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October Crisis and the Commissions of Inquiry

NCJ Number
Criminologie Volume: 13 Issue: 2 Dated: (1980) Pages: 79-98
J P Brodeur
Date Published
20 pages
To discover what really happened during the 1970 Quebec crisis, this article examines the reports and tentative conclusions reached by two commissions of inquiry which conducted the difficult post-facto investigations.
The activities of both terrorists and police during the events of October 1970 in Quebec were investigated by several commissions of inquiry. Concentrating on the chiefly unpublished reports of two of these commissions (Duchaine and Keable), this article argues that they warrant the suspicion that the crisis was deliberately manipulated, possibly even provoked, by the political and police authorities in order to discredit the Quebec separatist movement by associating it in the public's eyes with terrorist acts while, at the same time, intimidating militant separatists by a show of inflexible Government determination to keep Quebec in the Canadian Federation. Police reluctance to arrest persons directly implicated in the unlawful activities of the Quebec Liberation Front (FLQ), while conducting gratuitous raids and roundups in the streets almost at random, lend credence to these suspicions. The mass media coverage of the October 1970 crisis is cited as a contributing factor to, as well as a reflection of, the traumatization of public opinion in Quebec at the time. Based on a detailed description of the Cross (the kidnapping and subsequently released British Commercial Attache) and Laporte (the kidnapped and assassinated Canadian Minister) cases, this article examines the circumstances that led to the implementation of the War Measures Act and the intervention by the Army. Questions on the pretended incompetence of the Quebec police -- which never even questioned two of the known kidnappers of the British Commercial Attache -- are raised in light of the systematically efficient manner in which the operation of the night of October 16 and others were conducted. The legal implications of the police reprisals and repressive measures against FLQ members and the sudden determination to prosecute law violations practically ignored for years, are discussed. The article concludes with the prediction that the October crisis will end as it began, in confusion and hopeless drifting.