Front de libération du Québec

Front de libération du Québec

Infobox militant organization
name = Front de libération du Québec

caption =
dates = 1963–1970
leader =
motives =Creation of an independent socialist Quebec state.
area = Quebec, Canada
ideology =
Quebec nationalism
Left-wing nationalism
status = Inactive
The Front de libération du Québec (Québec Liberation Front), commonly known as the FLQ, and sometimes referred to as Front de libération Québécois was a nationalist and communist revolutionary group in Quebec, Canada. It was responsible for more than 200 bombings, largely directed at Quebec's English-speaking community, but also the bombing of the Montreal Stock Exchange in 1969 and the deaths of at least five people. These attacks culminated in 1970 with what is known as the October Crisis, in which British Trade Commissioner James Cross was kidnapped and Quebec Labour Minister Pierre Laporte was murdered. Founded in the early 1960s, it supported the Quebec sovereignty movement. The period of its founding coincided with Quebec's "Quiet Revolution," the period during which the provincial government of Quebec began to play a more active role in solving economic and social issues, following the death of the province's long-serving premier, Maurice Duplessis. Its actions were denounced by federalist political parties in Quebec and the moderate sovereigntist Parti Quebecois.

FLQ members practiced propaganda of the deed and issued declarations that called for a Marxist insurrection in the view of which the oppressors were identified with anglophones (English-speaking Québécois), the overthrow of the Quebec government, the independence of Quebec from Canada and the establishment of a French-speaking Quebecer workers' society. The organization was also influenced by other movements, such as those for the independence of former colonies such as Algeria, Vietnam and Cuba.


Members and sympathizers of the group were called Felquistes (IPA2|fɛlˈkists), a word coined from the French pronunciation of the letters FLQ. Some of the members were organized and trained by Georges Schoeters, a Belgian revolutionary and alleged KGB agent whose hero was Che GuevaraFact|date=February 2008. FLQ members Normand Roy and Michel Lambert also received guerrilla training in selective assassination from Palestinian commandos in JordanFact|September|date=September 2007. The FLQ was a loose association operating as a clandestine cell system. Various cells emerged over time: The Viger Cell founded by Robert Comeau, history professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal; the Dieppe Cell; the Louis Riel Cell; the Nelson Cell; The Saint-Denis Cell; the Liberation Cell; and the Chénier Cell. The last two of these cells were involved in what became known as the October Crisis.

From 1963 to 1970, the FLQ committed more than 200 violent actions, including bombings, bank hold-ups, kidnappings, at least three killings by FLQ bombs and two killings by gunfire. In 1966 "Revolutionary Strategy and the Role of the Avant-Garde" was prepared by the FLQ, outlining their long term strategy of successive waves of robberies, violence, bombings, and kidnappings, culminating in revolution.

The history of the FLQ is sometimes described as a series of "waves."

The 1st wave

The first formation of the FLQ was composed of members of the Rassemblement pour l'Indépendance Nationale, some of whom wished for faster action. This group formed the "Réseau de Resistance", or Resistance Network. This group eventually broke up, forming the FLQ. The group was recruited among various sources, eventually recruiting one Mario Bachand. The FLQ commenced their attacks on 7 March 1963. Some of their more notable crimes include bombing a railway (by which then-Prime Minister of Canada John Diefenbaker had arranged to travel within the week).

By 1 June 1963, this original group had been arrested. In 1963, Gabriel Hudon and Raymond Villeneuve were sentenced to 12 years in prison for crimes against the state after their bomb killed Wilfred O'Neill, a watchman at Montreal's Canadian Army Recruitment Centre. Their targets also included English-owned businesses, banks, McGill University, Loyola College. However, these two and the rest of those arrested, including George Schoeters in connection with the FLQ were never made.

The 2nd wave

A group of six individuals, two of whom were brothers of FLQ members arrested in 1963 (Robert Hudon and Jean Gagnon), commenced a series of crimes in Quebec over a period between 26 September 1963 and 9 April 1964. They called themselves the "Quebec Liberation Army" ("L’Armée de Libération du Québec"), and stole approximately C$534,000 (adjusted for inflation) in goods and money. Most of these individuals were also released by 1967.

The 3rd wave

A larger group of revolutionaries became known as the "Revolutionary Army of Quebec" (L’Armée Révolutionnaire du Québec). This group attempted to focus on training, particularly in St. Boniface. A botched gun robbery 29 August 1964. resulted in two deaths. Cyr Delisle, Gilles Brunet, Marcel Tardif, François Schirm, and Edmond Guenette, the five members arrested in connection with the deaths of Leslie MacWilliams and Alfred Pinisch, workers at the store, were sentenced to life in prison. A number of other members of the FLQ were arrested as well.

The 4th wave

Charles Gagnon and Pierre Vallières combined their "Popular Liberation Movement" with the FLQ in July 1965. This also combined several other pro-sovereignty groups. This may have led to a more socialist FLQ attitude. This new group robbed a New Democratic Party office and a radio station for supplies, many of which were used to write "La Cognée", the revolutionary paper published by the FLQ during the many years of activity. It translates to "The Hit".

The 4th wave saw the increasing use of explosives, the production styles of which were sometimes detailed in "La Cognée". An FLQ member, Jean Corbo, was killed by his own explosive, and a 64 year old female office worker died during the FLQ bombing of the shoe factory Lagrenade, 5 May 1966.

By August 1966, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) had arrested many FLQ members. Gagnon and Vallières had fled to the United States, where they protested in front of the United Nations and were later arrested. It was during his incarceration that Vallières wrote his novel, "White Niggers of America". In September 1967, the pair were extradited to Canada.

A 5th wave

In 1968, after various riots within Quebec and in Europe, a new group of FLQ was formed. Within a year, this group of Felquistes had exploded 52 bombs. Rather than "La Cognée", they wrote "La Victoire", or "Victory". The various members of the group were arrested by 2 May 1969.

Various attacks and the 6th wave

On 13 February 1969, the Front de libération du Québec set off a powerful bomb that ripped through the Montreal Stock Exchange causing massive destruction and seriously injuring twenty-seven people. After another series of bombings, on 28 September 1969, they bombed the home of Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau. After the bombing, police concluded that the bomb was placed in the toilet so inspectors couldn't find it. [Fournier, Louis "F.L.Q: The Anatomy of an Underground Movement". p. 165 (1984) NC Press Ltd. ISBN 091960191X (translation by Edward Baxter of "F.L.Q. : histoire d'un mouvement clandestin")]

1969 also saw many riots, including one against McGill University. The RCMP had intercepted intelligence relating to the planned riots, and prevented excessive damage. This failed riot led to Mario Bachand leaving Canada, and another group of FLQ forming, which would become responsible for the October Crisis. This group, formed of Paul Rose, Jacques Rose, Francis Simard, and Nigel Hamer became known as the "South Shore Gang".

During the police strike of 1969, the "Taxi Liberation Front", a creation of the "Popular Liberation Front", which was itself the creation of Jacques Lanctôt and Marc Carbonneau, killed a police officer. Jacques Lanctôt is credited by Michael McLoughlin, author of "Last Stop, Paris: The Assassination of Mario Bachand and the Death of the FLQ", with writing the FLQ Manifesto during the prelude to the October Crisis.

The South Shore Gang bought a house, which they named "The Little Free Quebec", and it quickly become a den of the FLQ. Jacques Lanctôt was charged in connection with a failed FLQ kidnapping attempt of an Israeli diplomat, and in 1970, while a member of the FLQ, likely took refuge at "The Little Free Quebec".

These new FLQ members bought two other houses, prepared their plans, and stocked sufficient equipment for their upcoming actions. The group split into two over what plans should be taken, but both were reunited during the crisis itself. [ McLoughlin, Michael. "Last Stop, Paris: The Assassination of Mario Bachand and the Death of the FLQ". Penguin Group, 1998. ISBN 067088196-1.] [ Loomis, Dan G. "Not much glory: Quelling the FLQ". 1984. Deneau Publishing. ISBN 0-88879-118-6. ] [Fournier, Louis, edited by Edward Baxter. "FLQ: Histoire d’un mouvement clandestin". Lanctôt Éditeur. 1998. ISBN 2-89485-073-5. ] [ Morf, Gustave "Terror in Quebec". Clark, Irwin, et Co. 1970. ISBN 0-7720-04919] [William Tetley: [ "The October Crisis, 1970: An Insider's View"] . McGill University ]

October crisis

On 5 October 1970, members of the FLQ's Liberation cell kidnapped James Richard Cross, the British Trade Commissioner as he was leaving his home for work. Shortly afterwards, on 10 October, the Chénier Cell kidnapped the Minister of Labour and Vice-Premier of Quebec, Pierre Laporte. Laporte was coming from a meeting with others, discussing the demands of the FLQ. After denying the demands, Pierre Laporte was immediately kidnapped by the FLQ (although it is still not known how the FLQ knew of the decision so quickly).

In the following days, FLQ leaders held meetings to increase public support for the cause. Consequently, a general strike involving students, teachers and professors resulted in the closure of most French-language secondary and post-secondary academic institutions. On 15 October 1970, more than 3,000 students attended a protest rally in favour of the FLQ. Demonstrations of public support influenced subsequent government actions.

On 17 October, callers to a radio station announced that Laporte had been murdered and divulged the location of a map which led to the discovery of his body.

The FLQ released a list of demands for Cross's release.
#the release of 23 "political prisoners" (including: Cyriaque Delisle, Edmond Guenette and François Schirm, Serge Demers, Marcel Faulkner, Gérard Laquerre, Robert Levesque, Réal Mathieu, and Claude Simard; Pierre-Paul Geoffroy, Michel Loriot, Pierre Demers, Gabriel Hudon, Robert Hudon, Marc-André Gagné, François Lanctot, Claude Morency, and André Roy; Pierre Boucher and André Ouellette).
#the following FLQ members, André Lessard, Pierre Marcil, and Réjean Tremblay, who were out on bail at the time of the kidnappings, would be allowed to leave Quebec if they wanted.
# all family members of the "political prisoners" and those out on bail would be able to join them outside of Quebec.
#$500,000 in gold
#the broadcast and publication of the FLQ Manifesto [ [ Manifesto of the Front de libération du Québec - Independence of Québec - Resource Centre for the English-Speaking World ] ]
#the publication of the name of a police informant
#an aircraft to take the kidnappers to Cuba or Algeria and while doing so they would be accompanied by their lawyers.
#the rehiring of about 450 Lapalme postal workers who had been laid off because of their support of the FLQ
#the cessation of all police search activities

The FLQ also stipulated how the above demands would be carried out:
#the prisoners were to be taken to the Montreal airport and supplied a copy of the FLQ Manifesto. They were to be allowed to communicate with each other and become familiar with the Manifesto.
#they were not to be dealt with in a harsh or brutal manner.
#they must be able to communicate with their lawyers to discuss the best course of action, whether to leave Quebec or not. As well, these lawyers must receive passage back to Quebec.

As part of its Manifesto, the FLQ stated: "In the coming year Bourassa (Quebec Premier) will have to face reality; 100,000 revolutionary workers, armed and organized."

Canada's Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, in his statement to the press during the October Crisis, admitted that the radicalism occurring in Quebec at this time had bred out of social unease due to imperfect legislation. “The government has pledged that it will introduce legislation which deals not only with the symptoms but with the social causes which often underlie or serve as an excuse for crime and disorder.” (Pierre Trudeau, CBC interview). However, despite this admission, Trudeau declared in his statement to the press that in order to deal with the unruly radicals or "revolutionaries," the government of Quebec will adopt The War Measures Act, the first and only time a province has used this legislation in peacetime. Enacting The War Measures Act was a risky move for Trudeau because it overrides fundamental rights and privileges operating in Humphrey’s adopted Canadian Bill of Rights; therefore, there was a strong possibility that Trudeau might have lost popular support among Quebec voters; however, this did not occur.

In a famous impromptu radio interview with Tim Ralfe and Peter Reilly, Pierre Trudeau uttered the iconic phrase regarding the enactment of the War Measures Act, which now has a place in current Canadian history books that deal with Trudeau and his reign. In response to a question asking how extreme would be his implementation of the War Measures Act, Trudeau answered, “Well, just watch me.” [ [ Trudeau, CBC interview] ] This line has become a part of Trudeau’s legacy. Early in December 1970, police discovered the location of the kidnappers holding James Cross. His release was negotiated and on 3 December 1970, five of the terrorists were granted their request for safe passage to Cuba by the Government of Canada after approval by Fidel Castro.

As a result of the invocation of the War Measures Act, civil liberties were suspended. By 29 December 1970, police had arrested 453 persons with suspected ties to the FLQ. Some detainees were released within hours, while others were held for up to 21 days. Several persons who were detained were initially denied access to legal counsel. Of the 453 people who were arrested, 435 were eventually released without ever being charged.

On 13 December 1970, Pierre Vallières announced in "Le Journal" that he had terminated his association with the FLQ. As well, Vallières renounced the use of terrorism as a means of political reform and instead advocated the use of standard political action.

In July 1980, police arrested and charged a sixth person in connection with the Cross kidnapping. Nigel Barry Hamer, a British radical socialist and FLQ sympathizer, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 12 months in jail.

In late December, four weeks after, the kidnappers of James Cross were found. Paul Rose and the kidnappers and murderers of Pierre Laporte were found hiding in a country farmhouse. They were tried and convicted for kidnapping and murder.

The events of October 1970 contributed to the loss of support for violent means to attain Québec independence, and increased support for the political party, the Parti Québécois, which took power in 1976.


The decline of the FLQ can be attributed both to the effects police deterrence had on the organization and also to flagging public support. By 1971, the Montreal Police antiterrorist unit had highly placed informants within the FLQ organization and on 4 and 5 October 1971, the first anniversary of the October Crisis, the Montreal Police arrested four FLQ members. The antiterrorism unit was able to arrest nearly two dozen FLQ operatives in thirteen months. The waves of arrests undoubtedly had a deterring effect on any would-be FLQ supporters.

The support and political capacity of the FLQ changed drastically during 1970. The FLQ immediately lost public support after the October crisis and the murder of Laporte. The general public overwhelmingly supported the emergency powers and the presence of the military in Quebec. The Parti Québécois warned young activists against joining, “childish cells in a fruitless revolutionary adventurism which might cost them their future and even their lives.” Laporte’s murder marked a crossroad in the political history of the FLQ. It helped sway public opinion towards more conventional forms of political participation and drove up popular support for the Parti Québécois.

The rise of the PQ attracted both active and would be participants away from the dangerous activities of the FLQ. In December 1971, Pierre Vallieres emerged after three years in hiding to announce that he was joining the PQ. In justifying his decisions he said that the FLQ was a “shock group” whose continued activities would only play into the hands of the forces of repression of which they were no match. Those members of the FLQ who had fled began returning to Canada in late 1971 continuing to 1982 and most were given light sentences for their terrorist offences. Most former FLQ members joined the PQ. [Gurr, Ted Robert and Jeffrey Ian Ross. "Why Terrorism Subsides: A Comparative Study of Canada and the United States". "Comparative Politics". Vol. 21, No. 4. (July 1989), pp. 405-426]

FLQ subsequent activities

Nevertheless, terrorist activities continue to occur at the hands of isolated members of the organization. In 2001, Rhéal Mathieu, a member who in 1967 was sentenced to 9 years in prison for terrorist activities including murder, was convicted of the attempted firebombing of three Second Cup coffee shops in Montreal. Mathieu targeted Canada's largest speciality coffee retailer because of the company's use of its incorporated English name "Second Cup". According to a spokesman for the company, the bombings resulted in customers being afraid to go to Second Cup coffee shops, resulting in a substantial loss of business. The company altered some of their signs to read, "Les cafés Second Cup". For his offence, a judge sentenced Rhéal Mathieu to one month in jail in addition to the nine months he had already been held. He was also given a six-month sentence to be served concurrently for illegal possession of a sawed-off shotgun and a .38-calibre revolver. Shortly thereafter, seven McDonald's restaurants were firebombed.Fact|date=July 2008

Liberation cell members

Chénier cell

The Chénier Cell was a Montreal based terrorist group belonging to the Front de Libération du Quebec (FLQ) whose members were responsible for a decade of bombings and armed robberies in the 1960s that led to what became known as the October Crisis. They were named after a rebel hero of the Lower Canada Rebellion, Jean-Olivier Chénier.

In popular culture

*In the 1988 action film, "Die Hard", the main villain Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) makes false demands to the FBI over the phone to release certain radical groups from prison. One of the groups he mentions is the (fictional) "Liberté du Québec."
*Marvel Comics character, Northstar, was a member of the Front de libération du Québec in his youth.
*In the book "Night Probe!" by Clive Cussler, a group called the "Free Quebec Society" resembles the FLQ.

ee also

*List of conflicts in Canada
*October Crisis
*List of terrorist attacks in Canada
*October 1970 (film)


*Skelton, Oscar D. "The Canadian Dominion". Toronto, Glasgow: Yale University Press
*Tetley, William. "The October Crisis, 1970 : An Insider's View" (2006) McGill-Queen's University Press ISBN 0773531181


External links

* [ "The Events Preliminary to the Crisis" in chronological order - 1960 to 5 October 1970]
* [ “The October Crisis "per se" in chronological order - 5 October to 29 December 1970]
* [ (2000) Pierre Elliot Trudeau, CBC Radio interview]
* [ English translation of the FLQ Manifesto]
* [ Russian site about FLQ]

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