Quebec Studies

"Federally Financed Felquistes": The Company of Young Canadians and the Prelude to the October Crisis

Quebec Studies (2013), 55, (1), 77–100.

Abstract

77 "Federally Financed Felquistes": The Company of Young Canadians and the Prelude to the October Crisis Kevin Brushett Royal Military College of Canada On Thursday October 9, 1969, the Combined Anti-Terrorist Squad com­ posed of Montreal City Police (MCP), the Sûreté du Québec (SQ), and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) swept through the city arresting twenty-five young Montrealers in association with the October 7 riot that had broken out during a demonstration against the Murray Hill Taxi Com­ pany. Occurring on the very same day that Montreal city police officers and firefighters walked out on strike, the Murray Hill protests and resulting riot soon devolved into "Montreal's Night of Terror,"1 which left an undercover police officer dead, two protestors injured, and millions of dollars of dam­ age to the city's central business district. Those raids took place at the of­ fices associated with the federal government sponsored youth organization, the Company of Young Canadians (CYC). At the offices of the CYC sup­ ported St. Henri Workers' Committee, two Company volunteers were taken into custody along with a rifle, pamphlets, and a photocopier belonging to the Company. On October 11, Lucien Saulnier, Chair of the Executive Com­ mittee of the Montreal Urban Community, called an impromptu press conference to say that the targeting of the CYC offices was not a mistake. In a speech reminiscent of those of former United States Senator Joseph McCarthy, Saulnier declared that the Company had become a haven for ter­ rorists and radical separatists and demanded a Royal Commission be launched to investigate just how the Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ) was using federal government programs to foment revolution. While the Trudeau government did not go quite so far, a Parliamentary investigation once again put the CYC under an unfavorable spotlight. Already tired of warding off claims in English Canada that the CYC had been infiltrated by hippies and radicals, the government eventually pulled the plug on the CYC's independence, though as it would turn out, not on its association with Québec separatists. Looking back, the events of October 1969 served as a warning bell for those that took place almost exactly a year later during the infamous Octo­ ber Crisis of 1970. To deal with the chaos that ensued from events of October 7, 1969 the City of Montreal was forced to call in the Canadian Forces to restore order and provide basic security. Over the next week, ad­ ditional raids took place across the province to round up those associated with the violence that evening. By the end of the month, restrictions were placed on the right to assembly and speech as the city banned all public demonstrations. Finally, much of the "evidence" collected by the combined police raids would be dusted off a year later to justify the government's claims that Québec was in a state of "apprehended insurrection" and that Québec Studies, Volume 55, Spring/Summer 2013

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Brushett, Kevin