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Front de Libération du Québec

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The Front de liberation du Quebec (FLQ) was a terrorist group founded in the 1960s and based primarily in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The FLQ was virtually an unknown group of young French Canadians, whose occasional declarations called for a Marxist/anarchist insurrection, the overthrow of the Quebec Government, the separation of Quebec from Canada and the establishment of a workers' society.

In 1963, they were organized and trained in terrorism by Georges Schoeters[?], an itinerant Belgian revolutionary, whose hero was Che Guevara. On October 7, 1963 Schoeters was given 2 five-year prison terms for terrorist activities. At least two of the FLQ members had also received guerrilla training in selective assassination from Palestinian commandos in Jordan.

Various terorist cells emerged over time: The Viger Cell, the Dieppe Cell, the Louis Riel Cell (see:Louis Riel), the Nelson Cell, The Saint-Denis Cell, the Liberation Cell and the Chenier Cell. Of these, the culmination of terroristism of the latter two cells erupted into what became known as the "October Crisis."

From 1963 to 1970, the FLQ committed over 200 violent crimes, including bombings, bank hold-ups and at least three violent deaths by FLQ bombs and two murders by gunfire. By 1970, twenty-three members of the FLQ were in jail, including four convicted murderers, and one member had been killed by his own bomb. Targets included English owned businesses, banks, McGill University, and the homes of prominent English speakers in the wealthy Westmount area of the city.

As a Marxist group, the FLQ was also greatly opposed to the United States and one cell plotted to blow up the Statue of Liberty, but they were apprehended before this could occur.

In 1966 a secret eight-page document entitled Revolutionary Srategy and the Role of the Avant-Garde was prepared by the FLQ outlining its long term strategy of successive waves of robberies, violence, bombings and kidnappings, culminating in insurrection and revolution. Buoyed by the support for Quebec independence from Canada by President Charles de Gaulle of France, (see article) the planning for a revolution escalated and new members were recruited.

On October 5, 1970, members of the FLQ's Liberation cell kidnapped James Richard Cross, the British Trade Commissioner. Shortly afterwards, on October 10, the Chénier cell kidnapped the Quebec Vice-Premier and Minister of Labour, Pierre Laporte, whom they later murdered on October 17, 1970.

The Liberation cell members:

The Chenier Cell members:

After James Cross was kidnapped from his home in Montreal by members of the Liberation cell, the FLQ released a list of demands for Cross' release, which included:

  • the release of 23 "political prisoners"
  • $500,000 in gold
  • the broadcast and publication of the FLQ manifesto
  • the publication of the names of the police informants for terrorist activities
  • an aircraft to take the kidnappers to Cuba or Algeria
  • the cessation of all police search activites

Early in December 1970, police discovered the location of the kidnappers holding James Cross. His release was negotiated and on December 3, 1970, five of the terrorists are granted their request for safe passage to Cuba by the Government of Canada after approval by Fidel Castro.

In July 1980, police arrested and charged a sixth person in connection with the Cross kidnapping. Nigel Barry Hamer, a British radical socialist and FLQ sympathizer, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 months in jail.

Although the five terrorists who wanted to go to Cuba were exiled from Canada for life, they were later found to be living in Paris, France. Over the years, despite being exiled for life, all of the FLQ members wanted to come back to Canada. The Federal Government consented. On their return:

  • The Cossette-Trudels pleaded guilty at trial and were sentenced to two years in jail for their part in the kidnapping. They were freed on parole after serving eight months.
  • Marc Carbonneau was sentenced to 20 months of jail and three years probation for kidnapping, forcible confinement, conspiracy and extortion.
  • Yves Langlois was sentenced to two years in prison less one day for his part in the kidnapping. He served 10 months.

Four weeks after the kidnappers of James Cross were found, Paul Rose and the kidnappers of Pierre Laporte were located in the corner of a country farmhouse basement. They were tried and convicted for kidnapping and murder.

The kidnappings and murder prompted Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to declare martial law under the War Measures Act -- which had only been used twice before in Canada's history, both in times of war. The October Crisis as it is referred to, was the first terrorist crisis in modern Canadian history. Pierre Laporte's killing was only the second political assassination in Canadian history since Thomas D'Arcy McGee was murdered in 1868.

The FLQ failed to achieve Quebec separatism, and actually had a counter-productive effect, greatly decreasing public sympathy for the separatist movement in Quebec. Only after the FLQ ended its violent campaign did support for Quebec's separation from Canada increase.

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