Quebec figures condemns the violent actions of the FLQ but calls on the Quebec government to negoiate the release of the hostages. The federal cabinet holds a special meeting to discuss options, such as invoking the War Measures Act.
October 15, 1970
Troops in Montreal
Premier Bourassa announces that he has asked the federal governement for military assistance in Quebec under the National Defence Act. Within an hour, 1,000 soldiers are deployed at key locations in Montreal. Bourassa and Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau request further federal assistance.
October 15, 1970
About 3,000 students attend a rally in support of the FLQ; they call on the governments to meet the terrorists’ demands. Later that evening, the Quebec government announces it will release five FLQ prisoners on parole and guarantee the two cells safe passage out of Canada in exchange for the return of the hostages.
October 16, 1970
War Measures Act Invoked
Prime Minister Trudeau assembles the federal cabinet at around 3:15 a.m. after receiving a request from the premier of Quebec, the municipal government of Montreal and the Montreal police force to invoke the War Measures Act to confront the state of “apprehended insurrection” in Quebec. The governor general signs the orders at around 3:30 a.m. Under the emergency regulations, the FLQ is outlawed and membership becomes a criminal act; normal civil liberties are suspended, and arrests and detentions are authorized without charge. Trudeau states that “the government had no responsible choice but to act as it did,” and that “the fate of the two kidnapped hostages weighs very heavily in my mind.” Progressive Conservative leader Robert Stanfield, former prime minister John Diefenbaker and NDP leader Tommy Douglas all voice dissenting opinions in the House of Commons. Douglas likens the move to using “a sledgehammer to crack a peanut.” René Lévesque and Le Devoir publisher Claude Ryan also condemn the decision. However, public opinion polls indicate a clear majority of Canadians support invoking the Act.
October 17, 1970
Laporte Found Dead
Within 48 hours of Trudeau’s invocation of the War Measures Act, more than 250 people are arrested; they include labour leaders, entertainers and intellecturals. In a comminqué sent by the Liberation cell, but not made public until 8 December, the cell announces it is suspending indefinitely the execution of Cross. This is an apparent attempt to encourage the Chénier cell to do the same with Laporte. But at 10:50 p.m., Laporte’s body is found in the trunk of an abandoned car near the Saint-Hubert airport. An autopsy later revelas that he had been strangled.
October 18, 1970
Police Issue Warrants
Warrants are issued for the arrest of Marc Carbonneau and Paul Rose, who are wanted in connection with the kidnapping and murder of Pierre Laporte. Additional warrants are issued on 23 October for the other members of the Chénier cell: Jacques Rose, Bernard Lortie and Francis Simard.
October 25, 1970
Montreal Municipal Elections
Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau and his party are re-elected with 92 per cent of the vote, sweeping all 52 seats.
October 26, 1970
Appeal from Cross’s Wife
An appeal from Barbara Cross, James Cross’s wife, to the FLQ iss broadcast on radio station CKLM. “To those holding my husband,” she says, “ I wish to express my confidence that, as he is a victim of circumstances, he will be well treated. I entreat them to free him without further delay.” Meanwhile, the Quebec justice minister announces that members of the Quebec Civil Liberties Union will be allowed to visit people who had been detained under the War Measures Act.
November 02, 1970
The federal government and the Quebec government jointly offer a $150,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the kidnappers.
November 06, 1970
Bernard Lortie Arrested
Police raid an apartment in Côte des Neiges and arrest Bernard Lortie. However, the other members of the Chénier cell hide behind a false wall in a closet and slip away the next day.
November 13, 1970
46 People Charged
By this date, charges have been laid against 46 people under the War Measures Act.
November 21, 1970
Cross Still Alive
A letter from Cross dated 15 November is received by the authorities; it confirms that Cross is still alive.
December 01, 1970
Public Order (Temporary Measures) Act
An act “to provide temporary emergency powers for the preservation of public order in Canada” is passed in the House of Commons by a vote of 174–31. The act replaces the War Measures Act and will be in force until 30 April 1971.
December 02, 1970
Two Members of Liberation Cell Arrested
Jacques Cossette-Trudel and his wife Louise Lanctôt are arrested by Montreal Police.
December 03, 1970
James Cross Freed
Police negotiate the release of James Cross in exchange for safe passage of all members of the Liberation cell, including Cossette-Trudel and Lanctôt and their infant daughter, to Cuba. After being held in a room in a Montreal North apartment for 59 days, Cross had lost 22 lb but was otherwise in good health. He had not been harmed and described his captors as courteous.
February 03, 1971
Impact of War Measures Act
A report tabled in the House of Commons by federal justice minister John Turner reveals that 497 individuals were arrested under both the War Measures Act and the Public Order Act; 435 were released and 62 were charged (32 of these were held without bail).
March 12, 1971
Compensation for Detainees
Quebec justice minister Jérôme Choquette announces that the provincial government will pay up to $30,000 in compenstation to people who were unjustly detained under the War Measures Act.
April 30, 1971
Public Order Act Expires
The Public Order Act, which had replaced the War Measures Act on 2 November 1970, officially ends.
May 20, 1971
Francis Simard Sentenced to Life
Francis Simard is sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Pierre Laporte.
July 06, 1971
Quebec’s provincial ombudsman files a report with the National Assembly stating that 103 of the 238 complaints over the application of the War Measures Act and the Public Order Act are warranted and eligible for compensation.
December 09, 1972
Jacques Rose Acquitted
Following 17 hours of deliberation over three days, Jacques Rose is acquitted in the kidnapping of Pierre Laporte because Bernard Lortie refuses to testify against him. Lortie is sentenced to five months for refusing to testify. On 22 February 1973, a jury acquits Jacques Rose of the murder of Laporte.
July 17, 1973
Jacques Rose Found Guilty
Jacques Rose is found guilty of being an accessory after the fact in the kidnapping of Pierre Laporte. He is sentenced to eight years in prison on 27 July.
June 24, 1974
Canada Won’t Extradite Exiled Terrorists
Prime Minister Trudeau announces that Canada will not ask France to extradite Marc Carbonneau and Jacques Lanctôt, who are now in Paris after having fled to Cuba. In the following weeks, reports surface that Yves Langlois, Jacques Cossette-Trudel and Louise Lanctôt are also residing in Paris.
March 01, 1978
Petition for Release of Prisoners
A petition calling for “the immediate liberation… of all political prisoners…” is circulated by an organization cofounded by FLQ lawyer Robert Lemeiux. It is signed by more than 50,000 people, including two PQ members of the National Assembly and numerous high-profile individuals. The most high-profile prisoner — Pierre-Paul Geoffroy, who was responsible for 31 bombings between 1968 and 1969 including at the Montreal Stock Exchange — had been denied parole three times.
December 01, 1978
Justice for Felquistes in Exile
Despite hopes among Quebec nationalists that a Parti Québécois government, elected in 1976, would introduce a “change of mentality” regarding the FLQ terrorists, new justice minister Marc-André Bédard declares that justice will “follow its normal course” if the FLQ members currently in exile were to return to Canada.
December 13, 1978
Cossette-Trudel and Lanctôt Return
Jacques Cossette-Trudel and his wife Louise Lanctôt arrive in Montreal from France. They are arrested and charged with conspiracy to kidnap, kidnapping, forcible detention and extortion. They plead guilty to all but the latter charge on 31 May; are sentenced to two years in prison on 7 August 1979; and are released on parole in April 1980.
January 06, 1979
Jacques Lanctôt Returns
Jacques Lanctôt arrives in Montreal from France. He is arraigned in court and released on bail by 11 January. In addition to kidnapping charges in the case of James Cross, he is also charged with conspiracy to kidnap Israeli trade commissioner Moshe Golem.
April 11, 1980
Pierre-Paul Geoffroy Paroled
The Globe and Mail reports that Pierre-Paul Geoffroy is granted parole after serving 11 years of his sentence (124 life sentences plus 25 years).
July 08, 1980
Nigel Barry Hamer Arrested
Nigel Barry Hamer is arrested and charged with kidnapping James Cross. He pleads guilty to conspiracy, kidnapping, forcible detention and extortion on 17 November 1980. He is sentenced to 12 months in jail on 21 May 1981.
October 09, 1980
Duchaîne Report Released
The Duchaîne Report was officially released, concluding that politicians did not provoke or prolong the October Crisis in Québec.
May 25, 1981
Marc Carbonneau Returns
Liberation cell member Marc Carbonneau returns to Montreal from exile in Paris. He is charged with conspiracy, kidnapping, forcible detention and extortion in the case of James Cross. He pleads guilty on 22 October 1981. He is sentenced to 20 months in jail and three years probation on 23 March 1982.
December 06, 1981
Standing Ovation for Jacques Rose
Jacques Rose appears at the Parti Québécois convention in Montreal and receives a standing ovation.
September 27, 1982
Yves Langlois Sentenced
Yves Langlois, the final member of the Liberation cell to return from exile, is sentenced to two years in prison for kidnapping James Cross. He is paroled on 27 May 1983.