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October Crisis: 50 years on

Retired AF Guy

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October will be the 50th anniversary of the October Crisis, a national crisis that followed a long line of bombings in Quebec which culminated in the kidnapping of two politicians, the subsequent murder of one and the declaration of martial law by PM Pierre Trudeau. All of which still has reverberations today.

When this was all happening, I was about 14 years growing up in the boondocks of Saskatchewan. I remember watching the images on TV, but I was to young to quite comprehend what was going on and what was occurring didn't really impact what was happening out west at least to my young mind.

So I started this thread to collect other members impressions/experiences/comments?
 

Ostrozac

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Retired AF Guy said:
October will be the 50th anniversary of the October Crisis, a national crisis that followed a long line of bombings in Quebec which culminated in the kidnapping of two politicians, the subsequent murder of one and the declaration of martial law by PM Pierre Trudeau.
Only one politician was kidnapped — Pierre Laporte, Quebec’s Deputy Premier, who was then murdered. The other kidnap victim, James Cross, was a civil servant and diplomat who never held any political office.
 

mariomike

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Retired AF Guy said:
So I started this thread to collect other members impressions/experiences/comments?

Ì was in 134 Coy, Royal Canadian Army Service Corps RCASC.  I guess the officers were talking about it. But, for us Transport Operators ( as the trade was called back then ), it was business as usual.
 

dapaterson

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While the October crisis had only the two kidnappings, there were other incidents outside that time that included injuries and deaths. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Leja
 

Old Sweat

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Let me stick my oar in, as I spent the first years of my commissioned career in the era of the bombings and all the social unrest of the era in Quebec and its spillover into other parts of Canada. I was a student on the one year staff college course at the army staff college at Kingston during the FLQ crisis. Let me start by emphasizing that PM Trudeau did not declare martial law; he imposed the War Measures Act, which was quite different. There was and is, no provision for martial law in Canada. The civil authorities and police remained in control and the CAF operated in support of the Quebec government in Quebec and the Federal law enforcement system in the rest of Canada.

After the kidnapping of Mister Cross, the situation deteriorated rapidly in Quebec and there was a massive rally in Montreal in support of the FLQ and acceptance of their ultimatum. The kidnapping and murder of M. Laporte followed, and then came the War Measures Act, allowing the Quebec Government to round up the usual suspects. We were following events closely from Fort Frontenac and had realized fairly quickly on that we were running out of troops to deploy.

And here are couple of lighter moments. The CDS was General Fred Sharp, an airman with no experience in and little knowledge of aid to the civll power. As luck would have it, he was on a visit to Cyprus and the commander of the Canadian Contingent, BGen EMD Leslie, father of Andrew, convinced him to stay over, leaving the VCDS, Lieutenant General Mike Dare, a soldier, in control. For whatever reason, Sharp stayed on the island for quite a while, leaving Dare in the saddle at home.

Closer to home, on our staff college course Captain John Roderick, FGH, car pooled with a number of Francophone officers, mostly Vandoos but I think there was one from 12 RBC, One morning they were stopped at a police checkpoint somewhere in the Kingston area. When asked for ID John proclaimed "Thank God you have saved me. I am a British diplomat and have just been kidnapped". Fortunately common sense prevailed, but it could have been interesting.
 

FJAG

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I had just been commissioned and joined 3 RCHA in July of 1970, That was a time when the regiments at very full strength as 5 RALC had been formed but 4 RCHA reduced to the Supp Order of Battle. In 3 RCHA (which officially had only G and J Bty on strength) we formed an unofficial H Bty (equipped with 105 mm C1s while the other two batteries had L5s) to take care of the extra hundreds of gunners most of whom were in the process of remustering to other trades.

We'd been following events closely and had been on standby to deploy on Friday the 17th and I recall that about a half dozen or so of us were scheduled to attend university evening classes at Brandon University on Monday and we knew our departure was imminent but given the okay to attend as long as we could be called back within a half hour. I had just arrived at the university and settled into my class when my Tech Staff Sergeant (who was also taking classes) showed up at the door and we sped back to Shilo. Three hours later I was sleeping on top of a tarped trailer in the back of a Herc on my way to Montreal.

We started off in a hanger in St Hubert and I vividly recall a Rules of Engagement briefing given to the 400 or so of the regiment that had deployed by the local AJAG. Learned a lesson that day for my future legal career - an RoE briefing to four hundred troops in a hanger does absolutely zero in giving anyone an understanding of what they can or cannot do. We were issued vehicles out of war stocks, in my case a 3/4 ton and a 2 1/2 ton cargo built in the early fifties with less than 50 miles on the odometers. Their dried out seals would later leak like sives.

My troop was given a sector in south Montreal. We were headquartered in a power station in La Salle near the Mercier bridge with our primary task being the guarding of two high voltage power lines that crossed the river from the area of Kahnawake to LaSalle. The rest of the battery covered other vital crossings while the remaining battery trained and was on standby for riot control. We didn't cover the entire line but just the most essential towers which carried most of the load of the river span and which would have been very difficult to repair if brought down. I recall that we were issued trip flares to help secure off the area but not receiving any wire which led us on a merry chase to find and test different types wires we purchased locally. Fishing line does not work - it stretches with time.

I was always a bit of a night hawk so took the night shifts while my TSM (none of the troops had troop leaders because of the extra battery) took the day. It was on one of my night visits to my sentry posts that I learned to respect the Ferret scout cars. I had been talking to the guard in a small clearing area around the tower and when I turned around a Ferret patrol had driven up to within six feet of me without us noticing he was there. Very quiet.

Beside the hydro towers, I also had one detachment assigned to protecting a local MP living in the western tip of Montreal. Our battery had several MPs to guard. Some treated the troops well while others not so much.

We stayed in place until early November when we were rotated out so that 2 PPCLI could deploy and get some internal security operational experience.

Overall the experience was a positive one. Walking the streets of one of your cities wearing helmets and webbing and carrying loaded FNC1s, SMGs and pistols and being prepared to use them is definitely a different experience I wasn't prepared for on either my Basic Officer's course or Basic Artillery Officer's course. The people of Montreal received us well, as did the inhabitants of Kahnawake who frequently drifted over to our sentries.

I must admit as well that with whatever feelings we had for Trudeau because of his cut back already making itself felt within the CAF, most of the rank and file and junior officers, at least, were fairly happy with his response to the problem. "Yes, well there are a lot of bleeding hearts around who just don't like to see people with helmets and guns. All I can say is, go on and bleed, but it is more important to keep law and order in this society than to be worried about weak-kneed people who don't like the looks of a soldier's helmet," and "Just watch me." pretty much won all of us over.

About time for a Fiftieth Anniversary commemorative award.  ;D

Old Sweat is quite right. We deployed under the provisions of the War Measures Act which in itself does not specify powers and actions, but which gives the Governor in Council authority to make extensive regulations. During WW2, it was regulations made under the War Measures Act which authorized the internment of Japanese-Canadian citizens. The Act applied to not only war but also invasion, insurrection and other emergencies.

The War Measures Act was amended in 1960 to make it subject to the Canadian Bill of Rights and to make a declaration subject to abrogation by the House and Senate. It was replaced in 1988 with the Emergencies Act which allows for the same procedures in the same situations and which, of course, is subject to Charter right.

:cheers:
 

Blackadder1916

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Old Sweat said:
. . . leaving the VCDS, Lieutenant General Mike Dare, a soldier, in control. For whatever reason, Sharp stayed on the island for quite a while, leaving Dare in the saddle at home.

And who became the head of the RCMP Security Service in 1973 following retirement from the CF.  His distinguished military career was somewhat tarnished by his association with the dirty tricks (mostly before his tenure, but some during) of the Security Service.
 

Old Sweat

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Let me make an observation based on what we knew about internal security back then. This was in the latter years of the Vietnam War and the anti-military feeling that had permeated the US had drifted across the border. While we understood that some sort of event was probably going to happen, most likely in Quebec, and separatism was on the rise, there had been little done to train or prepare.

If we did have any doctrine, it was British based on one of their manuals written with an aim of keeping the locals in check in the colonies. There also was a British training film that showed the procedure for crowd control up to and including opening fire on unarmed civilians. Darn few of us were aware of the Aid of the Civil Power section (Part 11) of the National Defence Act. When the Central Region Vanguard (2 RCHA) was deployed the CO asked for guidance, etc and got largely blank stares in reply. He and a JAG officer crafted an aide memoire for the troops to carry which later was approved by higher. Sometimes, most times? we get luckier than we deserve. And at this time the troubles in Northern Ireland had just flared up within a year or so, so guidance based on operational experience in a first world largely urban environment was lacking.
 

Blackadder1916

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A Sean Maloney piece in the Canadian Military Journal, Summer 2000

A ‘MERE RUSTLE OF LEAVES’: CANADIAN STRATEGY AND THE 1970 FLQ CRISIS
http://www.seanmmaloney.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/71-84-eng.pdf
 

Old Sweat

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Old Sweat said:
Let me make an observation based on what we knew about internal security back then. This was in the latter years of the Vietnam War and the anti-military feeling that had permeated the US had drifted across the border. While we understood that some sort of event was probably going to happen, most likely in Quebec, and separatism was on the rise, there had been little done to train or prepare.

If we did have any doctrine, it was British based on one of their manuals written with an aim of keeping the locals in check in the colonies. There also was a British training film that showed the procedure for crowd control up to and including opening fire on unarmed civilians. Darn few of us were aware of the Aid of the Civil Power section (Part 11) of the National Defence Act. When the Central Region Vanguard (2 RCHA) was deployed the CO asked for guidance, etc and got largely blank stares in reply. He and a JAG officer crafted an aide memoire for the troops to carry which later was approved by higher. Sometimes, most times? we get luckier than we deserve. And at this time the troubles in Northern Ireland had just flared up within a year or so, so guidance based on operational experience in a first world largely urban environment was lacking.

Having said all that, we did do crowd control, and a bit of low intensity and counter-guerilla training, but a lot of it was in a third world context.
 

FJAG

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Old Sweat said:
Having said all that, we did do crowd control, and a bit of low intensity and counter-guerilla training, but a lot of it was in a third world context.

My regimental experience prior to Op Essay was too short to comment on IS training in those days, however, afterward and especially in the run-up to the 1976 Olympics that changed radically as we started receiving Frag vets, shields, face visors and batons and did much more training for IS ops.

Training concepts developed rapidly from the British colonial pams and videos made in Aden (now a part of Yemen; "Number one rifleman, 100 yards, man in red shirt, one round, fire"); through US military race riot/anti-Vietnam war riot training to eventually Northern Ireland patrolling, cordoning, vital point protection, snatch patrols etc. Post 1976 we seemed to fall away from all that again.

:cheers:
 

Lance Wiebe

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In 1970, I had just spent the summer doing basic and Armour training as a 17 year old in the FGH.
Grade 12! Woohoo, almost done with school!
All I remember was being told that we were on 4 hours notice to report to the armouries, and to keep our kit packed and close.
It never got bad enough to call in our mighty Unit, which probably paraded around 70 or 80 people......
 

CBH99

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Lance Wiebe said:
In 1970, I had just spent the summer doing basic and Armour training as a 17 year old in the FGH.
Grade 12! Woohoo, almost done with school!
All I remember was being told that we were on 4 hours notice to report to the armouries, and to keep our kit packed and close.
It never got bad enough to call in our mighty Unit, which probably paraded around 70 or 80 people......


Hey now, a reserve unit that parades 80 people?  That IS a mighty unit!! 
 

211RadOp

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Like Old Sweat, I was living in Kingston at the time, however I was all of four years old.  Dad had just been posted back from Germany and was at Fort Frontenac with Old Sweat.  I believe that was the first time I met him.

I do recall, barely, some articles on the news about it, but at the time was more interested in other worthwhile four year old pursuits.
 

Cloud Cover

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Sean Maloney has a good write up article that I had my students read as a primer: http://www.seanmmaloney.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/71-84-eng.pdf

Also, although not in these forums, some people speak of the psychological impact of noise of the “Chinook” helicopters in urban and city areas. The Canadian army did not have Chinook helicopters in 1970. They had Voyageurs, essentially Sea Knights, and very few of them. 
 

Xylric

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I wouldn't be born for another 14 years, but I remember my grandfather discussing where he was when it was going on.
 

Blackadder1916

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Some other reminiscences.

https://www.cbc.ca/octobercrisis/your-memories.html

Including this one that reminded me of the cadet weapons being removed.

Memories of....a rifle muzzle.
Michael Nicholas - Clam Harbour, NS

In October 1970, I was a Grade 4 student in elementary school in Ottawa. I was dimly aware that something was happening; certainly the television was on all day at home, and my school friends talked about soldiers all over downtown. But out in the suburbs where I lived, we hadn't seen so much as a police cruiser go by.

At school, I was in the boys' washroom mid-morning one day when the principal came on the PA system to address us. I recall him saying that we must all stop and listen carefully to his important announcement, but the rest of the announcement didn't resonate with me. A minute later, however, when I stepped back out into the hall I was startled to step into the back of an armed soldier. There were several of them in the halls of our school, along with an alarmed-looking principal. It seems that there was an army cadets corp who used to meet at our school, and the military had been dispatched to secure the cache of cadets' drill rifles.

The principal saw me and simply told me to sit on the floor in the hall, not to move till he came back to get me. And here is my chief memory: the soldier who I had almost run into on exiting the washroom said, "Yeah, kid, sit down" and gestured with his rifle to the wall where I was to plant myself. I sat down without a word or a blink, and the soldier -distractedly, I hope- kept his rifle pointed at the wall, or, more precisely, right at me.

The military found what they needed, I suppose, and the soldiers departed, the principal directed me back to my homeroom, and I had an exciting story to tell that evening after school. My mother was appalled and my father -a major attached to DND headquarters downtown, was enraged. He told me years later that he spent several months trying to locate the soldier who would point his rifle at a child.

I remember the flag at half-mast days later when the body of Pierre Laporte was recovered, and I remember being confused and disquieted by the tears shed by both my teachers and my mother. But mostly, I still remember the muzzle of that rifle...


 

daftandbarmy

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CBH99 said:
Hey now, a reserve unit that parades 80 people?  That IS a mighty unit!!

Pfffftttt... in the late 70s and early 80s the Seaforths regularly paraded 100+ on a Thursday night.

I was the Recruiting Officer at the time. Events like the FLQ crisis and the abortive Raid on Tehran were great for business!
 

Lance Wiebe

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daftandbarmy said:
Pfffftttt... in the late 70s and early 80s the Seaforths regularly paraded 100+ on a Thursday night.

I was the Recruiting Officer at the time. Events like the FLQ crisis and the abortive Raid on Tehran were great for business!

Very true, the FGH actually had to form a third "Squadron" in 71 and 72, recruit numbers jumped quite a bit!
The numbers, from what I was told in 1970, had dropped by almost half after the disbanding of the reg force FGH and the forming of the 12 RBC.
Numbers climbed again after the FLQ crisis.
 

FJAG

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I have a one finger response for M. Blanchet and another for M. Trudeau if he goes along with this foolishness.

Bloc Leader Demands Justin Trudeau Apologize For Pierre Trudeau's Use Of War Measures Act

The October Crisis saw soldiers patrolling the streets and rounding up residents in Montreal.
The Canadian Press

OTTAWA — Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet is urging the federal government to apologize for legislation that remains controversial 50 years after its passage during the October Crisis in Quebec.

In October 1970, the Liberal government under then-prime minister Pierre Trudeau decided to suspend civil liberties by invoking the War Measures Act in response to the kidnapping of a Quebec cabinet minister and a British diplomat by members of the militant FLQ separatist group.

The legislation, passed at the request of the Quebec premier and Montreal’s mayor, saw soldiers patrolling the streets as authorities rounded up hundreds of residents under suspicion of involvement in the abductions.

In a motion put forward this week, Blanchet demanded an official apology from the prime minister for his father’s deployment of the army to arrest and detain without charge nearly 500 Quebecers.

He criticized the Conservatives for refusing to call for an apology over a law that “attacked the dignity of a whole nation.”

Blanchet also invoked former Progressive Conservative leader Robert Stanfield, who backed the Liberal government in invoking the War Measures Act but later expressed regret over it.

“You cannot pretend to be deeply in love with Quebec without respecting the desire of Quebecers to receive some apologies from Her Majesty’s government,” Blanchet told reporters Wednesday.

Opposition House leader Gérard Deltell confirmed the Conservatives plan to vote against the motion on Thursday.

“For us the October Crisis is first and foremost the death of the deputy premier of Quebec, Pierre Laporte, a guy who had been elected by the people of Quebec who had been killed by terrorists,” Deltell said on his way into the Conservative caucus meeting.

The October Crisis, which culminated in the discovery of Laporte’s body in the trunk of a car, marked the first time the War Measures Act had been invoked in peacetime.

https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/war-measures-act-apology-pierre-trudeau_ca_5f999db1c5b6aab57a0ea5f9

:clubinhand:
 
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