Prior to theOctober crisis, Canada had never experienced a terrorist threat so extreme. Itwas this event that changed the way that the government handled nationalemergencies. The FLQ kidnapped James Cross on the 5th of October,1970 and sent a ransom note to police later that day.
In exchange for Cross’release, the FLQ demanded $500,000 in ransom, safe passage for its members to Cubaand the release of twenty-three of its members from custody. The Quebecgovernment agreed to all of these terms, except to the release of the prisoners.Angered, The FLQ retaliated by kidnapping the Pierre Laporte, the minister oflabour. The FLQ warned the Quebec premier that Laporte would be killed if all thedemands were not met. It was at this point that the Quebec government turned toOttawa for help.
The October crisis marked the first time that the War MeasuresAct (WMA) was implemented during peacetime. On the 15th of October,1970, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau sent the Canadian military to Quebec tohelp protect the public and stop the FLQ. Suddenly, there were policemen, soldiersand tanks alike roaming the streets of Quebec. They arrested 450 people thatthey suspected of being members of the FLQ however, only 62 were convicted. Thenext day, October 16th, 1970, Trudeau brought the war measures act intoeffect. This act gave the government more power by allowing law enforcement toconduct searches without warrants and make arrests without any clear reason. Thisdecision was monumental as well as very controversial as many French-Canadianssaid that the government had given up democratic ideals by turning the provinceinto a police state.
The October crisis also led to the creation of a new actand marked the last time that the WMA would be used. Trudeau called an end tothe WMA on April 30th, 1971, and on July 21st, 1988, theEmergencies act was passed to replace it. The government had learned an importantlesson from the October crisis and took that into account when making the newact. The Emergencies Act ensures that people will not lose their rights andfreedoms in the event of a national emergency.
The October crisis