War Measures Act & Trudeau

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"Just watch me", the phrase that shocked the whole of Canada. Every Canadians were surprised at Prime Minister Trudeau's unyielding action, the War Measures Act, during the October Crisis. Many people at the time criticized Trudeau saying he had gone too far, just over some minor FLQ terrorists in Quebec who infringed on Canada's freedom. The Quebecois, who saw FLQ as patriots, blamed the government for ignoring the FLQ's demands. Time has proved that Trudeau did just the right thing. The War Measures Act successfully stopped a potential threat to Canada. Unthinkable events happened in October 1970. The FLQ kidnapped 2 members of the government. First they kidnapped the British Trade Commissioner James Cross, then they kidnapped Quebec Minister of Labour Pierre Laporte one week later. (The Sun, October, 1970) This crime was far different from any other crime that the FLQ had ever done before. The FLQ were seen as patriot figures fighting for Quebec separatists. Although the FLQ had done several bombing in mailboxes and buildings, they had not done real harm to anyone. But this time they had done incredible damage to Canada's reputation on the international stage. They kidnapped a foreign Trade Commissioner and a member of the Quebec Cabinet, an outrage that shouldn't had happened. It was clear at the time that the Government wouldn't deal with the terrorists. Separatism was the key issue during the October Crisis. The FLQ was the most radical of all separatist movement. Ever since the Conquest (Origins, Pg. 210) the Quebecois had had the idea of its uniqueness compare to other British colonies. After the Quiet Revolution (Canada in a Changing World, Pg. 170) in the 60's more Quebecois became separatist. Although Trudeau's government had given some special status to Quebec, many Quebecois still believed the separation of Quebec from Canada was the only way to protect its culture. Under this kind of prospective, such a radical organization as the FLQ was able to do this outrageous kidnapping. The situation was tricky; the FLQ got two hostages and the government was not willing to deal with terrorists. Furthermore, the Quebecois separatist movement had risen to a new high and many separatists saw this as a chance to be independent. Suddenly the whole of Quebec was not safe anymore, especially after the second kidnapping of Pierre Laporte. Members of the government were threatened and there was a riot in the street of Montreal. The police had done everything they could to prevent bombings and exposed two other kidnapping plots, but they were out of their depth, and were on the verge of physical and mental exhaustion. (Trudeau: Memoirs, Pg. 138) At this critical time, the Premier of Quebec, Robert Bourassa urged Prime Minister Trudeau to think about invoking the War Measures Act. What is the War Measures Act? The War Measures Act gave the police exclusive right to arrest anyone who might be associated with the FLQ. (War Measures Act, Public Order Regulation, 1970) And its effect was not only felt in Quebec, but on the whole of Canada. The War Measures Act was the last line to stop terrorists. People would have limited freedom once it's invoked. That's why this decision didn't come easy. For Prime Minister Trudeau, it was one of the hardest decisions he ever faced! But if he delayed the act the consequence might be unthinkable. The Quebec Government would lose its control over time. Prime Minister Trudeau took the rightful decision at the time - invoking the War Measures Act. A reporter asked Prime Minister Trudeau after he announced the War Measures Act was in effect on October 16, 1970, to answer questions about the War Measures Act by saying "Just Watch Me." And he did just that. Although the decision was difficult to make, Trudeau had done the job once he realized this was the only way. The next day the police found Pierre Laporte's body in a car's trunk. The result of the War Measures Act was clear. After Pierre Laporte's body was found, the army arrested many members of the FLQ and ended the October Crisis by saving James Cross. In spite of the fact many innocent people were mistaken as FLQ members and were wrongfully arrested, the October Crisis was finally put into an end. But there were still some issues that weren't resolved with the arrest of FLQ members. Many radical Quebec separatists didn't die out with the FLQ and Quebecois still needed the government to recognize Quebec's uniqueness. Criticism of the War Measures Act was not all positive. Many criticized that War Measures Act had infringed on individual civil rights and had given too much power to state authority. Canadians feared that the government would have too much power and become a dictatorship under Prime Minister Trudeau. The need to protect people's rights had made people question the War Measures Act. However, the worry was unnecessary. During a situation like October Crisis when the provincial government was losing control, they called in Federal power. There had to be a call from the local Government, in this case Quebec, to ask Prime Minister Trudeau to invoke the Act. So the provincial government, who knows all about the problem, is actually calling the shots, not the Prime Minister. And legally it has to be sig

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