October Crisis Essay

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Significance of the October Crisis

From the overthrowing of the Russian Tsar to the exile of the Nationalists, the world has been in a state where radical movements have been the main focus of citizens, even in democratic societies. The October Crisis was one of these extraordinary events that had occurred. It was a period of international and national revolutionary movements that used violent acts against constitutional measures. The 1970 October Crisis was a pivotal moment that had an undeniable and lasting impact on Canadians as it revealed the wisdom of Trudeau’s decision to enact the War Measures Act, demonstrated that the FLQ (a left-winged terrorist organization) was not a good representative of the French-Canadians, and it provided evidence that this event, focused on Quebec, is a “Canadian” issue. One propitious moment that made the October Crisis unforgettable was Trudeau’s wise decision to enable the War Measures Act which showed that Canada does not tolerate terrorism. The October Crisis was triggered by the abduction of government officials in Quebec, by FLQ members in October 1970. The War Measures Act (WMA) was a law that allowed the government to assume emergency powers in the event of “war, invasion or insurrection, real or apprehended” (Tetley, 2007). Since none of the requirements were present, it had given a stifling argument for all the negative responses that occurred. However, the counterpart of the decision was yet to be told. Canada had previously experienced many terrorist acts by the Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ). The group believed the rights and justice of the French-Canadians would only be recognized if Quebec formally separated politically from Canada. Generally, governments cede to the terrorists, exchanging hostages for “prisoners of words”. If a similar act had commenced in a democratic country, such as Canada, “giving in to the terrorist(s) would not be an option” (Tetley, 2001). If the Canadian government complied with the kidnappings, the kidnappers would realize that they had a potent weapon to defeat the democratic process. Not only that, but the government would have failed “to preserve the democratic system” (Tetley, 2007). A democratically elected government is trusted with the task of preserving the rights and freedoms of the society that elected it, which means it does not have permission to abandon its authority and responsibilities to terrorists. Prime Minister Trudeau decided to take drastic measures in ending this atrocity. When the FLQ supporters and political critics called his bluff, Trudeau acted upon his word and revealed his winning hand. The War Measures Act was later approved, which many considered to be the turning point of the crisis. This statute gave limited powers to the government in certain situations, allowing the citizens to realize that their rights were not stripped, and lessened the tension between the Franco- and Anglo-Canadians that prevented public retaliation (Tetley, 2007). The power allowed police squads to arrest and search without warrants, to interrogate detained suspects, and then it continued to build pressure on the FLQ. The Act continued its effect by temporarily ending the Quebec separation hype and gave neutral civilians protection from the armed forces, which strengthened Trudeau’s image as Canada’s saviour (Dann, 2010). While the overall decision for enabling the WMA was the debate of the past, the controversy of today has been the enlightening to the true “colours” of the FLQ. The October Crisis became a significant event because the whole country was later to become aware of how the FLQ was not a good representative for the Quebecois. “The people in the Front de Liberation du Quebec (FLQ) are neither Messiahs nor modern-day Robin Hoods. They are a group who have decided to do everything they can to assure that the Quebecois take their destiny in their own hands, once and for all” (Rioux, 1970), which is what residents of Quebec...
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