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October Crisis

The October Crisis began on October 5, 1970, with the kidnapping of British diplomat and trade commissioner James Cross by members of the radical Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ). In the same month, Premier Robert Bourassa’s government also faced a challenge by Quebec’s medical specialists, who threatened an illegal strike if the government did not give them the right to opt out of its medicare plan. The specialists started their strike on October 8, 1970, in spite of Cross’s kidnapping three days earlier, demonstrating their blindness to the government’s legal prerogatives and the menace of the FLQ.  The rule of law was upheld by legislating the specialists’ return to work on November 1, 1970 and the federal government’s proclamation of the War Measures Act, which banned the FLQ, suspended civil liberties and gave the police the authority to search without warrants and arrest and detain without charges, as well as providing military support for their operations. Both Bourassa and the federal government felt that the 1914 War Measures Act should be replaced by legislation that maintained the government’s ability to fight extremism while protecting the population’s civil liberties, and so the Public Order (Temporary Measures) Act was proclaimed in December 1970. When the latter act lapsed in April 1971, the radical groups had been constrained and the sovereigntists’ fight moved to the National Assembly.

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    Date Created: March 31, 2010 | Last Updated: April 21, 2010