HISTORICAL EVENTS THAT TOOK PLACE ON THIS DAY IN CANADA

19 October

Troops patrol downtown Montreal near Notre Dame Church, 

where funeral of slain Quebec cabinet member Pierre Laporte was held

War Measures Act Passed

Canadians were shocked on October 19, 1970, when the House of Commons passed the War Measures Act. They knew that the federal and Quebec governments had been struggling with the Front de Liberation du Quebec (F.L.Q.) since October 5, when British Trade Commissioner James Cross had been kidnapped and held for ransom.

Quebec Labour Minister, Pierre Laporte, was kidnapped next on October 10, and his body was discovered eight days later. He had been murdered by his abductors, a cell of the F.L.Q.

The nation was greatly concerned for the safety of Cross and was horrified by the murder of Laporte. Suddenly everyone realized that the Province of Quebec, and perhaps all of Canada, was threatened by a subversive movement. Prime Minister Trudeau, Opposition Leader Stanfield, and other leading members of the House of Commons appeared on television to explain why wartime measures were necessary. The situation was clarified later in the book The October Crisis, written by cabinet minister Gerard Pelletier (see story for April 6). In his words:

"History shows that major political upheavals are often brought by the action of a handful of resolute men who will stop at nothing and who reject the rules of legal protest. If they succeed and the majority of the people follow them, we have a change of regime which can only survive by preventing others from using the very methods that brought it into power. If they succeed without the support of the people, we have a dictatorship of the military type." 

The F.L.Q. had been working for eight years to separate the Province of Quebec from Canada. It had planted nearly one hundred bombs in the Montreal area, some of which caused death and injury. It had staged a number of hold-ups to get explosives, military weapons, and other equipment.

The purpose of the kidnapping of British diplomat Cross was to blackmail the governments for $500,000 (later waived) and to publish the F.L.Q. manifesto (which was broadcast by the C.B.C.).

The War Measures Act enabled the governments to send troops to Montreal to help the Quebec Provincial and Montreal City Police who were exhausted after two weeks of constant duty. Eventually, a deal was made whereby Cross was released unharmed and his kidnappers were allowed to go to Cuba. Those responsible for the murder of Laporte were caught and sent to trial.

OTHER NOTABLE EVENTS ON THIS DAY IN CANADIAN HISTORY

19 October

-1690    Phips' attack on Quebec was repulsed at Beauport.

-1787    The Mississauga Indians in Ontario were given a grant of land and 2,000. They owned the very valuable land between Toronto and Hamilton, and other areas.

-1864    Confederate soldiers in the American Civil War attacked St. Albans, Vermont, from Canada.

-1869    The Red River Metis organized themselves on hearing the news that Canada was taking over Hudson's Bay Company territory.

-1869    The last spike of the European and North American Railroad was driven at Vanceboro (near the Maine-New Brunswick border).