Sky with Diamonds

Sky with Diamonds
Richard Bros with his dog in London, 1970

On the 22nd of December, 1970, a letter and a package, sent by a Canadian diplomat in Algers, the capital of Algeria, arrived at External Affairs headquarters in Ottawa. The package held two Canadian passports. The letter spoke of a fatal error that, as often happens with apparently minor events, when considered with other information, has the most serious, in this case, terrifying, implications.

The Letter and the passports

Two passports mailed from Paris to the DEFLQ Alger (FLQ, Batiment Florian, Port D, Chemin des Oliviers, el Biar)

C.P. 663, Alger–Gare, Algérie, “corresponding to that given in paragraph 3 of Algiers-569 to which an envelope containing the two passports had been addressed (and then mistakenly sent to the owner of c.p. 663).

The first passport had no visas and had three immigration stamps indicating the bearer was in Dover, England, 31.10.70, 70-4.11 70, and in Basel, Switzerland, on 9.11.70.

The second passport had expired Algerian visa issued by Algerian consulate in Oujda, 16.11.70; Immigration stamps indicate visits to Cuba, France, UK, Luxembourg, Algeria and the USA between July 1969 and February 1971. Most recent seems to be of USA immigration, 4.3.71.

One passport was issued in Ottawa, 10.1.69; the other issued in Ottawa, 10.9.70.

Library and Archives Canada, RG 33/128, 6000-10-B1, Documents received from the government, PCO, documents re: Law and Order.

RCMP worry about the passports

For the RCMP Security Service, the worries posed by the misdirected passports were such that at 2pm on the day telex and the passports were passed on to them by External Affairs, a hurried briefing was held by “B” Branch, responsible for countering Soviet intelligence activities and, more recently, also for managing the DEFLQ in Algeria.

Richard Bros

Richard Bros was born in France, in Sommières, a village in the Midi, 30km equidistant from Nîmes and from Montpellier. In 1952 his father left for Montreal and in the following year Richard and his mother joined him. In his adolescence he and a fellow student became friends. The name of his friend? Jacques Lanctôt.

In 1964, Bros and Lanctôt and a third adolescent, Guy de Grasse, formed an FLQ cell, inspired by the first wave of the FLQ whose members, including Mario Bachand, were on trial for their 1963 activities. They called it Résistance du Québec.

Becoming FLQ

On 13 May, 1964, they bombed a statue of Queen Victoria in Quebec City. Soon after, they firebombed the Headquarters of the Mont Royal Regiment and the HQ of the Regiment Maisonneuve in Montreal, the Canadian Legion in Laval and a CNR shelter at I’Ile Bigrass. On the 23rd of August, they set a bomb under a Canadian Pacific railway bridge, on which they painted “FLQ” in red paint.

As evidence of future intentions, on the 25-26 August they stole 700 sticks of dynamite from a construction site.

In one of the curious coincidences that mark the history of the FLQ, Richard Bros and François Dorlot, who would play a mysterious role in the death of Mario Bachand, became acquainted that summer of 1964. They both worked at the same golf course near Montreal, Dorlot as server in the club restaurant, Bros as a caddy on the green.

Fortunately, the three members of the Résistance du Québec were quickly picked up by police. Bros was sentenced to three years in prison. Lanctôt avoided imprisonment because of his youth. Richard Bros and Jacques Lanctôt established a friendship that lasted until Bros’ death in 1970.

London the Sky of Diamonds

After his release from prison, in 1965 Richard Bros left for London. In part he was seeking escape from his father’s wrath, angry for Richard’s behavior. In part, he was attracted to London, the centre of the cultural transformation to world, the youth movement in most trendy Britain, a sky with diamonds.

But he ended up dead, hung in a jail cell in a police station jail in the London borough of Islington. They called it suicide.

Sky with Diamonds
Islington Police Station rear and jail

It was Richard Bros’ death and the friendship with Jacques Lanctôt, than brought a question to mind. Was it coincidence that Bros should die, supposedly by suicide, in a London police station, days before, in Montreal, police moved in on the Liberation Cell led by Jacques Lanctôt, and saved James Cross?

And what were the implications of the dates, two in particular, on the two passports mailed from Paris to Algers?

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