Tuesday, October 5, 2010

October 1970 ... plus 40

It was forty years ago today that the October Crisis started when James Cross, a British diplomat, was kidnapped and held for 59 days.    (Cross was interviewed today on CBC Radio One about the experience.)  A few days later Pierre Laporte, a Québec cabinet minister, was also kidnapped and later assassinated.   The brazen acts led to the first time ever imposition during peacetime of martial law in Canada.

While we may continue to debate the virtues of whether it was the right thing for Trudeau to do (Tommy Douglas famously said Trudeau was "using a sledgehammer to crack a peanut"), or what the real motivations for the unprecedented action, there remains no question that the FLQ were terrorists plain and simple and the full force of the law needed to be dealt upon the criminals.    That the kidnappers were allowed to live in Cuba and were eventually welcomed back by some quarters as "heroes" is still rather bizarre.

But it's also a reminder that dangerous elements live among us, and where we least expect them.    Any ethnic group, any religion, can sometimes resort to desperate measures and even cross the line.   To borrow a common phrase, we need to practise constant vigilance.

P.S.  Spare the technicalities that Trudeau only "invoked the War Measures Act" and since Parliament was still in session and it was the civilian courts and not the military courts martial administering justice it wasn't martial law.   If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it is a duck.   The troops were on the streets as a posse comitatus.    Therefore, it was martial law, period.

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