Trudeau’s Overreaction to the October Crisis in Quebec

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Throughout history, the actions of governments have always been debated; however, occasionally there are certain events which spark much controversy, both at the time of the event and by historians today. One of these controversial acts was the invocation of the War Measures Act in 1970, an act which suspended the civil liberties of Canadian citizens. In October 1970, in what became known as the October Crisis, the Front de libération du Québec, (commonly known as the FLQ) which was a French Canadian organization advocating independence from Canada, kidnapped two politicians. This initiated a series of events, one of which was the invocation of the War Measures Act by Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau. Many historians argue that Trudeau was justified in invoking the War Measures Act because the October Crisis ended shortly after the Act was invoked. However, this argument is invalid as justification; primarily because the War Measures Act was an extreme overreaction by Trudeau, as the threat of the FLQ was largely small-scale, and the demise of the FLQ was impending with the rise of the Bloc Quebecois. Furthermore, the Act may have inspired Quebecers who favoured separatism, as they saw the government desperately employ the most extreme measure to stop the FLQ. Finally, the War Measures Act suspended the civil rights of citizens within a democracy, violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Front de libération du Québec was founded in 1963 during the “Quiet Revolution”, and for seven years, they carried out several minor bombings, with few FLQ members involved in each of the bombings, as they were relatively small scale. However, the Canadian government took little notice of these actions until Oct...

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...e to power in Quebec. This indicates that Quebecers supported non-violent methods in order to achieve independence for Quebec, rather than the violent methods of the FLQ, also indicating that the efforts of the FLQ would have been subdued by the Parti Quebecois. The death of Pierre Laporte was another unfortunate occurrence as a result of the War Measures Act which could have been avoided, yet some still believe his death is not related to the invocation of the War Measures Act. Justification is required for all actions which spark debate, and in events where the justification is provided under false pretences, someone must be held responsible. In this case it remains the Trudeau government. Trudeau may have had an admirable political career in which he made many wise decisions, however, the invocation of the War Measures Act in October 1970 was not one of them.

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