It seems a little-known fact that the communications facility at National Defence Headquarters on Colonel By Drive in Ottawa was the target of an FLQ bombing.
The bomb was placed in a window well on the ground floor of B Building where the Tape Relay Centre (TRC) was located. That area was literally blown apart and a DND civilian employee—a French Canadian—was killed.
I was living in Beaver Barracks on Metcalfe Street at the time and remember vividly being “recruited” while in the washroom facilities early one morning by the military police to help out at the scene. No details were provided other than some “incident” had taken place at Cartier Square.
What the military police failed to realize was that I and another “recruit” actually worked there. As we arrived at the scene there was total confusion, with vehicles parked every which way and people wandering around in a confused state. We were appointed to crowd control.
Still having no idea of what had happened, I requested a weapon. I didn’t get one and later learned that the corner of the TRC room where I would have been later that morning had been blown up.
I was eventually released from crowd control duties and allowed to enter my workplace. The TRC as we knew it no longer existed. This meant that a large portion of the DND communications network was down, so our main priority was to get it restored ASAP.
That was the least-onerous task in trying to get everything back up and running. Knowing we had been attacked in our own country—and in downtown Ottawa—did not help. However, if I recall correctly, the TRC was back on-line before midnight.
A few of us transferred from Toronto to Montreal to work at the CPR Angus shop. We lived in the Sherbrooke and Pie IX area, a hot spot for communiqués from the FLQ. Then we moved to Guy and de Maisonneuve, near Police Station 10, another hot spot.
Soldiers and police were everywhere. Their comment to us was “Behave.” We did.
It was an uneasy time. Bars were full and people just taking things one day at a time.
Montreal is exciting at the best of time, but this was surreal. I’ll never forget my time in Montreal. It’s a great city.
I was a young trooper with the 8th Canadian Hussars (Princess Louise’s) at CFB Petawawa when the October Crisis of 1970 took place. I was at home with my new bride, who knew nothing of military life, when the phone rang and everything turned upside down.
“Report in now” came the order.
Grabbing my already packed kit, I kissed my wife goodbye not knowing where I was heading or when I would be back. Arriving at the hanger, we were formed up and a head count was done. “Mount up, we are heading to Ottawa.”
The two-hour drive down Highway 17 in tracked vehicles took us through Pembroke, Renfrew and Arnprior to Connaught Ranges.
On arrival, we mounted the .50 calibre machine guns and loaded live ammunition. Whatever was about to happen just became real! Then we grabbed our kit and were trucked to our new home at the Canadian Forces Reserve Barrack Dow’s Lake armoury.
One night my troop was ordered to go to the Kanata Hill on Highway 417 to stop all traffic from leaving Ottawa as a diplomat had just been kidnapped. Traffic was lined up as far as you could see as we stood with guns
This is one memory of the October Crisis I’ll never forget.
In 1970, I was chaplain to 3rd Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery stationed in CFB Shilo. On the Sunday morning that Pierre Laporte’s body was discovered, the regiment, which was already on standby, was given 12 hours to be on the way to Montreal. I was on board a Yukon aircraft leaving CFB Rivers just before midnight that evening.
The unit was garrisoned at CFB Longue-Pointe on Hochelaga Ave. in Montreal, and within hours assignments for various guard duties were given to the troops. Many were guarding VIPs or electrical installations. These were mostly outside jobs, often in the cold and rain. The troops would work in pairs on four-hour shifts, with an eight-hour rest period in tent groups. The troops themselves were very imaginative in sorting out their various living conditions, including obtaining televisions, etc. Some even managed to talk local citizens into letting them live in their garages.
As a chaplain, I knew my duty would be to visit the troops in the field to check on their morale and the conditions of their living situations. I could bring them magazines and books to read in their off time. I could carry a couple of packs of cigarettes in case anyone needed them. To do my duty, I was assigned a jeep and a driver. The problem, however, was that an order had come down from on high that no soldier was to leave the garrison unless they were armed, and could prove their armament to the military police guarding the entry and exit to the compound.
Problem indeed. Everyone knows chaplains do not bear arms, and indeed, being unarmed is their greatest strength. There were several regiments garrisoned around Montreal, and all of the chaplains were stuck inside their garrisons due to the armament order. I made the decision that this would not stop me. I went to stores and signed out a Browning pistol and the standard 10 rounds. I told my driver that if he told anyone, I would give him a pass to hell. He was armed with a Sterling submachine gun, which was held in a bracket ahead of his seat. I gave him the pistol to carry on his web belt. When we got to the gate, he produced the submachine gun on his side and I produced the pistol and the loaded clip on mine.
Once outside the garrison, the pistol went back into the holster on the driver’s belt. No one was going to question me after that as to whether or not I was armed.
At breakfast on the third day, the commanding officer asked me how I managed to get out the gate, as it had been reported to him that the troops appreciated the fact that they had been visited by the padre. At first, I told him, “You don’t really want to know sir.”
He laughed, and said, “Fess up, Padre!”
So I told him, and then he went to work to make sure that all the padres could get out to do their job. Within a few days, an order came down that if there were three people in a jeep, only two of them needed to be armed. I returned the pistol to stores and asked for volunteers to “ride shotgun” with the padre. There was never a shortage of volunteers.
I was always accompanied by an assistant who would do his best to add to the humour and comradeship of the unit. The morale in 3RCHA remained very good throughout that operation. We returned to CFB Shilo after a five-week stint, being replaced by 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, which was then stationed in Winnipeg.
Iremember going to the Maritimes with my sister-in-law to visit my family and to view the fall colours.
We boarded a plane in Toronto and flew to Montreal to change planes. In the process we had to walk through a corridor of army and police fully armed with machine guns trained on us. We were very nervous about this situation.
No one would tell us what was going on, just that we should walk past these military personal with guns.
I remember being very nervous. It was scary to be present when Pierre Laporte and James Cross were being kidnapped.
I was in CFB Borden at the Canadian Forces Military Police training school at that time.
We were put on standby, with rifles and ammo locked in our rooms with a one-hour notice to be shipped to Montreal. It never happened but it sure was a wake-up call for a 19-year-old from New Brunswick.
I was in my final year in the science program at McGill University in 1970.
Our limnology (freshwater biology) course went on a field trip to Mont Saint-Hilaire east of Montreal.
The FLQ crisis in Montreal was taking a toll on everyone and someone on our bus had a portable radio. As we were returning home, the news broke that Pierre Laporte’s remains had been located in a car trunk and that he had been strangled.
We were all in shock and many tears were shed on that ride home to McGill.
There was still no news about the whereabouts of James Cross, the British Trade Commissioner. The next day, Sunday, Oct. 18, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau enacted the War Measures Act. Terrorism as we now know it had arrived in Canada.
Throughout the rest of the crisis, mailboxes were welded shut and there were armed personnel everywhere—even stationed at the entrance to the Roddick Gates at the entrance to McGill. Most of us in that class grew up pretty quickly. Remembrance of that time, at least for me, will never fade.
I had just finished recruit training at CFB Cornwallis in Nova Scotia and was part of “holding company” when the crisis materialized in 1970.
We were mustered on the parade square to receive our weapons and magazines. We boarded a Blue Bird bus to Halifax to guard the armory. After a long slow ride, we arrived at night, climbed off the bus and were issued magazines with live rounds.
The company sergeant major then announced that he had forgotten the breach blocks back in Cornwallis. Anyone at the business end of our weapons was safe.
One of the recruits said “Sir! Do we just throw the bullets at the enemy?”
He was not amused!
I was a freshman at Macdonald College of McGill University in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Que., in 1970.
In late October or early November, while I was just about to hand in a chemistry report to my professor, a police officer walked into our chemistry lab carrying a shotgun and announced that the class must vacate the building immediately. I handed in my report and as I went out the other door of the lab I met another police officer walking in carrying a machine gun!
I left by the nearest exit and walked across campus and came upon most of the other students milling around and scores of police and a helicopter circling overhead.
One of the Rose brothers, Paul I believe, had reportedly been seen on campus. His mother was living in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue at the time. One of the buildings was searched but he was not located.
My father was also a police officer in Hudson, Que., and thus I knew the dangers and potential troubles. Luckily, it all worked out, but it sure hit home to say the least.
I was very impressed with how Prime Minister Trudeau handled himself on the balcony of Montreal City Hall too.
I was in Rosemere High School when the October crisis transpired. At the time, I found it quite worrisome and frightening. I remember it very well.
The father of two of my friends was stationed at Camp-Bouchard, a military base in Blainville, Que., not far from our school. I remember vividly the helicopters going back and forth from the camp.
My friends would give us updates as to what was happening with the military in our area. For a teenager, this was an exciting but frightening time. Having martial law declared, to me, was a big worry. I was always wondering if it would escalate and that actual fighting between the FLQ (and it’s supporters) would culminate. Fortunately, this did not happen. But changes in Quebec did follow.
It has left an everlasting impression on me. Maybe because I was just 16 at the time.
I was a driver in the Transport Platoon, 5 Service Battalion at CFB Valcartier in October 1970.
British diplomat James Cross had been kidnapped and we were advised to get our personal gear ready for deployment, if required. Then Quebec Deputy Premier Pierre Laporte was kidnapped.
Later, at home, my wife answered a phone call in the middle of the night. She advised me, “the caller said ‘bluebird.’” That was the ‘fan out’ signal to pack up and head off to the base.
For the next two to three days, we remained on base in Valcartier, preparing our vehicles and equipment. We were also confined to the base, sleeping on the floor of the transport garage. We were not even allowed to contact family, to let them know where we were or what was going on.
Eventually we formed up in military vehicle convoys and headed to Montreal. Ironically, our route into Montreal took us right past the St. Hubert airport, where the vehicle containing Laporte’s body was later discovered.
We were housed at CFB Longue-Pointe in Montreal. Most of the days were typical military routine, but there were regular off-base duties to deliver supplies to various military posts in and around Montreal.
One assignment I had was the delivery of a load of “concertina wire” to Sorel, Que., east of Montreal, very late one night. It was all very secretive, and I was only told to go to the Sorel police office and wait to be contacted there. Eventually an individual showed up and escorted my vehicle to an area somewhere outside of Sorel, where, after passing though several checkpoints in the darkness and accompanied by guards riding the running board of the truck, we reached the destination.
The concertina wire was off-loaded and I then learned that I was on the grounds of the Simard family home, owned by the in-laws of Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa. He was staying there. I was advised that the wire was for the shoreline of the Simard property, which was along the river. The family were the the owners of the shipbuilding company Marine Industries Limited.
After several weeks in Montreal, some of us returned to our base in Valcartier. I was assigned to assist the military police. Not quite as interesting as it might sound, as the rest of the crisis was spent guarding and patrolling—on foot—Valcartier’s isolated ammunition depot.