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Front de libération du Québec

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The Front de Libération du Québec (Quebec Liberation Front), commonly known as the FLQ, was a Nationalist terrorist group founded in the 1960s that was part of the Quebec sovereignty movement. Based primarily in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, they distinguished themselves by their use of extreme violence and terrorism as a means to achieve their goals. The FLQ was a group of young Québécois whose declarations called for a Marxist/anarchist insurrection, the overthrow of the Quebec government, the independence of Quebec from Canada and the establishment of a workers' society. Members and sympathizers of the group were called Felquistes ([fɛlˈkists] in IPA), a word coined from the French pronunciation of the letters FLQ.

In 1963, they were organized and trained by Georges Schoeters , a Belgian revolutionary and alleged but unconfirmed KGB agent, whose hero was Che Guevara. Its intellectual leaders were Charles Gagnon and Pierre Vallières. On October 7, 1963 Schoeters was given 2 five-year prison terms for political crimes. At least two of the FLQ members had also received guerrilla training in selective assassination from Palestinian commandos in Jordan.

Various cells emerged over time: The Viger Cell, the Dieppe Cell, the Louis Riel Cell (see:Louis Riel), the Nelson Cell, The Saint-Denis Cell, the Liberation Cell and the Chénier Cell. The latter of these two cells were involved in what became known as the "October Crisis," the first terrorist crisis in modern Canadian history.

From 1963 to 1970, the FLQ committed over 200 political actions, including bombings, bank hold-ups and at least three deaths by FLQ bombs and two deaths by gunfire. In 1963, Gabriel Hudon and Raymond Villeneuve were sentenced to 12 years in prison for crimes against the state after their bomb killed Sgt. O'Neill, a watchman at Montreal's Canadian Army Recruitment Centre. By 1970, twenty-three members of the FLQ were in jail, including four convicted murderers, and one member had been killed by his own bomb. Targets included English owned businesses, banks, McGill University, and the homes of prominent English speakers in the wealthy Westmount area of the city. On February 13, 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.

As a Marxist group, the FLQ was also opposed to the United States' ruling class and one cell supposedly plotted to blow up the Statue of Liberty, but they were apprehended before this could occur.

In 1966 a secret eight-page document entitled Revolutionary Strategy and the Role of the Avant-Garde was prepared by the FLQ outlining its long term strategy of successive waves of robberies, violence, bombings and kidnappings, culminating in insurrection and revolution.

On October 5, 1970, members of the FLQ's Liberation cell kidnapped James Richard Cross, the British Trade Commissioner. Shortly afterwards, on October 10, the Chénier cell kidnapped the Quebec Vice-Premier and Minister of Labour, Pierre Laporte, whom they later murdered on October 17, 1970.

The Liberation cell members:

The Chénier Cell members:

After James Cross was kidnapped from his home in Montreal by members of the Liberation cell, the FLQ released a list of demands for Cross' release, which included:

  • the release of 23 political prisoners
  • $500,000 in gold
  • the broadcast and publication of the FLQ manifesto
  • the publication of the names of the police informants for terrorist activities
  • an aircraft to take the kidnappers to Cuba or Algeria
  • the cessation of all police search activities

Early in December 1970, police discovered the location of the kidnappers holding James Cross. His release was negotiated and on December 3, 1970, five of the terrorists are granted their request for safe passage to Cuba by the Government of Canada after approval by Fidel Castro.

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.

Although the five terrorists who wanted to go to Cuba were exiled from Canada for life, they were later found to be living in Paris, France. Over the years, despite being exiled for life, all of the FLQ members wanted to come back to Canada. The federal government consented. On their return:

  • The Cossette-Trudels pleaded guilty at trial and were sentenced to two years in jail for their part in the kidnapping. They were freed on parole after serving eight months.
  • Marc Carbonneau was sentenced to 20 months of jail and three years probation for kidnapping, forcible confinement, conspiracy and extortion.
  • Yves Langlois was sentenced to two years in prison less one day for his part in the kidnapping. He served 10 months.

In the wake of the kidnappings, at the request of Québec premier Robert Bourassa, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau declared martial law under the War Measures Act -- which had only been used twice before in Canada's history, both in times of war. The following day, the Chénier cell announced that they had executed their hostage, Pierre Laporte. His killing was only the second political assassination in Canadian history since Thomas D'Arcy McGee was murdered in 1868.

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

The events of October 1970 galvanized a loss of support for violent means for Quebec independence that had gone on for nearly ten years, and increased support for the political party, the Parti Québécois, which took power in 1976.

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, was convicted of the attempted firebombing of three Second Cup coffee shops in Montreal. Mathieu targeted Canada's largest specialty coffee retailer because of the company's use of its incorporated English name Second Cup. For this offence, a judge sentenced Rhéal Mathieu to one month in jail. Shortly thereafter, seven McDonald's restaurants were firebombed. According to a spokesperson for company, the bombings resulted in customers being afraid to go to Second Cup coffee shops resulting in a substantial loss of business. The company changed their signs to Les cafés Second Cup, a move seen by some as giving in to terrorism. This follows the example set by many other stores in the past, some of which had even francized their trademark such as The Bay (La Baie) and Staples, Inc. (Bureau en gros).

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