In October 1970 members of the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) abducted two government officials in Montreal.
The circumstances ultimately culminated in the only peacetime use of the War Measures Act in Canada’s history, overseen by Governor General Roland Michener through the direction of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, having been requested by the Premier of Quebec, Robert Bourassa, and the Mayor of Montreal, Jean Drapeau.
The result was widespread deployment of Canadian Forces in Quebec, symbolically enacting martial law. The police arrested and detained, without bail, 497 individuals, all but 62 of whom were later released without charges. Police officials had abused their powers and detained, without cause, prominent artists and intellectuals associated with the sovereignty movement.
The events increased support against violence in the efforts for Quebec independence and highlighted the movement towards greater autonomy from the rest of Canada.
Many at the time supported Trudeau’s implementation of The War Measure’s Act, but some believed that the actions were excessive and set a dangerous precedent by suspending civil liberties.
It was an uncertain time for Canada as it struggled to find its identity. Above is an interview Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau gave to the CBC defending his actions. Although controversial, he strengthened Canada for years to come.
And then Stephen Harper was elected…