Quebec Studies

F. R. Scott, the FLQ, and the October Crisis

Quebec Studies (2013), 55, (1), 119–134.

Abstract

119 F. R. Scott, the FLQ, and the October Crisis Robert G. May Queen's University "French-Canada is a fact, and English-Canada is a fact. [...] If Canadian federalism is to survive, it must accept bilingualism sensibly applied, in Québec as well as in Canada as a whole. It is one of the essential conditions of our survival. [...] We must believe we are worthwhile as a nation. But it must be a bilingual nation." —Scott, "Language" 256, emphasis in original F. R. Scott's work for the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism, which from 1967 to 1970 published its findings and recommenda­ tions in six huge volumes, convinced him that Canada's success as a nation depended on the ability of the federal government to foster a convivial rela­ tionship between the two founding cultures and to institute the use of both English and French throughout all parts of the country. The Commission's report came at a time when relations between Ottawa and Québec were at an all-time low: nationalist sentiment was percolating among many sectors of Québec society, and the Front de libération du Québec was committing increasingly violent terrorist acts in Montreal (one FLQ mailbox bomb even exploded in a residential district just a few blocks away from Scott's home in Westmount [Winkler]). The FLQ movement of the 1960s, culminating in the October Crisis of 1970, in response to which the federal government in­ voked the War Measures Act for the first time since the Korean War, were sources of great discouragement to Scott because they induced him to be­ lieve that everything he had fought for throughout his lengthy legal and political career — civil liberties, minority rights, social justice — was being undemocratically derailed "by a few ruthless and determined men" (Letter to Donald Cameron). Although Scott objected in theory to the sweeping powers that the War Measures Act bestowed upon the federal government and the RCMP (Civil 11-12, 37), he admitted that its use to combat domestic terrorism in Canada was warranted: "the War Measures Act," he said, "gave my civil liberties back to me [that had been] taken away by the FLQ" (qtd. in Djwa, Politics 411). Scott attributed strident Québec nationalism — including "the FLQ phenomenon [...] and the support it attracted" — to "abuses in Québec and Canadian society" that had as their root cause un­ checked laissez-faire capitalism (Horn, Headnotes 127) and a systemic lack of "humane" economic planning policies in Canada (Scott, "Global" 7). Throughout the 1970s, the aging Scott was beginning to "withdraw more and more from the public world of constitutional debate into the more pri­ vate world of his own writings" (Djwa, Politics 435), writings that were more "visionary" (P. D. Scott 300), "reflective" (Mills 57), and "intensely personal" (Watt 67) than his previous overtly political, public, or satirical work. Despite this noticeable shift in sensibility, however, many of those Québec Studies, Volume 55, Spring/Summer 2013

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May, Robert