The October Crisis

A chronology of The October Crisis, from the kidnapping of James Cross on Oct. 5, 1970 to the arrests of FLQ members that Dec.

October 1970: the FLQ, the kidnappings and the response


Oct. 5, 8:20 a.m. ET: British trade commissioner James Richard Cross is kidnapped from his home by a cell of the Front de Libération du Québec. In exchange for his release, the FLQ's demands include:

  •  Broadcasting its manifesto.
  • Freeing 23 people it's identified as political prisoners.
  • A plane to take the kidnappers to Cuba or Algeria.
  • $500,000

Oct. 6: Mitchell Sharp, the federal minister for external affairs, rejects the FLQ's demands but proposes that negotiations go ahead.

Oct. 7: Quebec Justice Minister Jérôme Choquette says he's amenable to negotiating with the kidnappers. The FLQ extends the deadline for its demands until the following day at noon.

Oct. 8: TV anchor Gaétan Montreuil reads the FLQ's manifesto on Radio-Canada, CBC's French-language service.

Oct. 9: The FLQ's Liberation cell, which kidnapped Cross, postpones its threat to execute him. But the group still demands the release of political prisoners and an end to police operations against it. It sets a new deadline of the following day at 6 p.m.

Oct. 10, 5:40 p.m.: Twenty minutes before the deadline, Quebec Justice Minister Choquette announces the provincial and federal governments' reply to the FLQ's demands: a firm no, with one exception - Ottawa is willing to allow the kidnappers safe passage to leave the country.

Soldiers of the Royal 22nd Regiment from Quebec City stand guard on one of the many bridges in Montreal after the War Measures Act was invoked on Oct. 16, 1970. ((Canadian Press))

Pierre Laporte kidnapped

Oct. 10, 6:18 p.m.: Pierre Laporte, Quebec's labour minister and deputy premier, is kidnapped from outside his home in Saint-Lambert, on Montreal's South Shore, by the FLQ's Chénier cell.

Oct. 11: The FLQ announces it will execute Laporte at 10 p.m. if its demands aren't met. It releases two letters from the labour minister, one to his wife and one to Quebec Premier Robert Bourassa. At 9:45 p.m., Bourassa takes to the radio waves to say he's open to negotiations. He does not give in to any FLQ demands, however. The FLQ's Chénier cell then announces it is indefinitely postponing Laporte's execution.

Oct. 12: The provincial Liberal government appoints lawyer Robert Demers, a party official, to negotiate with FLQ lawyer Robert Lemieux, who was arrested the day before and held at Montreal police headquarters.

Oct. 13: Canadian Forces soldiers are deployed in Ottawa to protect federal government buildings. CBC journalist Tim Ralfe asks Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau how far he'll go in curtailing civil liberties; Trudeau responds with his now famous line, "Just watch me." That night, FLQ lawyer Lemieux announces that negotiations with the Quebec government have broken off. The government demands that the FLQ vow to release Cross and Laporte safe and sound.

Oct. 14: Negotiations restart between Lemieux and Demers, the government's representative. A dozen prominent Quebecers, including Parti Québécois Leader René Lévesque, union leaders Marcel Pépin, Louis Laberge and Yvon Charbonneau, and newspaper publisher Claude Ryan condemn militant violence but call on Quebec to negotiate with the FLQ.

Oct. 15: Quebec rejects most of the FLQ's demands, but offers to grant parole to five of the 23 prisoners on the group's list and to permit the kidnappers to leave the country. About 3,000 students demonstrate in support of the FLQ at a meeting of the Front d'Action Politique, a coalition of Montreal civic groups.

A carload of suspected separatists, shaking their fists, are brought into a police station on Oct. 16, 1970, as soldiers and police joined forces to strike swiftly in raids on the south and north sides of Montreal, making arrests in separatist areas under the extended provisions of the War Measures Act. ((Canadian Press))

Premier Bourassa requests the army be deployed to Quebec to "ensure the safety of the population and public buildings." In under an hour, 1,000 troops are on Montreal's streets. Bourassa and Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau ask for further intervention from Ottawa, a request that leads to the invocation of the War Measures Act.

War Measures Act invoked

Oct. 16: After holding two cabinet meetings - one in the morning and one in the afternoon - and debating possible methods of intervention, Prime Minister Trudeau declares that he is invoking the War Measures Act, which granted sweeping powers to jail people without a warrant, control their movements, outlaw organizations, search residences and censor publications. Civil liberties are suspended and the FLQ is declared an illegal group. About 250 people are rounded up and jailed.

Oct. 17: In a message that wasn't made public, the FLQ announces that British diplomat Cross's execution has been indefinitely suspended and that he will be henceforth considered a political prisoner.

Oct. 17, 10:50 p.m., Labour Minister Laporte's body is found in the trunk of a car near the air force base in Saint-Hubert, on Montreal's South Shore.

Oct. 18: Journalists for Montreal radio station CKLM find a letter from Cross saying he's still alive. Arrest warrants are issued against FLQ members Marc Carbonneau and Paul Rose, who are wanted in connection with the kidnappings and Laporte's death.

Two armed soldiers, one with fixed bayonet, patrol a street in north-end Montreal on Thursday, Dec. 3, 1970, where British trade commissioner James Cross was reportedly being held. Cross was kidnapped on Oct. 5, 1970. ((Canadian Press))

Oct. 19: Arrest warrants are issued for three more FLQ members, all of them from the Chénier cell, which kidnapped Laporte. Jacques Rose, Bernard Lortie and Francis Simard are all wanted on accusations of kidnapping and murder.

Pierre Laporte's funeral

Oct. 20: Laporte's funeral takes place at Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal.

 Oct. 21: Quebec's biggest labour federations jointly denounce the imposition of the War Measures Act.

Oct. 25: In Montreal's municipal elections, Mayor Drapeau is returned to city hall with 92 per cent of the vote. His party sweeps all 52 council seats.

Nov. 3: George McIlraith, the federal solicitor general, admits that police had been following Paul Rose, now the top suspect in Laporte's death, ever since the kidnapping but lost track of him.

Nov. 6: One of Laporte's kidnappers, Bernard Lortie, is found in an apartment in Montreal's Côte des Neiges neighbourhood.

Dec. 2: Police arrest Jacques Cossette-Trudel and wife Louise Lanctôt, both members of the FLQ's Liberation cell, which kidnapped Cross.

James Cross freed

James Cross, senior British trade commissioner, gestures after his release from the hands of the FLQ on Dec. 3, 1970. Cross was kidnapped and held by the FLQ for 60 days. ((Canadian Press))

Dec. 3: James Cross is freed after 59 days of captivity. In exchange, seven people, including Cossette-Trudel and Lanctôt, are permitted safe passage to Cuba.

Dec. 23: Prime Minister Trudeau announces that Canadian Forces soldiers will be withdrawn from Quebec on Jan. 4, while the War Measures Act will stay in force until April 30.

Dec. 28: FLQ members Paul Rose, his brother Jacques Rose and Francis Simard are arrested on a farm south of Montreal. Paul Rose and Francis Simard are later convicted in the kidnapping and murder of Pierre Laporte, while Jacques Rose is found guilty of being an accessory after the fact.

(Translation of Radio-Canada's Crise d'Octobre: 40 ans: Chronologie des événements)