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War Measures Act

“The measure of a country’s greatness is its ability to retain compassion in times of crisis. ” (Marshall, 1970). Pierre Trudeau took a forceful stand against Quebec nationalists because he disliked the idea of separatism. On October 1970, the FLQ kidnapped British diplomat James Cross, for the release of FLQ members serving prison sentences. (Pearson Canada Inc. , 2016). Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa agreed to most of the demands but refused to release and FLQ prisoners. Quebec Labour Minister Pierre LaPorte was then kidnapped by the FLQ members.

Trudeau took drastic action and imposed the War Measures Act. The FLQ became an illegal act and separatist Quebecois were arrested and held without charge. After all the rights legislation that had been passed by the Liberals under Trudeau, many people were shocked by this hardline approach. Pierre Trudeau’s decision to pass the War Measures Act and call in the army affected Canadians. The effects of the October Crisis was the way Pierre Trudeau handled the situation, what consisted of the War Measures Act and the effects on Canadians at the time it was enforced up till today.

The October Crisis was a significant time for Pierre Trudeau and even for us as Canadians. Firstly, Pierre Trudeau is a big part of the October Crisis and he played many roles in the ending of the crime making of the Front de Liberation du Quebec (FLQ). The crisis had escalated and became the most serious terrorist attack on Canadian soil with kidnappings and killing. The Quebec government said it was open to negotiate with the FLQ and even allowed their manifesto to be read on Radio-Canada.

Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau was questioned by a CBC reporter, Tim Ralfe concerning the armed soldiers on Parliament Hill, Trudeau responded with a now-famous diatribe: “Well, there are a lot of bleeding hearts around who just don’t like to see people with helmets and guns. All I can say is, go on and bleed. But it’s more important to keep law and order in this society than to be worried about weak-kneed people who don’t like the looks of… ” Ralfe interrupted: “At any cost? How far would you go with that?

How far would you extend that? ” Trudeau replied with a sentence that became a catchphrase of North American politics: “Well, just watch me. ” (Smith, 2013). As the country watched, events continued to unfold in Quebec and all signs indicated that the FLQ was a powerful force in Quebec urging to invoke the War Measures Act. (CBC, 2001) The FLQ certain followed through by using any means necessary, including violence, and carried out almost 200 crimes, including robberies and bombings, from the start to its very last days (Smith, 2013).

On the 15th of October the Quebec government formally requested assistance from the Canadian Armed Forces to supplement the local police. On October 16th, Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act, which suspended basic civil rights and liberties. It allowed police searches and arrests without warrants, and prolonged detentions without charges and without the right to see a lawyer. It was the first time in Canadian history the Act was used during peacetime (Frayne, 2014).

Controversy over the appropriateness of these emergency measures and their effect on liberal democracy in Canada and Quebec has shown Pierre Trudeau’s invoke on the War Measures Act, was extraordinary with powers of arrest, detention and censorship (Whitaker, 2013). As Pierre Trudeau was a big help in stopping the crisis, the thing that helped him to stop it was the War Measures Act which consisted of many conclusions to the crisis. Secondly, the use of the War Measures Act argued that Trudeau’s response to the October Crisis was excessive and maybe even dangerous but it indeed ended the problem.

The War Measures act granted police the power to arrest and detain individuals without warrants constituted of a serious violation of Quebec’s civil liberties. On October 16th, a state of “apprehended insurrection” was declared to exist in Quebec. Emergency regulations were proclaimed in response to two kidnappings by the FLQ. They kidnapped British trade commissioner James Cross, and kidnapped and murdered Quebec Labour Minister Pierre Laporte. As authorities grappled with the crisis, more than 450 people were detained under the powers of the Act; most were later released without the laying or hearing of charges (Smith, 2013).

Pierre Trudeau wanted to refine and limit the applications of the Act in crises, but by the time of defeat, the Act had not been modified. (Smith, 2013). Prime Minister Trudeau was acting within his power as head of the Canadian government and at the specific request of the Premier of Quebec, Robert Bourassa. Polls conducted at the time indicated that the overwhelming majority of both English and French-speaking Canadians and Quebecers supported the use of the War Measures Act in protection of the public. (Faulkner, 2013).

To many supporters of Quebecois nationalism, the abduction of a foreign diplomat and the murder of a government minister represented a dangerous escalation in the activities of violent separatist groups and the focus began to shift back toward political means of achieving independence for Quebec. (Faulkner, 2013). The imposition of the War Measures act Regulations was necessary and stopped the mounting confrontation just in time. Unfortunately, the government and police of Canada, Quebec, and Montreal were completely unprepared for the crisis and the form it took.

Similarly, many persons who opposed the actions taken by the government were unprepared and acted badly. (Tetley, 2007, p. 101). The War Measures Act took on a lot from the crisis and it affected Canadians at that time and it still has some meaning today. Lastly, the October Crisis benefitted and affected Canadians in many different ways and is still known today as a big era of Canadian times. At the time it has affected Canadians in Quebec and especially for the prime minister Pierre Trudeau.

First of all Quebec did not become its own independent country, and the left wing parties lost a lot of support (Katlin, 2012). This Crisis was one of Canada’s first real terrorist acts, it was also the first domestic use of the War Measures Act, which lead to the improved of the entire act. The government learnt more on how to prevent the same events from happening in the future because of the attack. Since the FLQ was a political-left wing party, the events of the Crisis caused many Canadians to lose support for the FLQ after the kidnappings and various attacks (Katlin, 2012).

In addition, this was also one of Pierre Trudeau’s well known accomplishments and he gained support from many Canadians for the way he handled the entire October Crisis. Trudeau also initiated the War Measures Act during the Crisis to help end it, which led to the creation of the Emergencies Act, which was a more limited and refined version of the War Measures Act (Katlin, 2012). The October Crisis benefitted Canada greatly. Much has changed since, and these events are seen as unfortunate aspects of history.

We are in a new age, where we can find information more quickly and use the technology of surveillance to find evidence of crimes occurring. This is still a well known topic in Canadian history as it affects many of us and how we’ve seen it evolve in society today. The October Crisis was the first terrorist attack in Canadian history and has been a big part of Pierre Trudeau’s career. His decision to pass the War Measures Act and call in the army was affected by Canadians. Pierre Trudeau handled the crisis by bring in the War Measures Act to end the crimes of the FLQ.

The War Measures Act consisted of arresting the criminals of the FLQ and putting the country back at peace again. Canadians had the effect of experiencing their first terrorist attack but with a major help from Trudeau all went well. A lot has changed since 1970 and today, we have a lot of technology in investigating crimes and accomplishing peace to live in a stable country like Canada. “The world will not evolve past its current state of crisis by using the same thinking that created the situation” (Einstein)

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