October Crisis

Term defining the days in the fall of 1970 that tested the resolve of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, other political leaders, and all Canadians in the face of a violent separatist challenge.

On October 5 of that year, members of the FLQ kidnapped James Cross, a British diplomat, from his house in Montreal. Five days later they snatched Pierre Laporte, Deputy Premier of Quebec, while he was playing football on his front lawn in Montreal with his nephew. Laporte was found dead in the back of a car within a few days. The city shook, the province shuddered, and the rest of Canada looked on with horror.

In Ottawa, Trudeau and his Cabinet debated how to respond to the expanding crisis. And the PM was clearly losing patience with Canadians concerned about seeing soldiers on the streets.

Trudeau pulled no punches in showing his impatience during an impromptu interview with CBC reporter Tim Ralfe on the steps Centre Block on October 13, 1970. When asked how far he would go in handling the volatilesituation, Trudeau uttered perhaps the most ominous words in Canadian political history – “Just watch me.” A few days later he invoked the War Measures Act, thus showing Canadians exactly what he meant.

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