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.