That the House demand an official apology from the Prime Minister on behalf of the Government of Canada for the enactment, on October 16, 1970, of the War Measures Act and the use of the army against Quebec’s civilian population to arbitrarily arrest, detain without charge and intimidate nearly 500 innocent Quebeckers.
He said: Mr. Speaker, in 1970, the House of Commons of Canada voted to implement the War Measures Act. I want to focus on the word “war”. A war is either a conflict with a foreign enemy or a civil war. It may be the result of insurrection, and that is what we will be talking about. In this case, the War Measures Act was invoked in response to what we now know was a lie. That has been amply acknowledged. Now the government is refusing to take responsibility for that lie and apologize for it. This is like the only kid in the family who does not get a Christmas present. Everyone has been apologizing for everything. It seems to me that the of Canada apologizes when it snows, but he will not apologize to the 500 Quebeckers who were detained and arrested or to their families and their descendants.
This is an eminently troubling and serious context, but it proved to be an unfortunate opportunity to turn a crisis that should have been resolved into an apprehended false insurrection, with democratic leaders and newspaper executives as imaginary protagonists and adversaries.
Five hundred people were detained with no explanation, no warrant and no trial, using abusive search and interrogation tactics. This has caused long-lasting trauma. We have tried to share information about a number of cases to make the point that this issue should be more about compassion than politics. As my esteemed colleague from said, it is important that these individuals be able to put this behind them.
The current of Canada said just a few months ago that no army should be used against its own people. That is just plain common sense, except under certain dictatorships. However, just 50 years ago another prime minister, who was also named Trudeau and whose name I can say, sent the army in against its own people.
Thirty-two members of the Bloc Québécois sit in the House of Commons of Canada to uphold this same idea of independence for the Quebec nation, an idea that Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau tried to crush once and for all.
The 32 of us, backed by millions of votes, attest to the fact that he failed. In light of that failure, the House of Commons could do the honourable thing and recognize that it was unacceptable and unjustified, as history has made clear.
The current has apologized to the Japanese community, the Ukrainian community and the Italian community for internments during the Second World War. He was right to do so. Why not make an equally well meaning apology to these 500 Quebec families?
Historically, the government has also not apologized to the Métis people for the crisis that culminated in the hanging of Louis Riel. Nor has it apologized to the Acadians who were deported thousands of kilometres from their home. It is as though Prime Minister Trudeau's apologies are reserved for anyone who is not francophone.
This raises a lot of questions from a historical perspective. The is Her Majesty's government representative in Canada. He is telling us that the country moved on a long time ago, it is time to move on to something else and that we are playing politics, but the War Measures Act is not that old.
To engage in politics is to serve the people. Serving the people is impossible without having some compassion. I am not certain that being the heir of a self-proclaimed aristocracy with a good dose of intellectual arrogance demonstrates great compassion towards people who have suffered.
I doubt that the Prime Minister has ever closed his eyes and imagined that a machine gun was pointed at him, his father or his children and that, under the law, the person holding the gun had the right to use it with no questions asked. That is unbelievable violence that leaves an indelible mark on people's psyche. It is still very real 50 years later. Does that not deserve an apology?
The Canadian government ordered raids similar to those carried out in eastern Europe in the communist era. It used, threatened, encouraged, called for and wanted interrogation methods that caused scars that people still carry today. It pursued tens of thousands of interrogations, and it sought to cause costly damage without ever fixing the homes where children were woken up in the middle of the night.
There was a will to repress with violence a nation that had not been assimilated or even seduced into assimilating on its own. That nation had not been persuaded to give up its language, its culture and its arts. The government would not even hesitate to lock up artists as well.
The government used the pretext of an apprehended insurrection because the law required it and because what is legal is not necessarily ethical. It is now well known that Mr. Trudeau, Mr. Bourassa and Mr. Drapeau, without talking about it directly, together came up with a lie worthy of the Francoists, whose dishonourable remaining adherents still roam the streets of Barcelona at night with a similar goal.
The government suppressed a nation's democratic will to exercise the right to self-determination. It was said that this was an apprehended insurrection to overthrow the Government of Quebec, nothing less. Who devised this insurrection? Who led it? Members will not believe it, and I dare them not to laugh when I tell them. One of the alleged leaders of the insurrection was Claude Ryan, the director of Le Devoir, whose violent charisma we saw later. René Lévesque, the one we all knew, was also allegedly the leader of the insurrection. I am trying to imagine him with a rifle in hand. That is beyond ridiculous. There was also Guy Rocher. Could there be a more peaceful intellectual than Guy Rocher? I wish everyone could have the opportunity to meet him. This was absolute folly, but it was intentional, calculated and designed to stir up trouble, despite the warnings of the RCMP, an institution that all members of the House revere. The RCMP specifically told cabinet that there was no apprehended insurrection and there was no need to impose the War Measures Act. That warning was quickly swept under the rug.
There was intent behind that. You do not arrest 500 innocent people, upset 30,000 others and terrorize an entire nation without a specific intent, which was to crush support for a movement.
That is something the Bolsheviks would do. Sure, we must always condemn acts of terrorism, but ideally you do not wait 10 days to do so. All forms of terrorism must be condemned, and we did so without hesitation. Paul Rose's son did so. We condemned terrorism.
That said, there is no connection between the use of the War Measures Act and the terrorist actions. Honourable citizens, our Canadian neighbours, were fed misinformation. Hate for Quebec nationalists was intentionally fuelled and then taken in, absorbed and embraced. This left an enduring stain on the Quebec nation.
My Twitter feed has become a frightful cesspool of hateful messages, which come in by the thousands. They mainly come from people who are misinformed, so I forgive them, but I do not respond because that would be a waste of my time. They have been fed lie after lie, which they continue to perpetuate today. Of course, the opposite is said in French. Canadian bilingualism will remain one of the greatest myths to survive the 21st century.
The raids did not lead to the arrest of a single terrorist. It does not matter because that was not the objective. The raids were not meant to catch terrorists. The terrorist kidnappers, who are to be condemned and denounced, were used as a pretext to quash an idea that seemed like a threat to Canada, even though that idea was growing peacefully and democratically. That idea was legitimate, whether people agreed with it or not, and it was independence for the nation of Quebec.
In 1970, they deliberately created confusion. Yesterday, the current of Canada purposely re-created that confusion and perpetuated it. That is a crying shame in an institution that should make truth one of its core values. In 1970, Canada engaged in state terrorism. In 2020, Canada still condones state terrorism.
In 1837, Canadians—or the French, as they called them back then—rose up, exasperated, but they were repressed into a lasting fear. Then they tried to assimilate them, claiming that it was for the good of this poor gang who had no culture or history. However, things turned out very well for us.
In 1968, Quebeckers felt humiliated on the day that would become their national holiday. How many were arrested? How many were beaten? They were trying to scare them once again.
When the Parti Québécois was elected in 1976, they tried to scare them.
During the 1980 referendum, they tried to scare them.
During the 1995 referendum, they tried to scare them.
In October 1970, they tried to scare them.
Each time, people thought it was the last time, but it will never be the last time because, on a daily and weekly basis, Quebeckers are told it is over and nobody is interested anymore. Anytime someone actually takes the time to look into it, however, it turns out that a lot of people are indeed still interested.
I suggest we do things differently. I suggest we proceed as neighbouring nations and friends rather than use force, intimidation and public money to suppress the legitimate expression of a democratic will.
The Prime Minister of Canada, the Liberal Party of Canada and even, I might add, the Conservatives, including their leader, Mr. Stanfield, voted to invoke the War Measures Act. Later, they clearly stated that they regretted doing so because invoking the War Measures Act was not justified. The federal Parliament, which was also made up of quite a few honourable people at the time, would not have voted to invoke the War Measures Act had it not been fed a bunch of lies.
It took incredible cynicism and a profound hatred of Quebec nationalism for them to be prepared to go that far and run roughshod over the democratic values that those in the upper echelons of the government of the day had publicly championed for decades.
All those important people were on the wrong side of history. All those people were sure that Quebeckers would never recover from the humiliation. All those people were betting that Quebec was beaten, that Quebec would never rise up again, that Quebec would give in and be a province like all the rest and that Quebec would resign itself to being conquered yet again by fear and lies. Maybe Canada was wrong.
The Prime Minister says I do not speak for Quebec. That is true. However, he is in a minority situation and does not speak for Canada, either. Quebec speaks for Quebec, and I look forward to Quebec being able to speak for itself again.
Does the head of state have the right to lie, cheat and send in the army against his own people simply because he is the boss, because he said, “just watch me”, because he does not know the difference between common good and hubris against his own people?
Perhaps Canada has it wrong. We will be there to offer an alternative to those Quebeckers who are sick of being humiliated. We will be there to offer them what we hope will be a better country, one they can call their own. This will come one day, with another proposal and another election.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
We are here in this House to discuss the motion moved by the hon. member for and leader of the Bloc Québécois on the October crisis. This motion brings us back to a sad and tragic period in our history. In fact, it brings back painful memories and also makes us say: never again. It makes us realize how far we have come while reminding us how privileged we are to live in this society that chose democracy, dialogue and respect for differences.
Let me preface my remarks by telling the House about something a little more personal. I arrived in Quebec a few years before the October crisis. We arrived in Quebec as political refugees. My father was a candidate for governor and a lawyer who represented countless political prisoners who in fact were student leaders or union leaders who were against the regime at the time. My father was jailed and tortured. A bomb was placed in our home. All of us were injured: my father, my mother, my sister Juliana, who was 2, my sister Monica, who was 4, and I was 7. We knew it was a matter of time before we would be killed. We knew it. It was clear.
We left Argentina to take refuge in Canada, in Quebec. I actually grew up in Sherbrooke. At the time, we said it was more than just a city. We were adopted by Quebec, by a democratic society, a society where issues are resolved through politics, not violence. I grew up like all Quebeckers of my generation, and Canadians, learning what happened during those years. People of my generation, even those born here, and I did not directly experience this dark chapter in our history.
That is why it is important that we take the time to reflect on everything that happened during those years, but also on what has happened since then, how far we have come as a society. I got involved in politics at a young age, very young. We debated sovereignty and independence all the time, at CEGEPs, universities, cafés, bars, but we debated with words. We debated in a civil, correct manner. Some people in my family are sovereignists. Some of my best friends are as well, and I love each and every one of them. We debated, we argued, and then we made up. That is how we do things back home in Quebec.
I applaud how the debates evolved, along with our ability to debate. A sign of a mature and responsible democracy is one that can go through difficult times, learn from those times and emerge stronger as a society. This is one of the reasons I am so proud to be a Quebecker.
The October crisis and the events leading up to it were the only time in the history of Quebec during which citizens turned to weapons, violence and terrorism for political gain. On the 50th anniversary of this crisis, the Bloc Québécois has decided to dredge up these sad events. The Bloc Québécois has every right to do so, but it has a moral and political obligation to rise above partisan debate and to share all of the facts.
I know that everyone here regrets the events that led to the October crisis in 1970. Everyone does. However, the Bloc Québécois's motion presents just one side of the story, and I find that incredibly sad. Yes, there were arrests, but we all know that is not the whole story. That period was marked by many other tragedies.
On Saturday, October 10, 1970, at 6:18 p.m., Pierre Laporte was playing with his nephew on his front lawn. That was the last time his family saw him alive. Why does the Bloc Québécois not mention this? Why is it ignoring the assassination of this man, who was an MNA and a minister, but above all, a son, father and husband?
I would like us to remember Wilfred Vincent O’Neil, a 65-year-old veteran who died when a bomb exploded behind the building where he worked as a night watchman.
I would also like us to remember Mr. McWilliams and Mr. Pinish, who were killed by a group of FLQ members during an armed robbery at a gun store. I would like us to take a moment to remember Thérèse Morin, a 64-year-old woman who was killed by a bomb planted at the factory where she worked, and Jeanne d’Arc Saint-Germain, who was killed when a bomb went off at National Defence headquarters in Ottawa.
It is sad to see that the Bloc motion does not condemn these crimes that led to the October Crisis in 1970. Moreover, this is not the only oversight in the Bloc Québécois motion.
I read a copy of the letter that Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa wrote to the Prime Minister of Canada requesting that he bring in the Canadian army. Here is an excerpt:
Under the circumstances, on behalf of the Government of Quebec, I request that emergency powers be provided as soon as possible so that more effective steps may be taken. I request particularly that such powers encompass the authority to apprehend and keep in custody individuals who, the Attorney General of Quebec has valid reasons to believe, are determined to overthrow the government through violence and illegal means.
This letter was written by the Premier of Quebec. He asked the Government of Canada to intervene, which it did.
I will now come back to the Bloc Québécois motion. The motion calls for an apology, but it ignores many of the facts and much of our history. As I said earlier, the events that led to the October crisis are sad, tragic and deplorable, and the motion does not reflect that. In fact, it does not even mention those events. This is one of the reasons why we cannot support this motion.
Nobody wants another October crisis. In order to prevent history from repeating itself, it must be addressed in its entirety—its beauty and its ugliness—without erasing the things we refuse to acknowledge. The Bloc's motion presents a partial account of the events and history. We cannot ignore the death of Pierre Laporte, nor can we ignore the other victims and the pain inflicted on their families. This is not a mere historical detail that we can allow ourselves to forget. Furthermore, we cannot ignore the climate of violence at the time, nor can we ignore that the Government of Canada answered the premier of Quebec's request.
Today, the Bloc is trying to rewrite history in an effort to make it fit the party's ideology. With all due respect to the leader of the Bloc Québécois, his account of history is incomplete. We will not indulge in the partisan politics that seek to divide Quebeckers. We will not do that out of respect for the victims, their families and all Quebeckers. I have a deep love for Quebec, and I am convinced that my Bloc Québécois colleagues do as well. To love Quebec is not to divide Quebeckers. Quite the opposite, it is to unite them.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today after my colleague who grew up in Sherbrooke, the beautiful riding that I now represent.
In 1970, the October crisis was difficult for all Quebeckers, and 50 years later the ever-present memories of those events are still painful. We have a duty to remember the innocent victims and their families. These people are always uppermost in our minds when we talk about the October crisis.
It is important to reflect on our history and to study and understand it. That is how we learn from what we have done. The lessons of our history remain rooted in our memories and guide our future actions. Our children and grandchildren must learn from the past. They need to know that violence has never been and will never be an acceptable way to promote political ideas.
Today, 50 years later, we are in the midst of another crisis unlike any we have ever experienced before. This health crisis is the collective fight of our lives, and every effort is being made to fight it. COVID–19 has devastated Canadians from coast to coast, and Quebec has been hit particularly hard. Quebec is the epicentre of the pandemic in Canada and its economy has been hit harder than any other province.
The government's role is to keep the public safe from both violence and disease. I am therefore rising in the House today to report on what the government has done to fight this unprecedented crisis and to support Quebeckers in need, particularly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I would first like to remind the House that Quebec's economy was in good shape before the pandemic. In February 2020, our GDP was up 2.9%, and we recorded an unemployment rate of 5.1%, the lowest since 1976. Businesses were thriving, and their long-term development was robustly supported by our government's efforts to promote innovation and growth.
With the lockdown, much of our economy is on forced pause. Everyone’s life has been disrupted. This is especially true for entrepreneurs and workers in small and medium-sized businesses. These businesses are a source of good local jobs, but also of local pride. They are the backbone of our economy and our communities.
Faced with the uncertainty and risks caused by the crisis and with the calls from the provinces and municipalities, our government very quickly understood the importance of helping them weather the crisis and acted very quickly. Since the beginning of the crisis, the has announced a series of measures to support workers and businesses. These measures constitute the largest economic assistance program in Canadian history.
These include the Canada emergency wage subsidy, which is designed to help businesses keep their employees and rehire the ones they had to lay off. This program has supported more than 3.7 million Canadian workers to date, and many in Quebec have been able to take advantage of it.
Our government has also worked with financial institutions to provide small businesses with access to a wide range of loans with attractive terms, including the SME loan and guarantee program, through which Export Development Canada can guarantee 80 per cent of new SME operating credit loans and term loans. This financial support is available to our businesses, whether they are exporters or not.
Another example is the Canada emergency business account. Launched in April, CEBA provides interest-free loans that include a partial write-off for small businesses that have seen a decline in revenues due to COVID-19, but still have fixed costs. By helping these businesses with these costs, CEBA supports the resumption of normal business operations post-COVID-19.
Lastly, we introduced the co-lending program for small businesses, in which the Business Development Bank of Canada works with financial institutions to co-finance term loans for up to $6.25 million in additional funds, in an effort to meet small businesses' operational needs in terms of cash flow. We have been responsive to needs, and have continuously defended and improved assistance.
However, what we heard when we met with entrepreneurs is that, despite the extensive economic and social safety net we set up, smaller businesses were still having a hard time. For that reason, we introduced the regional relief and recovery fund, or RRRF, with a total budget of $962 million, including $211 million for Quebec. The fund is administered by Economic Development Canada for Quebec regions, either directly or indirectly through key partners like community Futures development corporations and the PME MTL network.
This fund is designed to support businesses at the heart of our local economy that cannot benefit from existing federal programs or that have needs that are not covered by these programs. It provides SMEs and organizations that lack liquidity with emergency financial support to enable them to remain operational by helping them pay their employees and cover their fixed costs, among other things.
Through the RRRF, we have already been able to offer financial and technical support to more than 300 companies across Quebec and thus contributing to the resilience of a number of SMEs in that province. We have also carried out 3,600 SME financing projects in peri-urban and rural areas under the RRRF with the help of the CFDC network. Overall, between May and October, more than 15,000 jobs were protected in Quebec in thousands of small and medium-sized businesses thanks to the support granted under the RRRF.
All of these measures have helped protect many jobs in Quebec, provide emergency support to families and keep businesses afloat as they deal with the impacts of the health crisis. This crisis has not spared any sector of our economy and, with the second wave, additional support is clearly needed.
That is why, on October 2, our government announced an additional $69.8 million for CED to help businesses in Quebec recover from the impacts of COVD-19. This amount flows from the additional $600 million in national RRRF funding. This additional investment brings the total amount of assistance provided in Canada through the RRRF to more than $1.5 billion, and the amount for Quebec to $280 million.
In the Speech from the Throne, we also reiterated our commitment to support businesses and regional economic development and to continue backing communities in the fight against the pandemic. That is why the government intends to introduce legislation to implement the new Canada emergency rent subsidy and to extend the Canada emergency wage subsidy in the near future.
However, at the same time as we are providing short-term support against COVID-19 to SMEs in Quebec, we are also preparing to help them to take advantage of the business opportunities that are emerging in the new economy taking shape before our eyes. Let me give the House a concrete example.
CED has just organized the fifth Symposium on the Canadian Defence and Security Market. It brought together the major players in this key industry in our economy, as well as SMEs and research centres in Quebec, in order to create productive networking opportunities for our companies. Let us not forget that Quebec occupies an enviable place in the defence and security sector. In fact, of all jobs in the Canadian defence industry, 23% are located in Quebec.
Because of this initiative, the SMEs were able to look to the future and position themselves at the heart of the the business opportunities in this sector and the new economic realities of the post-COVID-19 era that are beginning to emerge. We can see that the decisions we are making now will have a major impact on our future prosperity. We are choosing to invest.
Our message to workers and SMEs is clear. We were there for them with emergency measures and support, and we are here for them now, standing by them until our economy can reopen in stages.
We are working with them as we learn from the past—
Mr. Speaker, he was a lawyer and journalist committed to fighting corruption. He was elected four times and served as an MNA for nine years. He was a cabinet minister during Jean Lesage's Quiet Revolution. He was Premier Robert Bourassa's deputy premier, but above all, Pierre Laporte was a man, a son, a husband and a father. Sadly, he never had the great joy of seeing his children grow up or witnessing the birth of his grandchildren. That is because, while playing with his nephew, he was kidnapped by terrorists. A week later, he was found strangled to death.
Today, since we are talking about October 1970, our thoughts are with the family of Pierre Laporte, the victim of criminals, terrorists and the FLQ.
The War Measures Act was not passed overnight, and the October crisis did not happen overnight either.
In the 1960s, the idea of independence for Quebec was brought to the fore by political groups such as Ralliement national and Rassemblement pour l'indépendance nationale. I do not support this position, but I have a great deal of respect for it. Quebec independence is an idea that exists and that is promoted by people who believe in the democratic ideal. Unfortunately, beginning in 1963, separatists chose the path of violence and terrorism.
All too often, we forget that between 1963 and 1970, the FLQ committed 200 acts of terrorism, including bombings, hold-ups and thefts. These people organized training camps. They bought guns in the United States. They even prepared cells for the hostages they would take in the terrorist acts they were planning.
Wilfrid O'Neil was a 65-year-old night watchman who was killed when a bomb exploded at the recruitment centre where he worked. Thérèse Morin was a 64-year-old worker who lost her life when a bomb planted by the FLQ went off at her place of work. Jeanne d'Arc Saint-Germain was a 50-year-old Ministry of Defence employee who was killed by an FLQ bomb.
Those people should never be forgotten. There are a dozen or so people like them who lost their lives between 1963 and 1970 as a result of the 200 terrorist acts committed by the FLQ.
Ten years ago, Lysiane Gagnon wrote the following about Jeanne d'Arc Saint-Germain, Thérèse Morin and Wilfred O'Neil: “the FLQ was posing as defenders of the working class, but those who died in the FLQ attacks prior to October were all low-income earners.” October 1970 did not start in October 1970.
Let us now talk about what happened during that terrible month, that shameful month for all of Canada: the kidnappings.
On October 5, a British diplomat, James Richard Cross, was kidnapped by FLQ terrorists as he was leaving his home. The next day, the FLQ issued its first communiqué, in which it made seven demands, including the release of “23 political prisoners”.
It was totally irresponsible and outrageous for the FLQ to call these 23 people political prisoners. As Yves Boisvert wrote in La Presse on October 12, “The jailed FLQ members were never political prisoners. A political prisoner is someone who is arrested for having ideas that are subversive in the eyes of a regime. The FLQ members in prison had committed ordinary crimes”.
That is why they were in prison. That is why the police intervened.
On October 8, the public broadcaster read out the FLQ manifesto on air. Unfortunately, during that entire week, from Monday to Saturday, the FLQ continued to perpetrate violence and issue communiqués in which it clearly stated that the kidnappings would continue and that the hostages might be executed.
Sadly, at 6:18 p.m. on October 10, while Pierre Laporte was playing ball with his nephew in his front yard, two people showed up and abducted him. Pierre Laporte would never see his family or loved ones again. The only people he would ever see after that were the terrorists who had abducted him.
Things really escalated after that, and understandably so. After 200 attacks in seven years, the abduction of a diplomat, the publication of FLQ communiqués clearly stating that it would commit further terrorist acts, and the abduction of a cabinet minister who was also the deputy premier of Quebec, tensions were rising significantly.
That is why, on October 12, 1970, at the request of the Quebec government, the Canadian government deployed troops in Ottawa and in the province of Quebec. The fact that it was the Quebec government that asked Ottawa to send in the army is a fundamental historical fact.
On October 14, 16 political figures from Quebec urged negotiations and the release of the “political prisoners”. I want to emphasize that we do not share this perspective, and we find it unfortunate that these political figures employed the terrorists' terminology. In our view, that term did not in any way apply at the time.
Unfortunately, October 15, 1970, was the pivotal day for all these events. That day, the National Assembly met to discuss the two abductions and the ongoing crisis. Of course, at the time, it was not yet called the October crisis.
Here is what Premier Robert Bourassa said about the army:
We have therefore requested the support of the army to allow the police forces to continue to protect both public buildings and the public. ...Democracy in Quebec is currently under threat. ...and it is our primary and essential responsibility to safeguard it. It is with this aim...that we intend, with the co-operation of all members, to assume our responsibility.
There it is, in black and white. The premier told the National Assembly that he had requested the support of the army and that it was his responsibility. He was not the only one to think that way.
Do the hon. members know who said the following on October 15, 1970?
The premier's appeal to us is certainly perfectly understandable and justified under the circumstances.
Who said that? It was not a Liberal supporter, or a friend of the government, or even a government minister. It was the house leader of the Parti Québécois, Camille Laurin, the father of Bill 101.
Let us consider the context. Later, on October 30, the leader of the Parti Québécois, René Lévesque, wrote this in his column in the Journal de Montréal:
The army is occupying Quebec. It is unpleasant but undoubtedly necessary at a time of acute crisis.
At the time, on October 15, after two kidnappings and threats of further kidnappings, everyone understood that we really did need the army. Even the PQ thought so.
On the evening of October 15, the government gave the FLQ an ultimatum and six hours to accept it. It was to no avail.
More importantly, even though there had been two kidnappings and the FLQ was threatening to commit more, 3,000 people gathered at the Paul Sauvé Arena in Montreal to read out texts like the FLQ manifesto and raise their fists in the air while chanting the FLQ slogan, “FLQ, nous vaincrons”, which means “FLQ, we will prevail”.
It is important to remember that that is what was happening the night of October 15 to 16, 1970. Between 1963 and 1970, there had been 200 terrorist attacks and a dozen deaths. The FLQ had kidnapped a diplomat and Quebec's deputy premier and was threatening more kidnappings.
An FLQ communiqué published at the time clearly stated the following:
In accordance with previously established plan 3...the Chénier fundraising cell has just kidnapped the Minister of Unemployment and Assimilation, Pierre Laporte. The minister will be executed...
The FLQ communiqué stated in black and white that it was threatening to execute people.
Even though there had been two kidnappings, threats of more and a threat of execution, 3,000 people gathered to chant “FLQ, we will prevail”. These were the circumstances that led to the invocation of the War Measures Act. It was at this point that the Government of Quebec requested military intervention, and we must remember that it had already made a very formal request that was backed by the National Assembly. Then the federal government met, and at four o'clock in the morning, after a long debate, it invoked the War Measures Act.
At the time, the Sûreté du Québec was in charge of police operations, with support from the Montreal police and the RCMP. The army was deployed to support the police, but the Sûreté du Québec made the arrests.
A total of 497 people were arrested without a warrant. They were not allowed to speak to a lawyer, and they were thrown in jail without being told anything. Most, if not all, of these people had no connection whatsoever with the crimes perpetrated by the FLQ. This was an abuse of police power, and we cannot forget that the Sûreté du Québec was running the show.
A few hours later, on the following day, October 17, the FLQ released a communiqué stating that it had decided to take action. Pierre Laporte was executed. He was found that evening in the trunk of a car, covered in blood, and the autopsy carried out a few hours later confirmed that he had been strangled to death.
René Lévesque wrote: “Those who coldly and deliberately executed Mr. Laporte, after watching him live and hope for so many days, are inhuman beings. They have imported here, into a society where it was absolutely not justified, an ice-cold fanaticism and methods of blackmail by assassination that belong in a jungle from which there is no way out.”
Not too long ago, FLQ member Jacques Lanctôt said, “Pierre Laporte was killed, and it was not an accident.”
On November 5, the first terrorist was arrested, and on December 28, the FLQ members were extradited. That was the October crisis of 1970, but it did not end there. A few months later, on March 12, 1971, justice minister Jérôme Choquette rose in the National Assembly and announced a compensation plan for the 497 people who had been arrested. He was following the recommendations of the ombudsman, who had received complaints from people who had been arrested. He was the one who recommended that they be compensated. The ombudsman, Louis Marceau, said at the time that the police powers had not been exercised with the necessary care and moderation. We agree with that conclusion.
However, the ombudsman never mentioned the federal government's responsibility. The justice minister told the National Assembly, “We hope that the government's approach will convey its sincere desire to repair any harm that may have been caused to individuals during this time of crisis”. The Quebec justice minister never said anything about the federal government.
During the same debate on the compensation proposed by the ombudsman for those who had been arrested, the Parti Québécois house leader, Camille Laurin, said that his party would support “anything the Minister of Justice could do to correct acts that resulted from the government's overreaction”.
There is no mention of the federal government's responsibility, and rightly so, since it was the Quebec government that asked the federal government to step in. It was the Quebec government that asked the federal government to send in the army. Are we supposed to apologize based on that? We will have an opportunity to come back to that in greater detail. That fact is that by compensating the victims who were arrested, the Quebec government proved that it admitted responsibility.
All in all, 497 people were arrested, 103 were compensated, 26 were charged, and 21 were convicted. The question we are asking today is, should the federal government apologize?
We do not think so. We acknowledge the police blunders and mistakes that were committed during these troubling times. As we said earlier, 497 people were arrested without being allowed to contact anyone. Some stayed in prison for a few days, and others for a few months, but on average, they stayed for a week. Of course, that is one week too many.
We will note, however, that the arrests did not come out of thin air. The October crisis of 1970 did not happen overnight. First there were 200 acts of terrorism committed by the FLQ, followed by the kidnapping of a diplomat and the publication of communiqués warning that there would be more kidnappings. Another did follow, that of the deputy premier of Quebec. The FLQ threatened to kill him, and that is indeed what they did. This business did not come out of thin air. A few hours before the War Measures Act was invoked, 3,000 people gathered and started chanting, “FLQ, we will prevail”.
It was the Quebec government that asked the federal government for help from the army, it was the Quebec government that admitted responsibility by compensating the victims, and also, it was the Sûreté du Québec that carried out the police operations. That is why we believe that the federal government should not apologize, since, given the circumstances and events that contributed to this, the responsibility lies first and foremost with the Government of Quebec, which requested this help.
I will let the Liberals explain why, in their first four years in office, they have apologized six times. When we Conservatives apologized, it was for special cases. In 1998, under Brian Mulroney, we apologized to the 21,000 Canadian men, women and children of Asian descent who were imprisoned for three years in internment camps. The federal government was entirely responsible for that, so an apology was called for.
On June 11, 2008, here in the House, Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper apologized to Canada's first nations for the residential schools, where 141,000 children suffered over the course of more than 100 years. This is a very serious matter, because we are talking about lost generations, and it continues today. Yes, an apology was called for.
It is clear that the apologies that we Conservatives made on behalf of the Canadian government were for events for which the Canadian government was entirely responsible. Sad to say, this was the case with respect to Chinese Canadians, and with respect to first nations as well. That is why we apologized.
This is in no way intended to diminish the pain and suffering of the 497 individuals who were arrested without a warrant and spent entire nights in jail without being allowed to speak with anyone. However, when it comes to acknowledging the government's responsibility and offering an apology, we believe that, in this particular case, the responsibility lies with the provincial government, since it was the one that requested federal assistance.
The Bloc Québécois motion reminds us of this sad episode in our democracy and the fact that an elected official was murdered in cold blood by terrorists, criminals whom René Lévesque called inhuman beings, because they watched him live, suffer and die before their very eyes.
We must also remember that a dozen people lost their lives, including Jeanne d'Arc Saint-Germain, who was probably from Gatineau. There is no bridge named after her, but she was a victim of the FLQ.
This is why, when we start a debate or open a history book, we do not just read the sentence that suits us. We read the entire book. This is also why, in our opinion, Pierre Laporte is the ultimate victim of the October crisis of 1970. All our thoughts are with him and his family.
Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform you that I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the hon. member for .
This is a complex and very emotional debate, and it stirs up many things from the past for everyone who lived through that period, including friends and family members. I hope my speech proves that this is not a subject that I take lightly. It is not like any other speech one might give on a bill or trade agreement, for example.
This is important, because we are discussing events that happened 50 years ago. It is extremely difficult to look at something that happened half a century ago with today's eyes. I would therefore like to take a few minutes to provide some historical context.
For decades, Quebec's working class was exploited, scorned, humiliated, overlooked and treated like second-class citizens.
In the 1950s and 1960s, there was an incredible number of artistic and intellectual movements. I am thinking of the Refus Global manifesto, which would lead to greater emancipation of Quebec's French-speaking working class. There would be major accomplishments with the Quiet Revolution, the election of Jean Lesage and his government, the nationalization of hydroelectricity and the creation of the ministry of education. These were undeniable advances that were made peacefully in a democratic context. We can be proud of them and we continue to be proud of them today.
At the time, certain young revolutionaries thought that things were not moving quickly enough or going far enough. They were losing hope in peaceful, democratic changes and social progress. They made the fundamental mistake of using political violence, which is always unacceptable in a democratic and lawful society.
They committed violent acts that caused irreparable harm. They were responsible for deaths, injuries and kidnappings and they left many people in mourning. We must not minimize or leave that out of the discussion.
When a kidnapping occurs, the appropriate response is to conduct a search and have a police investigation. The job of the police is to find those who are kidnapped and bring them safely home. That is not what happened. That is the tipping point, the point of divergence that will also have serious consequences.
As I reminded my colleague earlier, the wrongs of some people do not cancel out the wrongs of others and the suffering of some does not cancel out the suffering of others. I feel that our discussion on the entire context of the time must be reasonable and nuanced.
It is at moments like those that things slip out of a government's grasp. The reaction is disproportionate. Instead of giving more powers to the police so that they can conduct police investigations, the ultimate weapon is used. Basic freedoms and civil rights are suspended. The War Measures Act is invoked and the Canadian army is sent against its own people.
This was the first and only time that has happened in our history. The NDP, led at the time by Tommy Douglas, said very clearly and explicitly that, in a democratic society, there is a danger in wishing to save democracy by attacking democracy, and wishing to preserve civil liberties by suspending them. That is going much too far.
We must not take this lightly. Considerable powers were given to the army to be able to bypass basic rights, end civil liberties, allow arrests without warrant, and imprison people for up to 90 days with no outside contact and before they were even told what they were accused of. At the time, only the NDP opposed those actions because it considered them to be excessive.
Let me paraphrase Tommy Douglas, the NDP leader at the time. He said that, in a democracy, the proper thing to do, the only thing to do, is to come to Parliament and ask Parliament to grant additional powers or, if necessary, to change the Criminal Code.
However, that is not at all what happened. The government bypassed Parliament and parliamentarians. It overreacted, sending the army out against its own citizens in peacetime. It was a serious crisis, but we were not at war.
Tommy Douglas continued by saying that basic human rights cannot be destroyed, suspended or disregarded simply because the country is cloaked in a climate of fear. We were indeed cloaked in a climate of fear, but that does not justify the government’s reaction. In a democratic and lawful society, people are considered innocent until proven guilty. That was all swept aside.
Tommy Douglas continued by saying that it was extremely risky and dangerous to revoke fundamental freedoms like that. He reminded Canadians of what happened in countries like South Africa, Rhodesia, as it was then called, and Czechoslovakia, and that it sometimes ended very badly.
It is difficult to tell the story 50 years later. My impression is that they did not want to bother with a small group or small active cells but rather to hit hard and create a climate of fear among Quebeckers. They wanted a wide-ranging response and they brought out the heavy artillery. When I say heavy artillery, I mean tanks in the streets.
There were also mass arrests: 500 people were arbitrarily arrested. There were raids in 31,700 houses, where people were woken up in the middle of the night with a machine gun in their face or in their children’s faces. Of course, they were traumatized and felt threatened. Items were seized from more than 4,200 apartments. The 500 people arrested were from every walk of life: artists, intellectuals, left-wing activists, socialists, unionists. They were people who wanted a better, fairer and freer society.
Still today, I cannot understand how people like Gaston Miron, Gérald Godin and Pauline Julien could have been arrested without a warrant under the War Measures Act. People were arrested who had no contact with the outside world and who had no idea what was going on in society. It is hard to imagine the anguish and anxiety these people felt at being jailed without knowing why, without knowing when they would get out or what they were accused of. Some people were physically intimidated and threatened at gunpoint while they were in jail. Do you not think that these people deserve an apology from the federal government?
The police committed some blunders and went too far. However, these blunders and excesses and raids only occurred because civil liberties were suspended and the War Measures Act was imposed. The raids were so sweeping, they bring to mind the lowest moments of the authoritarian regimes of Chile, Argentina, or Greece under the colonels. It is nothing to be proud of. We must acknowledge the harm and suffering inflicted on people who were unjustly arrested and families who lost a father, a husband or a friend.
I would also like to quote Le Devoir, the only newspaper that came out against the War Measures Act. At the time, it was run by Claude Ryan, a good friend of René Lévesque's. René Lévesque and Claude Ryan had a good friend in common named Pierre Laporte, and yet, neither Mr. Lévesque nor Mr. Ryan hesitated to say that invoking the act was unacceptable.
I would like to an article by Jean-François Nadeau in Le Devoir:
As political scientist Guy Lachapelle reminds us in a new book about the October crisis, Ryan and Lévesque were first and foremost allies in that time of turmoil: “During the 1970 crisis, political power sought to kill Quebec's democracy by attempting to silence everyone...who dared speak of freedom.”
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for his speech. He said a number of important things, but two of them made a particular impression on me.
First, that it is still an emotional issue today. It is the same for me, despite the fact that I am the first speaker from English Canada to take the floor. I am speaking to you today from New Westminster, British Columbia.
Then, the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie said that two wrongs do not make a right. He is absolutely correct. Of course, we are thinking about the victims of the violence that took place at the time, but that does not take away from the tragedy experienced by hundreds of people who were jailed without a trial or a valid reason, and not allowed to call a lawyer. In addition, soldiers and police officers showed up in the middle of the night at thousands of houses. Canadians had never seen anything like it.
I was an eight-year-old child in British Columbia during the October crisis. I saw it through the eyes of a child. I saw the images on television, and I even remember what I felt when I saw the soldiers, machine guns and tanks in the streets of Canada. I was worried that the same thing would happen in my neighbourhood, and that Canada was not the country I thought it was. Even at eight years old, I knew that there was something extremely troubling in the actions of those soldiers in the streets.
Later on, in high school, I learned more about the October crisis. Of course, I heard about the courage of many of the people involved. That is when I learned about Tommy Douglas. He was someone who had the courage to stand up, even when the media and political elite were saying that the government was doing the right thing. I had started learning our history and understanding how the federal government had acted inappropriately and with excessive force.
Later on, I lived in Quebec for 10 years. I did my university studies there. I did not speak a word of French. At the time, I could only dream of making such a speech before the House. I began my studies in Chicoutimi, then continued them in Sherbrooke and Montreal. I began to understand Quebec society and all its strengths.
At the time, I also had the opportunity to meet Pauline Julien and become her friend. We were taking a Spanish course in Montreal. In addition to being talented and extremely friendly with everyone, Pauline Julien was much better than me at Spanish. She spoke a little about that sad time in her life and told me that, at the time, she understood that she also had allies in English Canada.
Today we are discussing an important motion, and I must say that I am very disappointed with the speech by the leader of the Bloc Québécois, partly because he ignored the role played by many people in English Canada. There was Tommy Douglas, of course, but also the entire NDP caucus and organized labour. I find it very unfortunate that all of the voices raised in English Canada against the invoking of the War Measures Act have been forgotten.
I find that is making the English Canada of the time into a caricature.
We are discussing such an important motion. I find that it is unfortunate to do away with those voices and to make everyone outside Quebec into a caricature. The reality, in fact, was that Tommy Douglas stood tall, even through the criticism of the media and political elite that he was doing it for civil rights and for individual freedoms. He did it despite all that criticism, and I find it unfortunate that he should be erased from history in such an important motion during such an important debate. Courageous voices in Quebec, but also those outside Quebec, have given us the knowledge today that the federal government did not have the right to do what it did at that time. It did not have the right to imprison so many people. Tommy Douglas and the NDP showed their courage in a number of matters. The party was the first to push for bilingualism, it was the first to recognize Quebec's right to self-determination. That is what led me, at the age of 14, to take out my first party membership card. I still have it today, 40 years later.
I find that this motion is extremely important. First, apologies can heal scars that, as we know, remain very raw today, though the events occurred 50 years ago. It is important that apologies be given.
As some members already mentioned, some people's civil rights, democratic freedoms and fundamental rights were suspended not because they posed a risk or a threat to society, but because of their political opinions. I hope that this will never happen again in Canada. We need to learn from our mistakes, and the only way to do that is to apologize. That way we can heal the scars and turn the page.
We also need to stop with the caricatures. I criticized the leader of the Bloc Québécois earlier because his depiction of English Canada was a real caricature, which I find extremely unfortunate.
I am in New Westminster today. There is a French immersion school two blocks from my house where hundreds of children are learning French. I can see it from where I am. Before the school year begins, parents line up for an entire weekend to register their children in French immersion. The reality in my neighbourhood is the same in communities across English Canada. I therefore think this caricaturing of English Canada is unfortunate.
I am also opposed to the fact that a minority in English Canada is caricaturing Quebec. I am opposed to that. We need to understand that in order to eliminate caricatures and talk about important things. I think that today's apology is part of that process, that journey.
Finally, we need to work together to build a society where everyone is included. I am talking about both Quebeckers and indigenous people, who are often left out. The sad stories in recent months clearly show that there is still racism to overcome. We also need to address systemic racism. We need to work together to apologize for the mistakes of the past and become a more inclusive society.
Madam Speaker, this is for Steve Albert, Richard Amyot, Claude Anctil, Lise André, D'Arcy Archambault, Jean-Luc Arène, Spiros Argiros, Michel Aubé, Claude Auclair, Élaine Audet, Florent Audette, Nick Auf Der Maur, Lise Balcer, Marcel Barbeau, Robert Barbeau, Louise-Francine Barsalou, René Bataille, Pierre-Marc Beauchamp, Pierre Beaudet, Marc-André Beaudin, André Baudry, André Beaulieu, Gérard Beaulieu, Guy Beaulieu, Louis Beaulieu, André Beaulne Laflèche, Jacques Beaulne Laflèche, André Bélanger, Jean-Pierre Bélanger, Richard Bélanger, Roger Bélanger, François Bélisle, Francine Bélisle, Michel Belleau, Henri Bellemare, Claudette Bertrand, Jean Bertrand, Jacques Bérubé, André Bilodeau, Denis Bilodeau, Jean Bilodeau, Monique Bilodeau, Pierre Bilodeau, Robert Bilodeau, Michel Bissonnette, Normand Bissonnette, Denis Blanchard, Jocelyne Blanchard, Véronique Blanchard, Yves Blondin, Monique Blondin Martin, Jean Boisjoly, Pierre Boissonnault, Michel Boisvert, Diane Boivin, Jean-François Bonin, Paul Bonneville, Denise Boucher, Pierre Bourgault, Yves Bourgault.
I rise in the House today to remind hon. members of Canada's five agreements for enacting the War Measures Act.
We want to note that this episode is one of the most traumatizing in the history of Quebec and one of the darkest chapters in the history of the Government of Canada.
It is high time that Ottawa recognize its mistakes and apologize to Quebec.
I would like to remind the House that when the War Measures Act was enacted on October 16, 1970, the Government of Canada gave itself the power to suspend the basic freedoms of its citizens. This legislation enabled it to trample on the rights of Quebeckers during a time when we were at war with no one. The Canadian government gave itself this power and abused it.
I would also like to remind the House that 97 Quebeckers were arrested and imprisoned, some of whom were famous, including union member Michel Chartrand, singer Pauline Julien, poet Gaston Miron and journalist Gilles Paquin. Most of them were workers and mothers and fathers with families. The only thing they were guilty of was being Quebeckers with political opinions that inconvenienced politicians in power in Ottawa.
Today, the government has the responsibility of recognizing the gravity of the decisions it made at the time. It must take responsibility for its mistakes and recognize its wrongdoings so that Quebeckers' rights and freedoms are never violated in the same way ever again.
Since 2016, the government has presented many apologies for past injustices. It is high time that the Canadian government apologize to Quebec.
First, we condemn the enactment of the War Measures Act when there was no justification for its use. That was the first time in Canada’s history that such measures were taken in peacetime.
One of the ministers at the time, Donald Campbell Jamieson, wrote in his memoirs that the government had no serious grounds for using the army against the population.
Some members of the opposition rose in the House to condemn the government’s actions and the total lack of evidence to support the far-fetched, long-discredited idea that there was a supposed insurrection in Quebec to justify its authoritarian approach.
The government turned a deaf ear to these concerns and decided to go ahead without any evidence that such use of extreme force was justified, when only war, invasion or insurrection should allow a government to exceptionally use the army against its own people.
The Government of Canada had no valid reason to use force against Quebeckers. It did not attempt other courses of action and did not even bother justifying the use of force against Quebeckers. This is very serious and unacceptable
Why did the government decide to act in that way? The government could have chosen another approach, but instead it decided to use brute force, fear and intimidation for the sole purpose of trying to undermine the aspirations of Quebec independence and silence political supporters of sovereignty. It was through fear and intimidation that the Canadian government decided to deal with what the cabinet at the time called “the Quebec question”.
Fear is measured by the number of guns and tanks on our doorstep. Fear is more than 12,000 soldiers in the streets of Quebec’s cities and towns. Fear is more than 30,000 searches, sometimes in the middle of the night, and more than 4,600 seizures. Fear is the air force, which, according to the head of the air force at the time, deliberately flew over Montreal at low altitude to frighten the public.
Intimidation is shattered windows, broken-down doors, entire families staring down the barrel of a machine gun or children woken up in the middle of the night by shouting soldiers. Intimidation is when police officers arrest someone without cause, taking them by force and forcing them to leave their children without supervision. Intimidation is citizens being imprisoned, without being allowed to phone their families to let them know what is going on. Intimidation is unacceptable stories of police brutality, days-long arbitrary detentions, unacceptable detention conditions, corporal punishment and psychological torture.
This was a bleak time in Canadian history. We strongly condemn these violations of the fundamental freedoms of Quebeckers. We condemn that the Canadian government at the time chose to quash the sovereignist movement and handcuff Quebec's democracy.
It is high time for Ottawa to acknowledge its wrongdoings and apologize to the victims of this show of force. I remind members that of the 97 people arrested, 90% were released without charge and 95% of those charged were acquitted or had their cases thrown out.
In conclusion, I would say that Quebeckers are entitled to an apology from the Prime Minister, on behalf of his government. Since 2016, the Canadian government has been rightly making apologies for its treatment of Inuit peoples, for residential schools, to the Jewish community, to the LGBTQ+ community and to the Indian migrants from 1914. We are now demanding an apology for Ottawa's affront to the liberty of Quebeckers. Quebeckers remember October 16, 1970. The Bloc Québécois will never forget that day.
Madam Speaker, for want of an apology that carries more weight than mine, and as the member for Lac-Saint-Jean, I apologize to the 13 people from Saguenay and Lac-Saint-Jean who were victims of the War Measures Act in October 1970 and to their families.
Like my colleagues, I will name some of the people who were unjustly imprisoned, lest we forget: André Bourque, Pierre-Louis Bourret, Gérald Boyer, Claire Brassard, Gilles Breton, Pierre Breton, Normand Brière, Réjean Briggs, Gerald Brimicombe, Jean-François Gérald Brossin, Michel Bruneau, Paul Caissy, Eugène Campeau, Georges Campeau, Jean-Louis Cantara, Paula Cantara, André Cantin, Gilles Caplette, Daniel Car, M. Carboneau, Diane Carmiglia, Claude Caron, Luc Caron, Rhéal Casavant, Jean Castonguay, Pol Chantraine, François Charbonneau, Jean-Pierre Charette, Madeleine Chartrand, Michel Chartrand, Micheline Chartrand, Réginald Chartrand, Yves Chartrand, Jean-Louis Chelminsky, Livain Chénard, Robert Chevrette, Gilles Choquette, Bob Chornenki, Nicole Chrétien, Yannick Chuit, M. Clark, Gérard Claveau, Jean Cléroux, Marcel Cloutier, Pierre Cloutier, Robert Cloutier, Kevin Cohalan, Marcel Corbeil, Gilles Cormier, Raymond Cormier, Rosaire Cormier, Serge Corriveau, Suzanne Corriveau, Gilles Cossette, Jean-Marie Cossette, Cécile Cossette, Christian Côté, Marcel Côté.
These men and women were guilty only of the crime of thinking for themselves, for their people. Imprisoning, torturing and threatening human beings is unacceptable regardless of the time or circumstances. That much is obvious. Let's not be afraid to say so.
Some 500 people, including men, women, minors, intellectuals, unionists, artists and separatists, were treated like political prisoners under conditions similar to those in the worst political regimes on the planet. The Bloc Québécois wants an apology. Of course, we cannot go back in time, but the government can at least salve the still open wounds of those victims who are still alive.
As for the mistakes made by Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s government, it is up to its political heirs to publicly apologize for the abuses committed against innocent citizens. As brilliant and thoughtful as these prisoners were, and despite historical hindsight that no longer leaves room for ambiguity when it comes to the offensiveness of the War Measures Act, 50 years later, there are still Liberals and Conservatives emerging from the darkest corners of the House who drank their fill of the cocktail of demagoguery concocted by the government in 1970, to the point where they have lost all their inhibitions.
How colonized do you have to be to justify abject violations of the most basic rights of 36,000 of our fellow citizens by invoking an emergency that has been refuted time and again over the years? Only colonizers could make Quebeckers, and in particular separatists, accountable for the isolated acts of a few disorganized radicals, knowing full well that none of the victims of the War Measures Act were ever even charged.
Today, we know that the War Measures Act was not used to stop the FLQ but to destabilize separatists. If the hon. members of the House do not believe that the government should apologize for this dark episode in the history of Quebec, then they must forget that the October crisis is also part of the history of Canada. By yielding to authoritarianism, the federal government made Canada the only western democracy to use martial law to subdue a small group of radicals.
Let us not mince words. The use of the War Measures Act was intended to criminalize the act of challenging of the Canadian federal regime using force, coercion and terror. Simply put, people were punished for their opinion. The Prime Minister said that the legacy of all of his successors was open to review, including that of his father.
With all due respect to the Prime Minister, I think that it would be honourable to apologize to the victims of the police state that his father and his government knowingly helped put in place. It should not be difficult for him, because it made no sense at the time, and it still makes no sense. When the War Measures Act was invoked, the RCMP commented that it was not necessary to take measures to curtail Canadians’ freedom. The victims’ testimonies speak even louder than the RCMP.
Thirteen men from my region were imprisoned. I am now going to quote from some accounts recently obtained by Radio-Canada: “The police came in through three doors of the house.” “They pulled us out of our beds and began to search our rooms.” One of them said it was a rough arrest. Others said that, once they were arrested, the police did not even want to let them use the washroom and that they were interrogated only seven days later.
Many victims suffered after being released. One of the men arrested in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean was a trade unionist and he said that he had to take a step back from the union movement until 1980 so that he would be forgotten. Ten per cent of those who were arrested suffered from depression. The police broke down doors, searched through people's belongings and, armed with machine guns, arrested parents as their children looked on, terrified, in the middle of the night. Law-abiding citizens were stigmatized and traumatized for life. People had to hide out because they were labelled as FLQ sympathizers, and all of this was done with the Canadian government's blessing.
These were poets, singers, authors, trade unionists, Mirons, Godins, Juliens and Chartrands. When a country does this, it is denying ideas. It is absolutely despicable and a real disgrace, which is exactly why it is cowardly for the government to refuse to apologize. Such behaviour is not worthy of the ideals this government claims to defend every day before Quebeckers and Canadians. The worst thing about it is that the is not the only one in denial about the War Measures Act.
Again we see that, when it comes time to confront the history of Quebec and francophones, the Liberals and Conservatives have the same tendencies and lie in the same bed. The federal government can legitimately be arbitrary and violent as long as it does not bother Her Majesty the Queen. It is okay, Your Majesty, we will take care of it, say the accomplices in the wake of the worst episode of violation of basic human rights, second only to the residential schools of course.
The hon. member for , who is also the Conservative Party's Quebec lieutenant, took exactly the same position as the Prime Minister by using the shameful death of Pierre Laporte to justify the unjustifiable. He proudly and triumphantly told the media that he will not apologize for that. Sadly, literally no one except the Conservatives and the Liberals use the death of a man to justify the imprisonment of innocent people. It is becoming utterly embarrassing, ideological and demagogic. It is pretty obvious in Quebec City. Every party agrees that the federal government should apologize. Even the Quebec Liberal Party thinks that all levels of government should apologize. I know that this is not the first time that the federal government cares little about what Quebec thinks, but I will continue to hammer the point home as long as independence is still not a reality.
I repeat that today we are simply trying to heal some old wounds. A little humility and perspective does not hurt anyone. The pain left over from October 1970 and the War Measures Act has clearly not dissipated. This pain remains, and it is up to the current government to turn the page.
Some of the most beautiful lines and verses in Quebec culture are the direct result of the trauma from the period leading up to or following the October crisis. Some examples include L'alouette en colère by Leclerc, Ti-Cul Lachance by Vigneault, Mommy by Richer and Gélinas and Bozo les culottes by Lévesque. Quebec will hear about and read about this period for a long time.
I want to end by reading a few verses from Gaston Miron's October
. I want his words to resonate here in the House, which is guilty of imprisoning him for the sole reason that he believed in Quebec as a country.
we will make you, Land of Quebec
a bed of resurrections
and a thousand lightning metamorphoses
of our heavens from which the future shall rise
and of our will which will concede nothing
men shall hear your pulse beating through history
this is us winding through the October autumn
the russet sound of roe-deer in the sunlight
this is our future, clear
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for .
This anniversary takes us back half a century. It was a completely different world. That's kind of the point of anniversaries. They make us reflect on our past. They lead us to better understand the context of past events, without which we cannot really understand history. Anniversaries sometimes make us think about the motives behind our past actions. Historians continue to analyze the events and testimonies of before and during the October crisis, the reason for the decisions that were made and the consequences of those decisions.
The 50th anniversary resonates with us and invites us to look in the rear-view mirror again. I would like to mention in passing the excellent series of articles that have appeared in various magazines in recent weeks, including the CBC website. Articles that look at many aspects of the October crisis and its origins. I myself have learned some details, especially about the attacks by small groups—as has been said—often very disorganized, prior to the October crisis. It is important to paint a picture of that time, especially for those who did not experience it, either because they were too young or not yet born, or because they were not residents of Canada.
The October crisis left its mark on me, much like everyone else at the time. I was barely 13 years old. When we are very young, certain events awaken us, get inside our heads and make us pay more attention to what is going on around us. I am thinking of the John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King assassinations. Those events get inside our heads. They make people grow up fast and develop a new-found maturity. I was born at the dawn of the Quiet Revolution, at the tail end of the Duplessis era, when rays of sunshine like Pierre Laporte began to pierce the great darkness. I will return to Pierre Laporte in a moment.
I mentioned context. The October crisis was not at all an isolated event. Some people may have the impression that the October crisis happened all of a sudden, without warning, and that the entire weight of the federal government came crashing down on a peaceful society. That is not at all what I experienced. The seven years prior to the kidnapping of James Cross and Pierre Laporte were turbulent, violent and troubling, in particular in Montreal. If you told young people today about what happened in the 1960s in Montreal, they would not believe you. This difficult and troubling time started in 1963 with a few Molotov cocktails, which, fortunately, did not injure anyone. They were followed by a bomb placed on a section of railway between Montreal and Quebec City, more specifically in the town of Lemieux. Fortunately, there was no damage. Then, a bomb exploded in the ventilation system at the federal Department of National Revenue. No one was injured. Still in 1963, a bomb exploded at the Canadian Forces recruiting centre in Montreal. One person died: William Vincent O'Neil, age 65. In 1964, there was an armed robbery in a gun shop in downtown Montreal. Now we come to 1969. One evening, a bomb exploded during class hours in the Bryon Building of Loyola College in Montreal, now part of Concordia University.
My father taught evenings in the Bryon Building. Fortunately, he was not there that evening, and none of the 500 people who were there were injured.
All in all, 200 bombs were detonated in the seven-year period leading up to the October crisis.
Now, to get back to Pierre Laporte and his legacy.
Pierre Laporte was a lawyer who became a journalist and great defender of the French language and democracy in Quebec. He was a friendly person, with considerable integrity and courage: unfailing courage. It took courage to stand up to the mighty Maurice Duplessis and his machine to expose the flaws and corruption in the Union Nationale government. Duplessis had ostracized Pierre Laporte as a member of the press gallery in Quebec City. In some ways, Pierre Laporte was the only one taking on Maurice Duplessis.
Remember that, in addition to being a politician and a great defender of the French fact and democracy in Quebec, Pierre Laporte was first and foremost a father, an uncle and a husband. My colleagues in the House might be interested in reading a recent article by Thomas Laporte Aust entitled “Pierre Laporte était mon grand-père”.
Today, he and his family, as well as his legacy and everything he did for Quebec, are in our thoughts.
Madam Speaker, I thank all those who have spoken today, including my esteemed colleague from , the chair of our caucus. I thank him very much for his comments. As the member for Gatineau, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to the motion put forward by the Bloc Québécois.
We are in the midst of a unique pandemic. For months, our government, our businesses, our essential front-line workers and our families have worked tirelessly to address the health and economic challenges caused by COVID-19. We have seen an unprecedented engagement of our governments, the health sector, our research community and the private sector. In responding to this crisis, Canadians have taken up this issue with a single-minded focus, understanding that we cannot afford to be distracted by the usual political jousting.
On this side of the House, we remain concerned about what Canadians are experiencing, and we continue our efforts. Our government remains focused on supporting Canadians and Quebeckers during these difficult times. That is why we on this side of the House—and obviously this seems to be the case for some opposition members as well—are finding it difficult to understand why the Bloc is using one of its rare opposition days, not to propose concrete solutions, whether for Quebec or for all of Canada, to fight the pandemic, to help our seniors, our families and the most vulnerable, or to get us out of this crisis, but rather to offer Quebeckers a truncated and sanitized vision of our history; to show only a small part of history, a version that seems to forget the victims of the October crisis, a version that is their own and that forgets the real victims.
It is important to remember our history, but it is also important to do so comprehensively, without forgetting parts of it and always keeping in mind the goal of uniting Quebeckers rather than dividing them.
My colleague from has put us back into the context of the time a little, as did my colleague from Lac-Saint-Louis. The memory of the October crisis is extremely difficult for a number of Quebec families, especially the family of Pierre Laporte. But also for the family of Jeanne d'Arc Saint-Germain, from Vanier, who was killed by a bomb at the Department of Defence. Let me quote from the afternoon edition of Le Droit, the Saint-Jean-Baptise Day edition, June 24, 1970. The headline on the front page is “Bomb explodes in Ottawa”. Here is how it reads:
Mme Jeanne-d'Arc St-Germain was sitting at her desk in the Department of Defence communications centre on Lisgar Street. She expected to finish her shift at 7:30 this morning. But Mme St-Germain did not have the opportunity to finish her shift. At 6:26, she was killed by the explosion of a powerful bomb that had been placed in the southeast corner of the temporary building.
First responders found the lifeless body of the 51-year-old widow near her desk. Shards of glass had severed her jugular vein. Mme St-Germain, of 321 Shakespeare Street, Vanier, had been a communications clerk at the Department of Defence for about 15 years. Two members of the military, who were in the communications centre when the explosion took place, were slightly wounded by shards of glass.
That also gives us a context, as my fellow residents of Gatineau, and of the entire national capital region, would understand full well.
It is because of that, and because of many other attacks and many other bombs, that politicians of all stripes, the premier of Quebec and the mayor of Montreal, asked the Government of Canada to provide emergency powers in Quebec and the authority needed to arrest and detain people.
That obviously resulted in many victims, and the Bloc Québécois has named a few of them. We can easily see that over 500 people were detained, most of them without cause, for an average period of about a week, as my colleague said.
That is a stain on our history, but it was also the product of the context of fear, of the climate of terror at the time that made our fellow citizens, our friends and our neighbours live in fear.
I am now going to project 50 years into the future. We are gathered in the House of Commons on this sad anniversary of the October crisis, but we cannot talk about collective duty, let alone responsibility for our seniors, without talking about our duty to manage the pandemic and protect the most vulnerable.
We are facing the greatest health crisis of our time. This is our October crisis. Canadians and Quebeckers are worried about how we will get through the crisis. They are worried about their safety and the safety of their loved ones. They are worried about paying their bills and about the safety of the personal protective equipment of our guardian angels. They are worried because they do not know if they will be able to see their family at Christmas or if their child will catch the virus at school.
As the member for Gatineau and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement, I have the enormous privilege and responsibility to work with my government colleagues to get the equipment we need, including the future vaccine. The same thing goes for treatments, equipment and ventilators.
I cannot ignore my disappointment with the Bloc Québécois. Last week, it voted in favour of a motion that is dangerous for Canadians' health. I am not the one saying this, it is people involved in research, people in the manufacturing sector and from our small businesses. The Bloc Québécois will have to be judged by future generations. In 50 years, people may be talking about the sad anniversary of the October 2020 crisis, that is, the pandemic.
Their opposition jeopardizes our current and future capacity to negotiate contracts for PPE, ventilators and vaccines. What I can say is that all of Quebec has answered the call in terms of procurement. For example, the famed company Bauer is making face shields for our health professionals. Others who come to mind are Joseph Ribkoff, Logistik Unicorp and Yoga Jeans, in Montreal, Beauce and Dorval, who are adapting their factories to produce millions of hospital scrubs, much like Calko Group in Montreal. ADM Medicom, based in Pointe-Claire, has signed an agreement to produce millions of masks. We are also thinking of bioMérieux in Saint-Laurent, which has agreed to deliver thousands of diagnostic tests to ensure the safety of Quebeckers and all Canadians. Lastly, we are thinking of Precision ADM, which will be making swabs in my riding, Gatineau.
That is what we should have been talking about today, but sadly the Bloc Québécois chose another subject for debate on opposition day. However, I would like to reassure those who are watching that the Government of Canada is aiming for the right thing, the right October crisis, in today's deliberations.
Madam Chair, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
For the Government of Canada, the 50th anniversary of the October crisis represents an opportunity, one that I suspect is going to be missed, to apologize for imposing war measures and for fabricating an insurrection plot that it said was intended to overthrow the Government of Quebec. Good heavens, how far from the truth that was.
In 1970, Pierre Elliott Trudeau's Canada sent in the army. It allowed the RCMP to infiltrate and destabilize democratic and militant organizations in Quebec, continuing long after the tragic events that followed. Canada did not do this to put an end to an insurrection, but because it wanted to suppress the sovereignist movement. That was its fundamental reasoning.
At the time, Marc Lalonde, who was Pierre Elliott Trudeau's chief of staff at the time, summoned Peter Newman, the editor-in-chief of the Toronto Star, and told him: “We believe that a group of prominent Quebeckers is plotting to replace the province's duly elected government. ...The leaders include René Lévesque, Jacques Parizeau, Marcel Pepin and Claude Ryan. This attempt to establish a parallel government must be stopped.”
Just imagine. These four great names included three great premiers of Quebec and one great union leader. They were hardly likely to want to overturn the government. That story was just a pretext to justify suspending basic rights in Quebec.
Need I remind hon. members that the War Measures Act was passed in 1914 during the First World War? It would be invoked only three times in history: during the two world wars and during the October crisis.
In the days preceding October 15, the RCMP security service collaborated with the Sûreté du Québec on preparing a list of suspects. Originally, there were 56 names, to which the RCMP added another hundred or so. They ended up handing over a list of 158 names to Prime Minister Trudeau. According to the records, people whose names were on the list had taken part in violent demonstrations, had incited violence or were suspected of terrorist activities.
Once the arrests began, there would be many more, completely without cause. At four in the morning on October 16, 1970, the War Measures Act was invoked. It would led to the largest military intervention in peacetime in Canada. During that one night alone, more than 450 people were arrested and thrown in jail.
A decade after these sweeping arrests, former minister Jean Marchand, who later became Speaker of the Senate, went as far as to say that invoking the War Measures Act had been like using a cannon to kill a fly. However, then prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau never expressed remorse. Even in 1993, he was still saying that “society must take every means at its disposal to defend itself against the emergence of a parallel power which defies the elected power.”
I myself was very young at the time of the October crisis. I was starting at university to become a teacher. One morning, when I was going to class, I saw soldiers, the army, guns and all of that. I used to walk across Lafontaine Park to get to class, and I must admit that I was worried. Come to think of it, I must have been terrified. When I got to school, I could not open the door, because the university was also closed.
As soon as the Canadian Bill of Rights was suspended, even though the anti-terrorism experts of all three police forces, namely municipal, provincial and federal, had only a handful of suspects at most, 500 people were arrested and jailed without a warrant. Of those 500, 90 were released without being charged. The others were charged, but 95% of them were eventually acquitted or had their charges dropped.
These people were not criminals. Most were separatists, but some were not. Among those who were arrested or jailed were poets, singers, journalists, union members, lawyers, ordinary activists, students and separatists.
They included Pierre Côté, another Pierre Côté, Ginette Courcelles, Martin Courcy, Jean-Guy Couture, Jean-Marcel Cusson, Daniel Cyr, Micheline Cyr, Jean-Marie Da Silva, Blaise Daignault, Dominique Damant, Paul Danvoye, Michèle Danvoye-Raymond, Djahangir Dardachti, Mario Darin, Brenda Dash, Victor Daudelin, Benoit-André Davignon, Bruno De Gregorio, Claire Demers, François Demers, Jean-Pierre Deschêsne, Pierre Desfosses, Hélène Desjardins, Marcel Desjardins, Louise Désormeaux, Richard Desrosiers, Jean Désy, Jean-Pierre Dionne, Thomas Gordon Dolan, Gaëtan Dostie, Laura Maud Dottin, Ginette Doucet, Jacques Dubé, Michel Dubé, Robert Dubeau, Bernard Dubois, Claude-André Ducharme, Albert Dufour, Claire Duguay, Claude Dulac, Michel Dumont, Bernard Dupéré, Claire Dupond, Pierre Dupont, another Pierre Dupont, Réjeanne Dupont, Danielle Dupont, Daniel Dupuis, Myriann Farkas, Andrée Ferreti, Mireille Filion, Lise Filion, Yvon Forget, Guy Fortin, Joseph Fortin, Pierre Fournier, M. Fréchette.
In the aftermath of the events of October 1970, my brother Michel Pauzé was also arrested and interrogated for more than four hours. It was not fun like question period, because I only found out about it years later. He never spoke about it. It was a shock for me to learn that my brother, who at the time was just a member of a student association at the Cégep du Vieux Montréal, had been arrested like that for no reason.
I am also not ready to forget when the police came to our family home, where I was living with my grandmother and my mother. The police came in and searched the entire house. Ours was not an isolated case, because the police carried out 31,700 searches, of which 4,600 resulted in seizures during that time. In many cases, these searches were violent. That is what I call terrorism. That is what I call seeking to terrorize people. I still remember when they entered our home.
I would like to see the federal government condemn this violence today, but despite our repeated calls, the government has remained silent. However, the Canadian government has apologized for three other interventions. In 1988, it apologized to victims of Japanese origin who were displaced and interned during the Second World War. In 1990, it apologized to victims of Italian origin who were interned during the Second World War. In 2006, it apologized to victims of Ukrainian origin who were interned during the First World War. Nothing for Quebeckers, however. In the first two cases, the government financially compensated victims or associations so they could organize educational and commemorative activities. For Italian Canadians, the government promised to do the same in June 2019.
In closing, I will repeat the following question: Where is the federal government's apology for the victims of the October crisis?
Many Quebeckers are still scarred by this crisis. The government must not only acknowledge it, but also accept its share of responsibility. Today, we are demanding an official apology from the Prime Minister on behalf of the Government of Canada for the enactment, on October 16, 1970, of the War Measures Act and the use of the army against Quebec's civilian population to arbitrarily arrest, detain without charge and intimidate nearly 500 innocent Quebeckers.
Madam Speaker, personally, I support non-violence. I am greatly inspired by Martin Luther King and Gandhi. As Louis Fournier, the author and expert on the October crisis, wrote in his book, I am convinced that we cannot afford to be complacent about the FLQ's violence. Louis Fournier also stated that the FLQ extremism was a response to the extremism of power. The government of Ottawa took advantage of the opportunity to unleash a vast operation of repression. The unjustified violence of a state against its innocent citizens is no better than the violence of a group of individuals like the FLQ.
I was 10 years old at the time of the October crisis. I vaguely remember it. I remember seeing a soldier with a machine gun in front of the office of a municipal councillor. I think that the repression was so extensive that almost everyone who lived through those times has not forgotten it. In a single night, October 16, 1970, more than 450 people were unfairly imprisoned without a warrant and without a valid reason.
Why did it happen at night? Undoubtedly to create psychological shock. That is along the lines of what the Duchaîne report stated. People were woken up at night with machine guns in their face. That is rather incredible. Of the approximately 500 people who were arrested, 90% were released without being charged, and 95% of those who were charged were acquitted or had the charges dropped.
Here are some of those people, whom I feel we have a duty to remember: Gilles Gagliardi, Jean-Pierre Gagné, Théo Gagné, Armand Gagnon, Charles Gagnon, Michel Gagnon, Paul Gagnon—often whole families were arrested—Nicolas Galipeau, 15 years old and the son of Pauline Julien, Pascale Galipeau, the daughter of Pauline Julien, Michel Garneau, Juvencio Garza, Ms. Garza, Claude Gaudreau, Annie Gauthier, Jacinthe Gauthier, Maurice Gauthier, Gilles Gauvin, Étienne Gazaille, Claude Gendron, Paul-Émile Giguère, Claude Girard, Jean-Pierre Girard, Pierre Girard, Rosaire Girard, Pierre Girardin, Gérald Godin, Madeleine Barbara Goldstein, Rock Gosselin, Jean Goulet, André Goyer, André Gravel, Pierre Graveline, Stanley Gray, André Grenier, Pierre Grenier, Roger Grenier, Yves Guindon, Yvon Guindon, Marek Gutowski, Louis Hains, Lise Walser Hains, Daniel Hardy, Jacques Hébert, Robert Hébert, Gloria Horowitz, Denis Huard, Solange Hudon, Richard Hudson, Maurice Jean, Pierre Jobin, Réal Jodoin, Jeannine Ouellette Jodoin, André Joffre, Pierre Joncas, Guy Joron, who later became a Parti Québécois MNA, Michel Joyal, Fabienne Julien.
These people were not criminals. They included poets, singers, journalists, union members, lawyers and activists. I could also mention Pauline Julien, whose children I spoke of earlier, Gérald Godin, Michel Garneau, Gaston Miron, Denise Boucher, union leader Michel Chartrand, André Paradis, who I believe spent 51 days in jail, Gaétan Dostie, and the list goes on.
They were all thrown in jail. What they had in common was that they were separatists or opponents of the government of the day.
In his book Diary of a Prisoner of War, Gérald Godin recounts the first hours of his arrest. He writes:
On that first day, my main emotion was a feeling of being uprooted. Of floating in total uncertainty. Why am I here? If someone would at least interrogate me, I might know what I was dealing with. ...If I knew that, I could get my feet back on the ground. At the moment, it is a void.
It was a very traumatic experience for all of these people. The point was to intimidate them. We do not know all of the names, because the federal government has refused to give a list. Furthermore, according to the Duchaîne report, there were more than 30,000 warrantless searches. This was all possible because of the invocation of the War Measures Act, which allows for rights and freedoms to be suspended in the event of apprehended insurrection.
Yesterday, the and leader of the Liberal Party of Canada said that opposition leader René Lévesque had supported the War Measures Act. That is not true. First of all, René Lévesque was not the opposition leader. He was not even a member of the Quebec National Assembly at that time. Second of all, René Lévesque was against the FLQ violence but against the use of the War Measures Act as well.
Here is an excerpt from what René Lévesque wrote in the Journal de Montréal on October 30, 1970: “Conflating these military reinforcements with the abhorrent War Measures Act, which is something else altogether, is yet more of the shrewd demagoguery that Mr. Trudeau and his entourage so masterfully and regularly demonstrate.”
There were three commissions of inquiry, and two of them concluded that the use of the War Measures Act was unjustified. These two were the Duchaîne commission and the Macdonald commission, which was created by the federal government. The Keable commission did not issue a ruling because it was focused on the events after the October crisis. Some very worrisome revelations later came from a number of stakeholders.
For example, Don Jamieson, the transport minister at the time, wrote in his memoirs that there had not been substantial grounds to think that there had been apprehended insurrection. He believed that a number of ministers in Trudeau's cabinet from Quebec, including Jean Marchand, Gérard Pelletier, Bryce MacKasey and Trudeau's principal secretary, Marc Lalonde, were using the act to take on their political adversaries in Quebec, whether they were federalist, like Claude Ryan, or sovereignist, like René Lévesque.
Eric Kierans, the communications minister at the time, devoted whole pages of his memoirs to this massive injustice, as he called it. After in-depth research, Professor Reg Whitaker, the great expert on security matters, wrote in 1993, “the RCMP never asked for the War Measures Act, were not consulted as to its usefulness, and would have opposed it if they had been asked for their opinion.”
Peter C. Newman, the editor-in-chief of the Toronto Star at the time, has debunked the provisional government story. It was said that the apprehended insurrection was because a provisional government, opposing the elected one, was going to be put into place under the leadership of René Lévesque, Claude Ryan and Louis Labelle, of the FTQ. “That scenario was a meticulously concocted lie” floated by Prime Minister Trudeau and his principal secretary, Marc Lalonde.“They both lied to me about why the War Measures Act was imposed.”
As Bernard Landry said on the 40th anniversary of the October crisis, we have a duty to remember those who were the victims of an injustice that was, and still remains, Canada's shame.
We are asking for apologies, because, as the Macdonald Commission recommended, there should be compensation for those whose rights were violated, for no valid reason, when the War Measures Act was invoked. The compensation should be not only for the loss of their property but also for the affront to their freedom. Apologies are necessary because such an affront to democracy must never be repeated in different circumstances. Freedom is fragile.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from .
October 1970 was a difficult time for all Quebeckers and 50 years later the memories of these events are still present. We have a duty to remember the innocent victims and their families. These people are always uppermost in our minds when we talk about the October crisis.
It is important to reflect on our history and to study and understand it. We must learn from our history so that it remains rooted in our memories and guides our future actions. Our children and grandchildren must learn from the past. They need to know that violence has never been and will never be an acceptable way to promote political ideas.
Now we are in the middle of a new crisis 50 years later. Although it is different by nature, every necessary effort is being made to combat it. This health crisis is the collective fight of our lives. Today it is COVID-19 that is on the minds of Quebeckers and Canadians who are going through tough times. That is why I want to present our plan to combat this unprecedented health crisis.
The disease continues to pose an unprecedented threat to the health and socio-economic well-being of Canadians and the global community. What are we going to learn from the crisis that we are experiencing today? Canada has a plan to manage this public health crisis.
Over the past few months, Canada has been working very hard to develop its capacity and expertise to manage the resurgence of COVID-19. This plan includes important measures in all areas. The government is working to limit the spread of COVID-19. That is why we must expect our traditional gatherings to be a little different this year. However, I am confident that Quebeckers and Canadians will continue to do their part.
They will need to keep complying fully and consistently with the measures proven to effectively control the spread of COVID-19. The government is aware that Canadians are all tired of following certain public health measures, which have had an immense impact on each one of us. I know that this has been difficult for all of us. It is ruining our year and special moments. Nevertheless, it is clear that individuals play a critical role in controlling the pandemic, and that is why we must all keep doing what we can to protect ourselves and others.
Canada has adopted an evidence-based approach to dealing with the repercussions of COVID-19, an approach backed up by our current understanding of the virus and by scenario planning. Canada's strategy recognizes that our guidelines and our response to COVID-19 will evolve as the evidence evolves. Our approach emphasizes the crucial role that public health and communications will continue to play.
Overall, the Government of Canada's efforts focus on three key objectives. First, we are determined to keep preventing and controlling the pandemic. Second, we are figuring out how to manage COVID-19 effectively with the participation of all levels of government, especially when case counts are rising. Last, we are supporting the development of vaccines and treatments to ensure Canada's long-term recovery.
To achieve these objectives, we have identified 10 crucial areas where the government is taking concrete measures to keep Canadians healthy and help them learn to live with COVID-19.
First is monitoring and data. We are committed to collecting, analyzing, interpreting and sharing information. These measures are essential to making evidence-based decisions that will improve Canadians' health. Our monitoring activities include monitoring cases and outbreaks, early warning systems and lab testing, among other things.
For example, we have strengthened our national approach to data collection and monitoring to continue to monitor COVID-19 across the country.
Secondly, there are the borders. We act before travellers arrive at the border, when they arrive and when they leave. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have used border control measures and traveller health services programs to mitigate the risk of importing and spreading COVID-19. This includes enhanced screening measures at Canadian airports and implementation of travel restrictions and quarantine requirements. As a result of our efforts, we have been able to minimize public health risks and reduce the burden on the Canadian health care system.
Thirdly, there are public health measures. The Canadian government continues to work with the provinces and territories on public health measures and communications. We have introduced public health guidelines on how to protect the health and safety of Canadians and reduce the spread of COVID-19. We can see the results of these efforts every day. Basic public health measures are now part of everyday life and conversations. Governments and health professionals at all levels continue to emphasize the need for physical distancing, handwashing, staying at home when sick, and wearing a face—
I must point out that I was only 11 years old when this crisis took place, so I was pretty young. It was a very difficult time for Quebeckers, for Canadians, and for me and my family. We would talk about it, and it was really hard to see the army patrolling the streets of one of the country's provinces.
I want to remind everyone that I am Acadian with ancestors in Quebec. I want to emphasize that because I often say that a third of Quebeckers are of Acadian origin. We must not forget that, and if we look around the House, my colleagues will recognize that.
Getting back to my family, a monument was erected in 1967 in the city of Lévis, across from Quebec City, to the Samson family, my ancestors, to mark Canada's 100th anniversary. Anyone can go and see it if they do not believe me. The monument is located at the corner of Saint-Louis and Belleville streets in Lévis. I have been to see it many times, as have many of my friends from Quebec City. One could easily imagine that the Samsons must have made quite a contribution for such a monument to be erected.
Like many of my colleagues, I studied the Front de libération du Québec, or FLQ, in my history classes. It was a very difficult time. Many will recall that between 200 and 900 bombs were planted between 1963 and 1970, during the seven-year crisis. Today we are talking about the events of October 1970, but those seven years of crisis were really difficult and troubling, with many injuries and murders.
However, I believe that it is essential that we now focus on the facts. According to the information we had at the time, which I will rely on in my speech, there was indeed a crisis, and the Province of Quebec declared a state of emergency. Quebec police made it clear that they needed help, and the chief of the Montreal police even wrote to the mayor, Jean Drapeau, saying:
An extremely dangerous subversive movement has progressively developed in Quebec in recent years with the objective of overthrowing the legitimate state by means of sedition and eventually armed insurrection.
It could not be any clearer. There was a crisis, there was an emergency, and Quebec was in dire need of the federal government's help.
Now I want to draw your attention to a second letter, this one sent by Mayor Drapeau and the Premier of Quebec, Mr. Bourassa, in which we find the words “apprehended insurrection”. These words appear clearly in the letter, which asked the federal government to intervene.
Why did they request federal intervention? It was because the province of Quebec was in crisis. The health and safety of Quebeckers were at stake, and the people needed help from the federal government. Naturally, the federal government came to their rescue.
Cabinet invoked the War Measures Act during the night of October 15, 1970, following a request, as I said, from the Province of Quebec, the Premier of Quebec and the mayor of Montreal, Mr. Drapeau.
It is also important to point out the actions of the police and the army, which no one has spoken about today. The police and army provided by the federal government reported to Quebec's justice minister. We provided the tools available in our arsenal to support a province that made a request during a key crisis. They were responsible for what happened on the ground, not the federal government.