On This Day

pierre laporte, pierre laporte flq
Pierre Laporte pictured in 1970 with his wife and two children.

On This Day: Quebec Official Kidnapped by Separatist Group

October 10, 2011 05:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
On Oct. 10, 1970, Quebec Minister of Labor Pierre Laporte was kidnapped by the FLQ, a militant Quebec separatist group; he was killed seven days later.

The October Crisis

At 7 p.m. on Oct. 10, 1970, two masked men invaded the home of Quebec Minister of Labor and Immigration Pierre Laporte, who was home playing soccer with his nephew. The men, members of a militant separatist group called Le Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ), abducted the official at gunpoint.

Another cell of the group had abducted British diplomat James Cross five days earlier. The FLQ demanded a ransom of $500,000, the broadcast of a manifesto and the release of 23 FLQ members they called “political prisoners” in exchange for Cross’ release. The second kidnapping came within an hour of the Quebec government’s statement that it would not comply with the demands of the FLQ.

Although both the Canadian and Quebec governments had given due attention to the Cross kidnapping, it was the separatists’ seizure of Laporte that brought the “October Crisis” (as it came to be known) to the forefront.

Martial Law and Laporte’s Murder

The day after he was taken, Laporte sent a letter to Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa, begging for the government to comply with the FLQ’s terms. “Decide about my life or death,” he wrote. “I count on you and thank you.”

The two terrorist cells holding Laporte and Cross continued to demand the release of the 23 prisoners and safe conduct out of the country. Negotiators from the government and FLQ tried to come to terms on Oct. 13, but failed. Military activity throughout the province was increased, with many people and places being put under tight security.

When some members of the media complained about the added security, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau famously replied, “There are a lot of bleeding hearts around who just don’t like to see people with helmets and guns. All I can say is go and bleed … It is more important to keep law and order in society than to be worried about weak-kneed people.”

Three days later, Trudeau invoked Canada’s 1914 War Measures Act, which revoked civil liberties, formally outlawed the FLQ and gave authorities the power to arrest without warrants. More than 450 people were arrested, many of whom were later released without official charges or sentencing.

The FLQ cell killed Laporte on Oct. 17 and left his body in the trunk of a taxicab parked at the airport.

Two months later, authorities found the cell holding Cross and negotiated for his release. Many of Cross’ captors were given safe transport to Cuba. Laporte’s abductors were found several weeks later and were convicted for kidnapping and murder.

Key Players: The FLQ

Le Front de Libération du Québec formed in 1963 with the goal of promoting an independent, socialist Quebec. Their tactics were often violent; in its first year of existence, members placed bombs in three federal armories. The next year, a cell of the FLQ killed a business executive and stole $50,000 in a separate incident.

During the next few years, the organization advocated for workers’ rights by placing bombs at offending organizations. As the group grew, so did its firepower. In 1968, 27 people were injured at the Montreal Stock Exchange when an FLQ bomb exploded.

In 1969, the group split into two cells, each with about 12 members. After many of its members fled the country or were arrested, the FLQ ceased operations in 1971.

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