The War Measures Act Essay, Research Paper
The war measures act
On July 24, 1967, the president of France, Charles De Gaulle raised his hands into a V for Victory. Then he spoke the words that startled a nation: Vive le Quebec libre! – Long live free Quebec. These four words planted the idea of Quebec independence from Canada. During the year 1970, Quebec was in a state of war. The Front de Liberation du Quebec (FLQ), a separatist group, was terrorizing the province and assaulting its residents. Frequent letter bombings, in October 1970, the kidnapping of James Cross and the murder of Pierre Laporte were all contributing factors that forced the government to act against this chaos in Quebec, The government of Canada, had no choice but to invoke the War Measures Act during this crisis.
The FLQ were extreme separatists who wanted Quebec to be independent of English Canada, despite the cost. They used violence to gain attention for their cause. In downtown Montreal, where most of the wealthy English-speaking people lived, the terrorists launched numerous attacks. Under the slogan: Independence or Death, the FLQ repeatedly placed bombs in mailboxes and letters in Quebec. The FLQ were entitled to exercise their opinions, but they did not have the right to implement them through force and cause a severe interruption and potential threat to the lives of innocent Quebec residents. Most of the French Canadians loathed the FLQ’ violent tactics and therefore did not support them. With the FLQ failing to gain patronage, they decided to take more radical actions.
On October 5, 1970, British trade commissioner, James Cross was kidnapped by the FLQ which precipi6tated into the October crisis. Five days later, Quebec s labour and immigration minister was also kidnapped. The FLQ had a list of demands that included five hundred thousand dollars in ransom money and the release of FLQ members jailed for terrorist bombings. They also demanded that the FLQ manifesto, which was a declaration of their beliefs, be read on national television. The government was willing to negotiate with some of their requests but refused to release the FLQ terrorists whom they imprisoned. At this point, the situation in Quebec deteriorated to the point in which there was a need for government intervention.
The premier of Quebec, Robert Bourassa, requested from the federal government that federal troops should help police in a massive search for the kidnapped men. Prime Minister Trudeau took his own actions on the crisis. He assisted in sending in Canadian Military and for the first time, in peacetime he invoked the War Measured Act. This act is usually used in times of war and involves taking away the civil rights of Canadians. Trudeau felt that if the government did not invoke the Act, the province of Quebec would face critical unrest.
The War Measures Act entitled army officers, who were placed on the streets of Quebec, to arrest any individual if they were suspected of being associated with the FLQ. They could arrest and hold those individuals in custody. The soldiers tended to target the Francophones more so then the Anglophones. This was mainly because all Anglophones were on the side of the government and if anyone was to sympathize for the FLQ, it would be the French. The government stationed soldiers outside the homes of the suspected FLQ members. Many innocent people were arrested just because they favoured separatism; however, those measures had to be undertaken in order for peace and security to be restored.
During the riot, the FLQ turned their threats into realities when they murdered Pierre Lapote. As a result of Laporte s death, the FLQ lost their sympathizers because people were horrified of the extent of their actions. James Cross was found and released because the government had negotiated with the terrorists.
The idea of separation was brought up violently by the FLQ and is still continuing albeit through peaceful and political channels to this day. In 1975, the separatist party known as the Parti Quebecois led by Rene Levesque was elected to power. Less than twenty years later, a new federal party devoted to the same separatist cause came to Ottawa, known as the Bloc Quebecois. Their Charismatic leader id Lucien Bouchard who previously was a key figure in Brian Mulroney s Conservative Government.
Many Canadians questioned then, whether invoking the War Measures Act was really necessary. Statistics show that nine out of every ten Quebeckers agreed with the enforcement of the Act. This worked as a disadvantage to the FLQ, as it showed that they had very little support. A small number who were concerned with the e civil liberties felt that Trudeau overreacted when invoking the War Measured Act. They felt that the rights of Canadians should not have been suspended during the crisis. I believe that the measures taken can be justified because they were no taken advantage of, or used for dictatorship. Trudeau and his government needed to rid Quebec of the terrorists and radicals whose activities were causing a considerable amount of disturbance. They needed the War Measures Act to protect the citizens of the province. Although the War Measured Act put an end to the crisis in Quebec it did not put an end to the struggle for sovereignty.
In 1861, John A. Macdonald had had said, Whatever you do, adhere to the Union. We are a great country and shall become one of the greatest in the universe if we preserve it; we shall sink into insignificance and adversity if we suffer it to be broken. This leads to the question; What will happen to Macdonald s dream of a single nation from sea to sea? Will Canada remain united, or is it destined to beak apart? The answer lies within our future and with time it will be revealed.