One of the most tumultuous periods in Canadian history took place between 1963 and 1970 – a period that saw political kidnappings, violence and soldiers on the streets of Quebec and the nation’s capital.
This timeline highlights the main events leading up to and at the height of the October Crisis, when the FLQ – a separatist group promoting an independent Quebec – kidnapped a cabinet minister and a British trade commissioner, prompting the federal government to enact the War Measures Act.
British Trade Commissioner James Cross was kidnapped in Montreal, Quebec. Ransom demands from the Liberation cell of the FLQ included the release of 23 “political prisoners”; $500,000 in gold; broadcast and publication of the FLQ Manifesto; and an aircraft to take the kidnappers to Cuba or Algeria.
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa agreed that decisions on the FLQ demands would be made jointly by the federal government and the Quebec provincial government.
The FLQ Manifesto (or excerpts of it) was published by several newspapers.
Radio station CKAC received threats that James Cross would be killed if FLQ demands were not met.
Quebec Justice Minister Jerome Choquette said he was available for negotiations.
The FLQ Manifesto was read on CKAC radio.
The FLQ Manifesto was read on the CBC French network Radio-Canada.
The Chenier cell of the FLQ kidnapped Quebec Minister of Labour Pierre Laporte.
Premier Bourassa received a letter from Pierre Laporte pleading for his life.
Forces from the Canadian Army were sent to guard Ottawa.
The Quebec government invited troops into Quebec to help local police.
Prime Minister Trudeau announced the proclamation of the War Measures Act. First adopted by the Canadian Parliament on 22 August 1914 at the onset of World War I, the legislation granted broad authority to the Canadian government to maintain security and order in times of war or civil unrest. Those considered “enemy aliens” were subject to the suspension of their civil rights and liberties. The War Measures Act was also invoked during World War II, resulting in numerous searches, arrests, and detention without the benefit of charge or trial. (The War Measures Act has since been replaced by the Emergencies Act which is more limited in scope.
The body of Pierre Laporte was found in the trunk of a car at the airport in Saint-Hubert, Quebec.
The Canadian federal government and the Quebec provincial government jointly offered a reward of $150,000 for information leading to the arrest of the kidnappers.
Police raided the hideout of the Chenier cell and arrested Bernard Lortie. Other cell members escaped.
The Quebec Justice Minister requested that the Army remain in Quebec for another 30 days.
After police discovered where he was being held, James Cross was released and the FLQ was given assurance of safe passage to Cuba. Cross had lost weight but said he had not been physically mistreated.
Five FLQ members received passage to Cuba: Jacques Cossette-Trudel, Louise Cossette-Trudel, Jacques Lanctôt, Marc Carbonneau, and Yves Langlois. (While Federal Justice Minister John Turner decreed the exile to Cuba would stand for life, the five later moved to France, and eventually, all returned to Canada where they served short jail terms for kidnapping.
Army troops were withdrawn from Quebec.
Paul Rose, Jacques Rose, and Francis Simard, the remaining three members of the Chenier cell, were arrested. Along with Bernard Lortie, they were charged with kidnapping and murder. Paul Rose and Francis Simard later received life sentences for murder. Bernard Lortie was sentenced to 20 years for kidnapping. Jacques Rose was initially acquitted but was later convicted of being an accessory and sentenced to eight years in prison.
A report from Justice Minister John Turner on the use of the War Measures Act said 497 people were arrested. Of those, 435 were released, 62 were charged, 32 were detained without bail.
Nigel Barry Hamer, a sixth conspirator, was charged in the kidnapping of James Cross. He was later convicted and sentenced to 12 months in jail.