October Crisis

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The October Crisis was a series of events triggered by two kidnappings of government officials by members of the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) during October 1970 in the province of Quebec, mainly in the Montreal metropolitan area.

These circumstances ultimately culminated in the first of only two peacetime uses of the War Measures Act in Canada's history (a section of the War Measures Act was implemented during the G20 summit in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 2010), done by Governor General of Canada Roland Michener at the direction of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, having been requested by the Premier of Quebec, Robert Bourassa, and the Mayor of Montreal, Jean Drapeau.

The invocation of the act resulted in widespread deployment of Canadian Forces troops throughout Quebec, and in Ottawa gave the appearance that martial law had been imposed, although the military remained in a support role to the civil authorities of Quebec. The police were also enabled with far-reaching powers, and they arrested and detained, without bail, 497 individuals, all but 62 of whom were later released without charges.

At the time, opinion polls throughout Canada, including in Quebec, showed widespread support for the use of the War Measures Act.[1] The response, however, was criticized at the time and subsequently by a number of prominent leaders, including René Lévesque, Robert Stanfield,[2] and Tommy Douglas,[3] who believed the actions to be excessive and the precedent to suspend civil liberties dangerous. The criticism was reinforced by evidence that police officials had abused their powers and detained, without cause, prominent artists and intellectuals associated with the sovereignty movement.[4]

The events of October 1970 galvanized support against violence in efforts for Quebec sovereignty and highlighted the movement towards political means of attaining greater autonomy and independence,[5] including support for the sovereigntist Parti Québécois, which went on to form the provincial government in 1976.


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