How Did The Government Of Canada React To Québec's "Black October" Crisis?


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Christopher Adam Profile
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act, suspended civil liberties and called in the Canadian army to handle the Black October Crisis of 1970 and deal a final, knock-out blow to the Québec Liberation Front (FLQ).

By October 11, 1970, Great Britain's trade commissioner, James Cross, had been kidnapped by FLQ terrorists in Montreal, as well as Pierre Laporte, the vice-premier of Québec's Liberal government. On 11 October, Canada's Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who had led a Liberal party government since 1968, was asked by a journalist during a television interview how far he would go to bring an end to the crisis in Québec and restore order. Trudeau famously responded by saying: "Just watch me." Four days later, on October 16, 1970, after more than 3,000 university students organized rallies in Montreal in support of the FLQ and its tactics, the Government of Canada invoked the War Measures Act--something normally only used during war--which came into effect at precisely 4am.

That morning Canadian army helicopters landed in Montreal and dozens of tanks rolled into the city to crush what some feared was becoming an insurrection. A contingent of soldiers and army vehicles were also sent into the streets of Ottawa, Canada's national capital, to protect government buildings which were seen as being in imminent danger of attack. The War Measures Act also led to the summary arrest of nearly 500 people. Sixty-two people were eventually charged.

The October Crisis led to the murder of Vice-Premier Pierre Laporte, who was strangled to death with a rosary he kept in his pockets while in FLQ captivity.

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