Podcast News

'Recall: How to Start a Revolution' podcast explores the October Crisis, 50 years later

Host Geoff Turner discusses the new podcast, Recall: How to Start a Revolution, and explores the modern-day relevance of the October Crisis.

Geoff Turner speaks about the timeliness and modern-day relevance of the 50-year-old story of the FLQ Crisis

Geoff Turner, who hosted the CBC Podcast 'On Drugs,' now hosts the new series titled 'Recall: How to Start a Revolution'. (Ben Shannon/CBC)

When a new generation comes of age, they find their own unique political voice to push for dramatic change, Geoff Turner said. 

In Canada in the 1960s, that dramatic change was championed by the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ). What began as a movement for an independent socialist Québec state devolved into a deadly crisis.

The breakdown of the FLQ, also known as the October Crisis, took place in October 1970 in Montreal, Que. FLQ members kidnapped the provincial Deputy Premier Pierre Laporte and British diplomat James Cross. The militant group murdered Laporte.

This seminal moment in Canadian history is still hot to the touch, Turner said, and its impact is still being felt today — 50 years later.

A new series from CBC Podcasts, Recall: How to Start a Revolution, is set to tell that story from the voices of those who lived it. 

Turner discussed Recall with CBC Podcasts. Here is part of that conversation.

(Ben Shannon/CBC)

We're coming up on the 50th anniversary, but this story is topical and relevant in more ways than one. Why is it important to you that we tell this story now?

In the past year especially, with the Black Lives Matter movement, there's this sense of a new generation finding its political voice and pushing for dramatic change. Of course, it's a very different context than Québec in the 1960s, but you see these flash-point political moments and how they play out in the streets and it's fascinating to compare and reflect. Just recently, a Montreal statue of Sir John A. Macdonald was toppled by protesters. The FLQ had plans to blow up the same statue in 1963!

The podcast's tagline is that this history is "still hot to the touch." Could you expand on that? 

A lot of the major players in this history are still alive and they're living with the consequences of the period, whether you're talking about survivors of bombings, or the people who planted the bombs, or people who were jailed under the War Measures Act. So it still feels very real and present for people and the emotions around what happened can still feel very raw, especially inside Québec.

A newsboy in Ottawa holds up a newspaper with a headline reporting the invoking of the War Measures Act on Oct. 16, 1970. It was the first time Canada had invoked the act in peacetime, put into effect following the kidnapping of British diplomat James Cross and Quebec Labour Minister Pierre Laporte by the FLQ. (Peter Bregg/The Canadian Press)

In making this podcast, what have you learned about the anatomy of social unrest?

The most fascinating thing about the FLQ is that it shows you how much tumult a relative handful of people can create. At any given time, the active FLQ membership might have been in the low hundreds, if that. But they managed to dominate the political conversation in Québec for years. And for a brief moment, it felt as though they had brought Canadian democracy to the brink.

What surprised you the most while investigating this story?

I had always thought of the FLQ as a separatist movement, first and foremost. But when you learn what they actually wrote and said, it becomes clear that their primary goal was to instigate a socialist revolution. They imagined a more just, equal society, and language and sovereignty were part of that, but really it was about class struggle

Then British Trade Commissioner James Cross plays solitaire almost one month after his kidnapping in this photo released by his FLQ kidnappers in early November 1970. He would not be released until Dec. 3, 1970, when his captors would be allowed to leave the country for Cuba. (Canadian Press)

What is your hope in bringing this story to the world?

I want people to see that the FLQ was part of something bigger that was happening in the world in that moment. All over the world people were rising up against colonialism and oppression, and the FLQ saw themselves as part of that. They had direct links with groups like the Weather Underground and the Black Panthers. There are some really fascinating stories in those connections. I also want people to hear the voices of people who have never really spoken publicly about their role in that era. We were grateful to hear from people like Therese Labbe, who was just a couple of feet away when a bomb exploded and killed her colleague. It's powerful stuff.

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