Quebec 70: A Documentary Narrative

By John T. Saywell | Go to book overview

Questions and Consequences

THE CRISIS was over, but the debate was not -- and perhaps never would be. The major issues around which political and public controversy centred were the unwillingness of the governments to negotiate the freedom of the twenty-three criminals; the alleged subordination of Quebec to Ottawa; the reasons for the use of the army and the War Measures Act; and the intermediate and long-term effects of the crisis on both the governments and society of Quebec and Canada and their future relations.

Some Canadians believed and continued to believe that the governments should have freed the twenty-three prisoners for the release of James Cross and Pierre Laporte. Led by Claude Ryan and René Lévesque and joined by such English Canadians as George Bain (Canadian Forum, January 1971), they repeatedly insisted that it had been the inflexible government in Ottawa that had prevented such negotiations and had ultimately resulted in Laporte's death. There was no direct contemporary evidence to support such a hypothesis, nor could much in the way of inference be drawn from the actions of either government. Spokesmen for both governments were direct and unanimous that consideration had never been given to the release of the twenty-three. (Had it been a question only of the manifesto and the ransom, Gérard Pelletier wrote later, "negotiation would have been fairly easy" (La crise d'octobre). The fullest statement of the Quebec position was given by Jérôme Choquette in the National Assembly on November 12:

... our guiding principle was to safeguard the essence of our democratic society and our judicial system, while at the same time trying to be as flexible as possible.

The reasons for taking this attitude were as follows:

Firstly, these were not political prisoners, inasmuch as they had all been condemned or were under accusation by virtue of our civil law.

Secondly, had we given in to the basic demands we would have been condoning the system of kidnapping or abduction and would have wrecked a judicial system which -- in spite of all that is said about it -- is one of the most impartial in the world.

Thirdly, methods of contestation prevailing in a democratic society auto

-136-

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Quebec 70: A Documentary Narrative
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents 1
  • Preface 3
  • Separatism or Federalism 5
  • The Cross Abduction 28
  • A Second Hostage -- Pierre Laporte 55
  • It's War-Total War 76
  • This Cruel and Senseless Act 100
  • The Montreal Election 111
  • The Last Act 121
  • Questions and Consequences 136
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