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1970: Pierre Trudeau says 'Just watch me' during October Crisis

In October 1970, tanks roamed city streets and soldiers in full battle gear raided homes in their hunt for "terrorists." They were looking for the Front de libération du Québec; French Canadian nationalists who abducted a British diplomat and a Quebec minister. Some felt like they were living in a police state. How far would Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau go? "Just watch me," he said. Three days later he invoked the War Measures Act and a nation waited with civil liberties suspended.

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Canada looks more like a police state than a democracy eight days after the kidnapping of British Trade Commissioner James Cross. On Parliament Hill a reporter confronts Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau: "What is it with all these men and guns around here?" By calling in army tanks and men in full gear, Trudeau boosted national security. But the military's presence makes some Canadians feel a whole lot less secure. How far will the prime minister extend law and order? Just watch him.

Though most people are familiar only with its punchline, CBC reporter Tim Ralfe's interview with the prime minister lasts seven and a half minutes. In this clip, Trudeau utters his most famous phrase about six minutes in.

• Three days later Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act, giving police the right to arrest and detain people on suspicion alone.

• The act, created in 1914 for cases of war or national emergency, was repealed in 1985.

• Trudeau also outlawed the Front de libération du Québec and told police to arrest those with "extreme-left" literature, posters, stickers or pamphlets.

• Eighty-five per cent of Canadians agreed with invoking the act.

• Cabinet documents later revealed that Trudeau originally didn't want to invoke the War Measures Act. Then-Indian Affairs minister Jean Chrétien advised him to "act now, explain later."

• Trudeau changed his mind when he discovered the FLQ had two tons of dynamite to blow up Montreal buildings.

Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television News
Broadcast Date: Oct. 13, 1970
Guest: Pierre Elliott Trudeau
Reporter: Tim Ralfe
Duration: 7:33

Last updated: October 22, 2014

Page consulted on October 22, 2014

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