1969: Company of Young Canadians accused of terrorism
The accusations levelled against the CYC were made by Lucien Saulnier, the chairman of Montreal's Executive Committee, and were supported by Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau and the chief of police. Saulnier appealed to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to withhold the group's multi-million dollar budget and establish a Royal Commission to investigate his claims. Though Trudeau failed to launch a federal inquiry, the scathing allegations were the first in an escalating series of events that would lead to the termination of the young agency.
• Staffed by young volunteers and funded with 1.2 million in federal dollars, the arm's length agency was intended to help disadvantaged members of society improve their lives.
• But along the way it came under fire from politicians and editorial writers, one of whom in 1969 called the group "nothing more nor less than beatnicks, out to tear down Canada and its way of life."
• During its first year the CYC helped establish more than two dozen community-based projects across the country. Many of these were established to help educate people about the political process, while others advocated for guaranteed monthly incomes.
• In March 1967, journalist Michael Valpy (then the CYC's Communications Director) described the group's mission to The Ubyssey: "The Company is an experiment, a recognition by government of the growing dissatisfaction among young people and of youth's demands for social change and the right to participate now in the course of Canada's future.
• According to Lucien Saulnier, the CYC Montreal chapter had been infiltrated by "convicted terrorists and communist agitators".
• Saulnier detailed his allegations in a seven-page press release, which included claims that: the CYC had members who had been convicted of terrorist activities with the FLQ; that firearms were found at a CYC office and; that Communist propaganda and instructions on how to make Molotov cocktails, were discovered in the organization's offices.
• The city said the incriminating evidence was gathered during a year-long investigation.
• The allegations came four days after Montreal's infamous, and deadly, "Night of Terror." The trouble began when the city's police force and firefighters went on strike on Oct. 7. Over the next 16 hours bank robberies were rampant, retails stores were looted and a Quebec provincial policeman was shot and killed.
• To learn more about this event, go to our clip "Montreal's night of terror".
• While Saulnier did not directly blame the CYC for the Oct. 7 riots, the link was made by many in the media. Ian Hamilton, a CYC member from Ontario, denied the claims and said Saulnier was simply trying to find a scapegoat for their recent troubles.
• The CYC council asked the City of Montreal to review the incriminating documents but Saulnier refused. He said he would only release the evidence to the members of a Royal Commission.
• While Prime Minister Trudeau refused to establish a commission to look into the CYC, he did ask the RCMP and local police to investigate the agency's activities in Montreal.
• Gerard Pelletier, Trudeau's Secretary of State, said the government was concerned about "the shady activities of some [CYC] volunteers."
• The investigation turned up evidence that some of the 95 CYC members in Quebec were associated with left-wing activist groups, including the FLQ and the newly formed political party the Parti Québécois.
• But it dismissed claims that the group was planning violent revolutionary activities.
• In Nov. 1969, a House of Commons committee was set up to evaluate the CYC's organizational structure. In December, the group was reorganized and placed under supervision of a special house committee.
• It continued to operate until 1976, when it was dismantled as part of cost-cutting measures.
• The CYC's ranks included many prominent Canadians, including Maurice Strong, former foreign affairs minister Lloyd Axworthy, Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe, First Nations leaders Phil Fontaine and Georges Erasmus and former Toronto mayor Barbara Hall.
• Due to a technical glitch, this live broadcast was cut short when it originally aired. This clip was edited as a result.
Broadcast Date: Oct. 11, 1969
Guest(s): Ian Hamilton, Lucien Saulnier
Host: Lloyd Robertson
Interviewer: Doug Collins
Reporter: George Fraker
Last updated: June 11, 2012
Page consulted on March 20, 2013
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