Was Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau justified in invoking the War Measures Act, during the October Crisis in 1970?
Decisions only take split seconds, but their results can be huge. Everyone makes many decisions throughout each day; almost 230 on food alone. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau had a decision to make on October 16, 1970, not about food, but about the people of Canada and their safety. He decided to invoke the War Measures Act; which gave total power to the government to arrest and detain anyone without a warrant. The FLQ detonated 95 bombs over a 7 year span, and eventually after the kidnapping of British Trade Commissioner, James Cross, from his home, Trudeau had enough. Pierre Trudeau’s invocation of the War Measures Act was a necessary action to prevent any further damage to Canada and Quebec, and helped Canada define its internal and international independence.
Before the October Crisis, Canada had not faced a growing terrorist organization, so they were unprepared when the kidnappings occurred. The Canadian federal or Quebec provincial government had to act fast. The quickest and most effective way of terminating this terrorist organization (FLQ), was invoking the War Measures Act. Almost immediately action was taken, and peace was restored within days. “The War Measures Act Regulations on October 16, 1970 was the immediate cause of the end of the violence.” (Tetley, 2006) The War Measures act had ended FLQ-terrorism. The other major problem was that the citizens were in a state of terror. This was due largely in part to the reckless attacks on civilians by the FLQ, such as the mailbox bombs. The only way to reassure the citizens that Canada was a safe place was to make a direct attack on the terrorism, and it showed the Canadian citizens that the government would do anything in its power to protect them. “Go on and bleed.” (CBC, 1970) These words from Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau during an interview showed the public how relentless he was willing to be to protect Canada and its citizens, and stop terrorism. The citizens of Canada were also scared because innocent people were being arrested.
The Canada Act By 1980 the constitution was no longer as well suited for the country of Canada. Changes were needed to be made in the constitution which had not been touched over the last 113 years. The Prime Minister wanted to secure a bill of rights in the constitution but also wanted to patriate the BNA Act. This meant to bring the act from British hands into Canadian control. In 1931 an ...
Although this was true, the fastest way to stop the terrorism was to arrest anyone that was believed to be in the FLQ, and it worked flawlessly; the guilty FLQ members were arrested, and the innocent civilians were released days later. On February 3, 1971, John Turner, Minister of Justice of Canada, reported that 497 people had been arrested under the War Measures Act, in which 435 had been released. The other 62 were charged; 32 were accused of crimes so severe that a Quebec Superior Court judge refused them bail. This tactic was much better than arresting far fewer certain members of the FLQ, but have many other members not in custody. The government proved that they had at least one way to stop future terrorism, and without the help of foreign powers. The invocation of the War Measures Act had stopped FLQ-terrorism, the citizen’s fearfulness of the FLQ-terrorism, and potential future terrorist threats. It furthermore contributed to the independence of Canada, Quebec, and language independence.
Increasingly in the years since World War II, Canada was becoming more overtly independent from Britain and its resolution of the October Crisis was another step towards proving Canada was able to run as an independent nation. When the October Crisis occurred, the Canadian government didn’t ask for assistance from any foreign power, including Britain. This showed the world that they were able to solve problems by themselves, like any other independent nation could. Not only did Canada show its independence from Britain, but Quebec learned its independent limits from Canada. Many believed that the Quebec provincial police were able to resolve the situation; but they weren’t able to. The Quebec provincial government had to resort to requesting federal military assistance. “October 15, 1970; The Quebec government invited the Army into Quebec to help local police.” (Monroe, 2011) The military assistance didn’t have any more rights than the police officers; they were requested because there wasn’t a large enough police force to preserve the peace. “It is understood that the soldiers will have the same rights as police officers; however, it is specified that in the case of riots, the soldiers will not be able to open fire without an appointed police officer giving them the order.” (Tetley, 2006) The War Measures Act not only assisted the police in size, but helped avoid conflict between the police and the FLQ, which would have cause more violence than necessary.
From the readings in Lesson 3, we discussed Congress's quandry regarding the employment of combat forces abroad. During the Vietnam Conflict, President Nixon employed hundreds of thousands of combat forces into Southeast Asia without approval of Congress. Eventually, Congress felt compelled to pass the War Powers Resolution of 1973 (over his veto). As such, the president can still employ troops ...
“The War Measures Act prevented demonstrations and marches in favour of the FLQ, thus avoiding confrontations with police.” (Tetley, 2006) This was a lesson to Quebec, showing them they wouldn’t be able to survive internal threats as a separate nation from Canada. The federal government had the power to stop FLQ-terrorism with the War Measures Act, and the Quebec government recognized that they required the assistance. The goal of the FLQ was to separate Quebec from Canada, and after the failure of October Crisis due to the War Measures Act, it influenced the separatists to try diplomatic channels to achieve sovereignty for Quebec. The first step René Lévesque (founder of the Parti Québécois) took was to achieve language independence. This was done by introducing Bill 22. The introduction of Bill 22 entirely changed Canada’s reputation of being bilingual. The invocation of the War Measures Act blatantly showed Canada’s independence from Britain, Quebec’s independent limits within Canada, and Quebec’s language independence of French. Additionally, the War Measures Act helped sustain various reputations of Canada.
Canada’s has many reputations throughout the world. Safe, unified, these are just a few. The FLQ-terrorism was unknowingly rescinding these reputations. The FLQ were relentless in harming civilians; there were countless bombs detonated to injure or kill civilians, many of them mail-box bombs. “In retrospect, it seems impossible, but one bomb was planted somewhere in Quebec every 10 days.” (Gray, 2000) The largest bomb that was detonated was at the Montreal Stock Exchange on February 13, 1969; which injured 27 civilians. These unyielding attempts to hurt Canadian civilians affected the way other countries regarded Canada as safe and secure. The invocation of the War Measures Act caused all the violence to ended, and other countries regarded Canada as safe once again. The main goal of the FLQ, was to separate Quebec from Canada. If this occurred, then Canada wouldn’t be seen as a unified nation again. The War Measures Act had stopped the FLQ, which prevented an attempt to separate Quebec from Canada. Canada’s reputation of being unified had been sustained.
Many Upper Canadian settlers were neutral at the beginning of the war, but as increasing numbers of their compatriots were killed in battle, forced from their homes, or had farms pillaged by American forces, local support for the British defenders increased. Considering the foreign origins of most Upper Canadians in 1812, it is not surprising that there were some traitors in the crowd. For ...
Some consider that Trudeau inappropriately used the War Measures Act. It was to be invoked in case of the “existence of real or apprehended war, invasion or insurrection deem necessary or advisable for the security, defence, peace. order and welfare of Canada” (Canada, Ministry of Defence), in which there was insurrection in Quebec that was disturbing the peace. Trudeau’s actions correspondingly caused the separatists to use domestic approaches to encourage separatism, one of which was the founding of Parti Quebecois. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau was justified in invoking the War Measures Act; as it was the quickest and most effective method to stop the FLQ-terrorism, and reverse its effects.
CBC. (1970, October 13).
CBC. Retrieved April 30, 2011, from CBC: http://archives.cbc.ca/war_conflict/civil_unrest/clips/610/
Gray, J. (2000, September 30).
The Globe and Mail. Retrieved May 1, 2011, from The Globe and Mail: http://classic-web.archive.org/web/20080118071232/http://www.theglobeandmail.com/series/trudeau/jgray2_sep30.html
Monroe, S. (2011).
The New York Times. Retrieved April 30, 2011, from About.com: http://canadaonline.about.com/cs/octobercrisis/a/octobercrisistl.htm
Tetley, W. (2006).
The October Crisis, 1970: an insider’s view. McGill-Queen’s University Press.
Canada, Ministry of Defence. War Measures Act. Ottawa: Ministry of Defence Canada, 1970
The invention of the atomic bomb certainly brought extreme fear into Canadians’ lives after revealing its astonishing power through the massive destructions done at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Although most people did not speak of this fear but it can be clearly seen throughout the cold war when the arms race between the two super powers at the time, the United States and the Soviet Union, split ...
[ 1 ]. further damage – referring to damage the terrorism caused, and damage to Canada’s reputation