Quebec Studies

The FLQ Trials, 1969-1971: Judicial Tensions and Constitutional Questions

Quebec Studies (2013), 55, (1), 101–118.

Abstract

101 The FLQ Trials, 1969-1971: Judicial Tensions and Constitutional Questions Darren J. Pacione Carleton University "The judiciary was reduced to the role of timekeeper, keeping track of who attended what meetings and spoke or communi­ cated what statements on behalf of an association" —Lyon 140 In times of crisis, writes F. Murray Greenwood in volume one of Canadian State Trials, judicial attitudes historically have reflected deference to execu­ tive authority (1996). This paper explores an historical lineage of this pat­ tern and draws on the 1970 October Crisis as a key example. Patterns of deference and confrontation as juridical concepts date back to Tudor and Stuart times when questions of judicial independence were debated by British jurists Sir Francis Bacon and Sir Edward Coke. On one hand, a Baconian approach "favoured the executive power despite the law;" while on the other, a Cokean interpretation of judicial responses favoured up­ holding "the law despite governmental desires" (242). Thus, Greenwood coined the term "Baconian judiciary" to describe judicial tendencies to defer to the authority of the crown or executive government. Numerous histor­ ical colonial examples have demonstrated that in times of declared emer­ gencies, including during treason and sedition trials in Upper and Lower Canada in the nineteenth century and during the French Revolution, these tendencies persisted as the dominant judicial attitude and I argue they per­ sist today. On 21 October 1970, as the bill that would enable war measures expe­ diently passed through the Canadian Senate, Conservative Senator Michael Grattan O'Leary proclaimed — only four days following the death of Pierre Laporte — that this was "a crisis unparalleled since the 1837 Rebellion" (Bouthlier and Cloutier 154). The senator's reference is worth some consid­ eration. In the second volume of Canadian State Trials, historian Jean-Marie Fecteau explores the aftermath of the 1837-38 Rebellions and the trouble of what to do with all the imprisoned patriotes detained under the authority of Governor Gosford's declaration of martial law. This question sparked a re­ sponse from the British House of Lords who dispatched Lord Durham to untangle the political and legal deadlock in Lower Canada. Lord Durham exercised his power with exceptional breadth, issuing punitive ordinances and modifying existing legal provisions to try the prisoners. The bench, for the most part, remained quiet. One member of the bench, however, Judge EIzéar Bédard of the Court of King's Bench of Québec confronted Lord Durham's unilaterally declared ordinances in the case of a young imprisoned patriote named Firmin Moreau (Fecteau 226). In his dissenting opinion, Judge Bédard argued that the ordi- Québec Studies, Volume 55, Spring/Summer 2013

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Pacione, Darren