The FLQ and the Quebec October Crisis
Since 1963, it had conducted a scattershot campaign of bombings and robberies. Its targets included the federal government, English-speakers, Anglo business owners and the Catholic church -- all partners in the oppression of French-Canadians, in the FLQ's view.
The organization's goals included socialism, freedom from Anglo tyranny for French speakers, self-rule for the Quebecois, increased economic opportunity for French-Canadian strivers, and amnesty for the 23 FLQ members imprisoned for past terrorist acts.
The kidnappers demanded a ransom of $500,000 in gold, safe passage to Algeria or Cuba, publication of names of police informants, and broadcast and publication of an FLQ manifesto detailing the group's gripes.
The manifesto was read over CBC radio and television on Oct. 8, three days after the Cross abduction. The rambling, repetitive tract was a call to arms for French-Canadian laborers. It implored working-class French speakers to rise up against their Anglo-Saxon oppressors. It singled out specific industries, occupations and even companies where French-speakers were put upon -- fishermen, miners, teachers, loggers, teachers, students, dairymen, shipbuilders, taxi drivers, textile workers, shoemakers, union laborers, hotel workers and the unemployed.
The FLQ wrote:
We have had enough of promises of work and of prosperity, when in fact we will always be the diligent servants and bootlickers of the big shots...We will be slaves until Quebeckers, all of us, have used every means, including dynamite and guns, to drive out these big bosses of the economy and of politics, who will stoop to any action, however base, the better to screw us. We live in a society of terrorized slaves, terrorized by the big bosses...In the four corners of Quebec, may those who have been disdainfully called lousy Frenchmen and alcoholics begin a vigorous battle against those who have muzzled liberty and justice....We are Quebec workers and we are prepared to go all the way. With the help of the entire population, we want to replace this society of slaves by a free society, operating by itself and for itself, a society open on the world. Our struggle can only be victorious. A people that has awakened cannot long be kept in misery and contempt.
The manifesto left many Canadians, English- and French-speaking alike, scratching their heads.
Were the terroristes seriously implying that the French-Canadian "cause" was akin to the struggle for civil rights by American blacks, whose ancestors were shipped to the continent as slaves?
As one writer put it in Maclean's magazine, "Only the blind or the deluded could swallow the FLQ's grotesque caricature of Quebeckers as the oppressed and downtrodden of the earth."
In fact, the manifesto was a mere taste of the criminal absurdities of the Front de libération du Québec, Canada's Blanc Panthers.
The October Crisis played out amid a government declaration of martial law. In due time, all of the key terroristes stood before Canadian judges. But whether they got their comeuppance -- and whether justice was served -- are debatable questions 35 years later.