Saturday, May 15, 2010

Reconquete La Conquete

Part two of The Champions deals with the famed 1970 October Crisis, and how the actions of the FLQ challenged both Pierre Trudeau and Rene Levesque on deep politically existential levels.

For Levesque, he had to confront the reality that individuals willing to engage in terrorism existed within the Quebec separatist movement he had built. (They may exist within that movement still.)

For Trudeau, his invokation of the war measures act challenged the values his party allegedly stood for. In the eyes of some, invoking the war measures act was the right move. After all, Canada was facing a terrorist threat, and the government had to do what was necessary to deal with it. In the eyes of others, invoking the war measures act was an unacceptable contravention of civil liberties.

Domestic terrorism poses a deep challenge to any country that must deal with it. The prospect of citizens who don't respect the rule of law in their political maneuvers is deeply troubling not only to those associating with those individuals -- even if unwillingly, as Levesque was -- and to those who have to deal with them.

One can sense how deeply shaken Levesque was when dealing with the prospect of such terrorists within his movement. One can even sense a slight discomfort for Pierre Trudeau as he dismisses the "bleeding hearts" who worry about the prospects of soldiers with guns in Quebec's cities (a deployment approved not by Stephen Harper, but by Pierre Trudeau).

No citizen wants to believe that they should fear their fellow citizens. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why so many countries avoid dealing with domestic terrorist groups. While it struggles to gain any semblence of credibility, groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Guard continue t exist in Canada.

While the FLQ doesn't share a common place in the Canadian imagination as the KKK and the Aryan Guard, these organizations have far more in common than they are usually given credit for.

While Canadian law can often be quite eager to designate foreign groups as a terrorist group, that designation is used all too sparingly against domestic groups.

This could be said to at least partially explain how the FLQ was able to survive even after it had committed its earlier criminal acts.

It wasn't until Pierre LaPorte was murdered, and James Cross was kidnapped, that the Canadian government began to really take the FLQ's bid to "reconquer the conquest" as seriously as the threat it posed merited.


  1. I am closer the view of Tommy Douglas (very unpopular position at the time.

    The War Measures Act should have not been invoked to protect the government from a small group of radicals.

    The Police should have done their job. Mulroney ended the War Measure Act. To my knowledge on the Liberals have ever used these sweeping powers to round up Canadians.

    Hundreds were rounded up, rights were denied and less than 50 charged.

    Compare this to the Toronto 18 and how we dealt with it.

  2. I actually view it differently. A foreign diplomat and a Quebec cabinet minister had been kidnapped by terrorists, who clearly intended on doing worse yet.

    The threat was imminent enough that the use of the war powers act was rather necessary.

    Although, if Trudeau had taken the threat of the FLQ seriously early enough, it never would have been necessary, because the FLQ never could have pulled these things off.


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