The October Crisis began with the kidnappings of British diplomat James Cross and Pierre Laporte by the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) in October 1970. At that time, there was a heightened fear of international and domestic terrorism. National liberation movements spawned terrorist violence across the globe – think Ireland and Palestine. A host of other terrorist organizations were responsible for bombings, hijacking planes and other acts of violence. It was an era of international terrorism: in seeking targets abroad, they raised the possibility that anyone anywhere could be a target. It was not a fact of life, though, here in Canada.
The War Measures Act
The kidnapping raised a swift response from the federal government under Liberal leader Pierre Trudeau. On October 16, 1970, the federal government proclaimed the existence of a state of “apprehended insurrection” under the War Measures Act. Under the emergency regulations, the FLQ was outlawed and membership became a criminal act, normal liberties were suspended, and arrests and detentions were authorized without charge. Before he gave the go-ahead, Trudeau gave his now-famous diatribe and produced a catch-phase still used today. Just watch me.