Monday, November 24, 2008

This Day in Canadian History

November 24, 1968 - FLQ terrorists bomb Montreal Eaton's store

In 1968, Pierre Trudeau assumed the office of Prime Minister of Canada when he succeeded Lester Pearson as the leader of the Liberal party.

In an election held on June 25 of that year Trudeaumania swept Trudeau and his Liberals into power with a majority government.

But not everyone was so pleased. In Trudeau's home province of Quebec dark clouds were beginning to coalesce over Canadian unity.

The day before the election Trudeau attended the St Jean Baptiste Day parade in Montreal. Enraged at his presence, Quebec separatists began to riot and barraged his grandstand with bottles and rocks. While the other officials seated on the grandstand took cover Trudeau stood his ground. A Canadian legend took shape that day -- that of Pierre Trudeau the fearless separatist fighter, facing down the separatists with little regard for his own safety.

It's become a potent element of the political mythology many Canadians -- especially Liberal partisans and those like-minded -- have built around Trudeau.

However, the bottles and rocks hurled at Trudeau that day paled in comparison to the coming storm.

On November 24, 1968, a bomb exploded in an Eaton's store in downtown Montreal. The Front de Liberation du Quebec, also known as the FLQ, quickly took responsibility for the act. Domestic terrorism had officially arrived in Canada.

The FLQ had been active prior to 1968. On April 20, 1963, Wilfred Vincent O'Neil became the FLQ's first victim. O'Neil, a security guard at a Canadian Army recruiting centre was killed by an FLQ bomb.

A year later, in 1964, Leslie McWilliams was killed in the course of an FLQ robbery of a gun store he managed.

In 1965, FLQ explosives intervened in a labour dispute between La Grande shoes and a Quebecois labour union when Therese Moran, a secretary, was killed.

Throughout 1968 and 1969, bombings became more and more frequent leading up to the 1970 October crisis when FLQ terrorists kidnapped British Trade Commissioner James Cross and Quebec Minister of Labour Pierre Laporte.

Unfortunately, it took an international incident for the FLQ to be decisively dealt with. The pre-1970 victims of the FLQ included not only those killed, but numerous wounded. The most blatant act of unremitting terrorism, conducted according to a manifesto entitled "Revolutionary Strategy and the Role of the Avant-Garde", occurred in 1969 when the FLQ bombed the Montreal Stock Exchange. 27 people were wounded in that attack.

In today's age of preoccupation with international terrorism -- and a disproportionate focus on Islamic Militants in particular -- the events of November 24, 1968 stand as a stark reminder of the threat of domestic terrorism, one that has remained much more omnipresent throughout Canadian history than many Canadians would care to admit.

From violence directed at Canadian abortion clinics to the activities of various racial groups, domestic terrorism has often been largely ignored in Canada.

One can only hope that taking the opportunity to reflect on such episodes will lead to a realization of how deeply such terrorist acts can rend Canada's national fabric, and to a commitment by Canadians of all walks of life to take the issue of domestic terrorism seriously.


  1. You forgot to mention Patrick that the RCMP had infiltrated the FLQ and orchestrated many false-flag terrorist attacks. You may want to check-up on a 1980(?) book from John Sawatsky entitled 'RCMP, Men in the Shadows.'

  2. a disproportionate focus on Islamic Militants in particular -- the events of November 24, 1968 stand as a stark reminder of the threat of domestic terrorism, one that has remained much more omnipresent throughout Canadian history than many Canadians would care to admit.
    Omnipresent? Huh?? The FLQ events are 38 to 40 years ago, for God's sake. I was 20 years old when LaPointe was murdered and Cross kidnapped. I'm 59 now.

    Even the story about abortion clinic security is 14 years ago and your link to neo-Nazi stuff suggests a grand total 0.000017% of the population belongs to such groups.

    On the other hand, since 2001 alone there have been over 12,000 Islamist terrorist attacks around the world. That's an average of 1700 each year and somehow you expect us to believe this preoccupation is "disproportionate"!

    Wake up, sweetheart. That vile ideology known as political correctness is the equivalent of putting your head in the sand.

  3. Louise, I linked to two specific examples.

    Though we often loathe to admit it, organizations such as the KKK, in particular, have been active throughout Canadian history.

    If you believe certain recent news reports, the FLQ may be in the process of re-forming in Quebec right now.

    Domestic terrorism is every bit as active as international terrorism, make no mistake about it. There's simply less political will to address it because it admits that such things happen within our own borders.

    Canada isn't alone, either. Remember the Unibomber? Oklahoma City?

    Yep. I rest my case.

  4. "Though we often loathe to admit it,.."
    Sez who?

    "Domestic terrorism is every bit as active as international terrorism, make no mistake about it."
    I think you case needs to rest. It's very weak.

  5. Well, Louis, let's take a look at one particular domestic terrorist organization: the KKK.

    That organization was originally founded in 1865.

    Do you want to pretend that organization isn't omnipresent in North American history?

    These are facts, Louise. We don't have to like them, but that doesn't make them any less factual.

    And if recognizing the KKK as a terrorist organiation in the same breath in which one mentions the FLQ is "politically correct", then I'm sorry to tell you that this is one case where reality has a politically correct bias.

  6. Patrick, please look up the word omnipresent. I think you have chosen the wrong word to make your case. Using that word not only weakens it, but makes downright silly.

  7. I'm afraid I simply don't follow you, Louise.

  8. Omnipresent means "everywhere at all times". It is often used to describe God. It could be used to describe light wafting through space or the atmosphere that hugs the planet or salt in the sea or anything we are bathed in at all times.

    Terrorism in Canada is hardly everywhere at all times. A fringe group with 0.000017% of the population is hardly "omnipresent". The re-emergence of a terrorist group in Quebec after 40 years of inactivity can hardly be considered omnipresent. I wouldn't even use that word to describe Islamist terror.

    If you are suggesting the potential for terrorist organizations is with us at all times, you might be closer to the truth, but your entry doesn't frame your argument that way, especially since you dismiss the threat of Islamifascist driven terror, when it is far, far more prevalent today than any other ideology that wields terror as a tactic.

    Use a more accurate word and you may have a point, although it is still weak.

  9. No, but the spectre of domestic terrorism is present -- in one form or another -- throughout Canadian history.

    Instead of nitpicking people's word usage, you need to try using a little imagination in terms of form.

  10. Sure. Blame the reader.


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