Virtue Requires Terror

Archeology… takes as the object of its description what is usually regarded as an obstacle: its aim is not to overcome differences but to analyze them, to say what exactly they consist of, to differentiate them.
—Michel Foucault, The Archeology of Knowledge

Introduction

There are several varieties of terrorism, with the most useful categories ‘expressive’ versus ‘instrumental’, as given by the French sociologist Michel Wievorka.  ‘Expressive’, from political or religious fervour,  fanaticism or madness. ‘Instrumental’,  a cold-blooded tool for a political, social or national objective, real or imagined. They at not mutually exclusive, and generally are both present, in various configurations, often with one or the other dominant.


THE NIGHT OF THURSDAY, MARCH 7, 1963, was bitterly cold in Montreal. In a narrow lane off Ste-Catherine Street, two figures emerged from the darkness, leaving footsteps in the freshly fallen snow. At the rear of a three-storey brick building they stopped, glanced over their shoulders and removed two bottles from a shopping bag.

“The lighter!”

Hands shook in the cold. The lighter failed.

“The matches! Quick! Quick!”5

Protected from the wind, a match flared, then went out. Another match, a burst of light, then darkness. Finally, the wicks were burning. One youth hurled a bottle at a window above, which broke with a crash. His companion threw the second bottle. It bounced back onto the snowbank and burst into flame.

Moments later, soldiers rushed around the corner and saw the two young men running down the lane. The smell of kerosene hung in the air, and broken glass littered the ground. Among the debris they found a piece of cardboard marked “…révolution populaire…” A second fragment warned, “We will do it again.”6 On the front door of the building, which was the headquarters of the Canadian Armyʼs Royal Montreal Regiment, the soldiers found three letters in red paint: “FLQ”.

The Front de libération du Québec had attacked three Canadian Army establishments in Montreal that night. Apart from two broken windows and a few scorched boards at the various places, there was no damage, but the attacks did attract the attention of the Security and Intelligence Branch (SIB) of the RCMP (hereafter called the Security Service). Next day, a teletype message went from Montreal RCMP headquarters at 4095 Ste–Catherine Street to RCMP headquarters in Ottawa: “Operational Immediate Top Secret. Attention DSI from SID-8. A group of presumed separatists was responsable for minimal damage last night March 7 and early this morning by use of home-made Molotov cocktails.”7 For the RCMP, it was the first of many such messages. Three days later, the FLQ sent the following communiqué to Montreal newspapers:

REVOLUTION BY THE PEOPLE FOR THE PEOPLE

Notice to the population of the State of Quebec

The FLQ is a revolutionary movement made up of volunteers ready to die for the political and economic independence of Quebec.

The suicide commandos of the FLQ have as their principal mission the complete destruction, by systematic sabotage, of:

a) all the symbols and colonial institutions (federal), in particular the RCMP and the Armed Forces

b) all the media in the colonial language (English) that lie to us

c) all commercial enterprises and establishments that practice discrimination against Québecois, that do not use French as their first language, that advertise in the colonial language (English)

d) all factories that discriminate against French-speaking workers.

The FLQ will attack all commercial and cultural interests of English colonialism. All volunteers of the FLQ carry identification papers of the Republic of Quebec during sabotage actions. We demand that our wounded and prisoners be treated as prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention and the laws of war.

INDEPENDENCE OR DEATH.

The dignity of the Quebec people demands independence. The independence of Quebec is not possible without social revolution. Social revolution means a free Quebec.

Students, workers, peasants, form your clandestine groups against Anglo-American colonialism.8

The language, echoing that of the Cuban Revolution and of the Algerian War of Independence, was increasingly being heard in student circles. Just six days earlier, in Washington, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency had accused Cuba of teaching terrorism to Latin American students. The RCMP Security Service began to wonder if there was a Cuban connection to the FLQ—which, in a manner of speaking, there was.

At Dorval airport, on the outskirts of Montreal, early on the afternoon of April 26, 1959, hundreds of people lining the roadway chattered happily in the warm sunshine. At one fifty-two, they saw a four-engine aircraft making its approach. A wave of excitement rippled through the crowd. The aircraft landed, then taxied to the terminal. A line of RCMP officers, dressed in red serge uniforms, strained to hold back the crowd. When the door to the aircraft opened, a tall, bearded young man emerged, the jacket of his military uniform unbuttoned, his shirt open at the neck. Holding a cigar in his left hand, he removed his cap and waved, and the crowd shouted, “Viva, viva!” Fidel Castro, leader of the Cuban Revolution, had landed.

Mayor Sarto Fournier shook Castroʼs hand and presented him with the keys to the city. A girl in a white dress handed him a bouquet of red roses. Castro kissed her on the cheek, turned to the crowd, which now pressed in closely, and waved. “Allo” he said in Spanish-accented French.

Shouts of “Amigo, amigo” came from the crowd.

That afternoon, Castro gave a press conference at the Queen Elizabeth hotel. For more than two hours, he spoke before fifty journalists and twice as many admirers about the Cuban revolution. In the evening, he addressed students at the Université de Montréal. “For us,” he said, “power is an infinite number of battles and sacrifices, of nights without sleep; it is not, believe me, a matter of vainglory, ambition or personal satisfaction.”9

In the audience was a thirty-two-year-old man with a broad face and receding hairline, peering myopically through thick lenses. Georges Schoeters was born in Belgium on April 22, 1930, the son of a Flemish girl and  a diplomat. He spent his early years in an orphanage. At thirteen, he became involved with the Belgian Resistance, running messages under the noses of occupying German soldiers. In 1951, at the age of seventeen, he immigrated to Canada. He ended up in Montreal, where he completed secondary school and enrolled in economics at the Université de Montréal. Most of his friends were foreign students, with whom he organized discussions of Third World issues. At these he spoke enthusiastically about the Cuban Revolution and the Algerian War of Independence.

On the night of the Montreal press conference, Castro and Schoeters talked alone for more than an hour, and Castro invited him to visit Cuba.

In August, Schoeters, his wife, Jeanne, and ten students arrived in Cuba as guests of the Agricultural Reform Institute. For two weeks they toured the co-operative farms and sugar plantations that had replaced the private estates, whose owners had left for Miami or the Costa del Sol. Peasants, who had been no more than indentured servants under the dictator Fulgencio Batista, were now fervent supporters of the Castro regime.

One morning at dawn, Castro arrived at the University of Havana, where Schoeters and the others were staying. He shook their hands and told them that with the revolution, the educational level of the Cuban people would be raised to achieve a perfect system of democracy. As he left, Castro pointed to the Belgian FN rifle he carried in his jeep and told Schoeters that it was the best in the world.

A month after the group returned to Montreal, Schoeters flew back to Cuba to work on the agrarian reform program. On his return to Montreal six months later, he told Jeanne, “I am a revolutionary.” 10

While Communist, socialist and anarchist currents swept through Montreal in the early 1960s, so did their opposite—nationalism. Tinged with xenophobia, it had existed in Quebec since the conquest of 1759, flowered in the rebellion of 1837 and been revitalized during the 1930s and in the 1940s under Maurice Duplessis. Duplessis, who became premier in 1936, was a right–wing autocrat who led the province almost continuously until 1959. His Union Nationale government was a conservative elite of lawyers, politicians and clergymen, held together by its opposition to the Canadian government and to the Communist and atheist ideas of the anglophone enemy. As a result, the institutions of Quebec society stagnated. The French–language universities were graduate institutions open only to those who had completed an eight–year program at a classical college; thus, they served only the elite. Repressive legislation, enforced by the provincial police, kept unions in check. The standard of living of Quebec workers drifted downward as government corruption flourished. Foreign capital dominated the Quebec economy, and the Union Nationale government controlled the workers. When Duplessis died in 1959, long–repressed forces were let loose. In July 1960, the Liberal Party under Jean Lesage was elected with the slogan Itʼs Time for a Change. There was wide spread agreement, but the questions remained—What change? And how would it be brought about? It was the beginning of what became known as La Révolution tranquille—the Quiet Revolution.

In September 1960, a new political movement appeared—the Rassemblement pour lʼindépendence nationale (RIN), whose objective was the separation of Quebec from Canada. On a frigid night in January 1962, guests climbed narrow stairs to a modest second–floor office on McKay Street in downtown Montreal for a reception to celebrate the opening of the RIN Secretariat. Among the visitors was a forty–year–old professor of constitutional law at the Université de Montréal, Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Trudeau came out of curiosity and to take the measure of this new presence on the political landscape. Others—young, radical, nationalist—came for quite different reasons.

The ideological currents coursing through Montreal appeared in fervent speeches and in passionate talk in cafés. Political parties formed in an afternoon and disappeared in a week. Young men wore berets, grew beards and hung posters of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. At the Université de Montréal, the RIN chapter busied itself with meetings, and the student newspaper, Quartier Latin, took up the issues of the day. In September 1962, Quartier Latin carried a letter that spoke against prayers in the lecture room.11 It came from a first–year law student who was a member of the RIN chapter at the university and who had just joined the paper as a reporter. His name was François Dorlot. In an article that appeared the following week, Dorlot criticized the Canadian federation of students (FNEUC). “The FNEUC is the image of Canada: a paper reality. Vive the FNEUC! Vive Canada! Vive confederation! Vive domination!”12 In October, he wrote, “The liberation of Quebec will be socialist or it will not happen.”13 In another article he declared, “At a time when in Algeria, Cuba, Japan, South America, students are making revolution, here they suffocate them. Conservatism is virtue, revolution vice.”14 The following week he said the police were “a new Gestapo.”15

In little more than a month, Dorlot had established his revolutionary and separatist credentials.

An evening that same October 1962, in the living room of an apartment on Côte–des–Neiges Boulevard, Cuban and Algerian flags hung alongside posters of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. A length of copper wire ran along the ceiling and down to a shortwave radio on a table in the middle of the room. A brick–and–board bookshelf tottered under the weight of Marxʼs Das Kapital, Frantz Fanonʼs The Wretched of the Earth, Leninʼs What Is to Be Done? and books on Cuba, China, Russia and Algeria. Five cardboard boxes of books lay scattered about the room. Two well–worn volumes of Guevaraʼs Revolutionary Warfare sat on a desk piled high with files and papers. A photograph showed Fidel Castro standing with a pale–faced man with heavy glasses and receding hairline: Georges Schoeters.

Schoeters, who lived in the apartment with his twenty–three–year–old wife, an X–ray technician, and their two young children, was sitting with two men he had met in the RIN, Raymond Villeneuve and Gabriel Hudon. Villeneuve was nineteen years old, the eldest of five children. His father was a pastry chef and foreman at a factory that made baked goods. Raymond had graduated from Grade 12 in the science program at Collège St–Stanislas but failed chemistry, which meant he could not go on to university. He was a fervent nationalist, and in his spare time he distributed literature door to door for the RIN. Hudon was a tall, gangly twenty–four–year–old with fair hair and glasses with thick lenses and heavy black frames. He worked as an industrial draftsman at a plant that built aircraft hydraulic systems; in his spare time he helped out in the RIN office.

From the adjacent bedroom, Jeanne Schoeters overheard one man say “Violence seems to be the only answer.” And the reply, “We are ready to die if necessary.”16

A few days later, the citizens of St–Sauveur, a village north of Montreal, awoke to find English street signs painted over with the slogan “Québec Libre” and the cryptic message RR (Réseau de résistance, a precursor to the FLQ). Then, on February 23, persons unknown tossed two Molotov cocktails through the window of English–language radio station CKAC. It was the day the Montreal Gazette published an interview with Pierre Trudeau. “I hope we are not about to discuss nationalism” Trudeau had been quoted as saying. “I consider nationalism to have been a sinister activity for the last 150 years of world history.”

At 8:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 3, 1963, four hundred delegates from RIN chapters across Quebec sat on the edge of their chairs in the assembly hall of Collège St–Stanislas. The thin young men were dressed in suits, the women in long dresses, with their hair cut short in the latest Paris fashion. Smoke from countless cigarettes rose to the ceiling, where a long red banner proclaimed, “Quebec, my only homeland.” “Mon Pays,” sung by Gilles Vigneault, blared from a loudspeaker. It was followed by a French military march, “The Song of the Partisans,” and “Ça Ira,” the anthem of the French Revolution. One after another, the RIN leaders stepped to the podium. “By itself, independence means nothing!” Pierre Bourgault shouted, his left hand stabbing the air. “Independence must be accompanied by social revolution.” The next speaker declared, “Revolution is an act of love and of creation.”

The third man to speak had a dark vision of the future: “In a revolution one must accept a fight not only against anglophones, but also among ourselves. It may be a terrible struggle.”17

The Molotov cocktail attacks on the armouries came four days later, on March 7, 1963. Security Service members began requesting files from the registry on the Communist Party of Canada, Trotskyites, Mouvement populaire national, RIN, RR—a seemingly endless number of organizations. They also went through their files on individuals, looking for a link to the budding terrorist organization. They soon found it—in the person of Mario Bachand.

Mario Bachand

If you were young you went to cafés—the Swiss Hutt, Casa Espagnola, El Cortijo and especially La Paloma, a basement café at 2096 Clark, just south of Sherbrooke.18 La Paloma was run by a Spanish anarchist by the name of Barnabe Garcia, and it was the place to be in Montreal. From a poster above the cash register, a pouting Sophia Loren held out a bottle of Brio, while Leo Ferré and Jacques Brel sang mournfully from the jukebox. There was a windowless room at the back, decorated with a painting of a bullfight and one of the Costa del Sol. Across long refectory tables, veiled by smoke, young men and women in black spoke fervently of Camus, Sartre, Fanon, Cuba, Algeria, the Spanish Civil War, Lorca, Guevera, Castro and of the coming revolution. The future, they were certain, would be theirs.

On Saturday afternoons, in the back room at La Paloma, one could often find a thin young man with bony face, big ears and a nervous laugh. He wore tight jeans and high Russian boots and would talk about revolution with anyone, particularly any pretty girl, who would listen. The silver rings on the fingers of his large, pale white hands flashed as he spoke in a voice that carried across the room. To his friends, such as Richard Bros, Gilles Pruneau, Pierre Schneider or sixteen–year–old Jacques Lanctôt, he was “Mab.” To others, he was François Mario Bachand.

Mario Bachand was the third of five children. His mother died of tuberculosis when he was three; his father remarried two years later. His father was a draftsman who would become head of Public Works for the City of Montreal. He was a fervent Catholic and a Quebec nationalist. The Bachand family lived in a modest but comfortable bungalow in north Montreal.

At seventeen, Mario entered into a relationship with a nineteen–year–old woman, Louise. She became pregnant, and in September 1962, they had a child, Elsa. They moved into an apartment at 3694 St–Christophe Street, three blocks west of Parc Lafontaine.

Mario had completed Grade 10 at École supérieure Monseigneur Georges Gauthier. He was an indifferent student, but he liked to read, especially history. He was especially fascinated by Napoleon Bonaparte. He liked to draw and paint, and on Saturday mornings he attended classes at École des Beaux–Arts, housed in a sprawling red–brick building on the corner of Sherbrooke and Clark. After class he would walk the half block down Clark to La Paloma.

Bachand already had an interest in politics, inspired by his Quebec–nationalist father. Unlike his father, however, Mario was attracted to anarchism and communism. In 1962, with friends from La Paloma, he founded the Mouvement ouvrier pour la libération nationale; it dissolved in November of the same year. Bachand and his friends then established the City Club of the Young Communist League of Canada (YCLC), a pro–Soviet front aimed at attracting young people to the party. 19

The YCLC might have been no more than adolescent fantasy, but one organization took it seriously: D Section of the RCMP Security Service, which targeted subversion. When word went out that a new Communist club was forming, and that it met at La Paloma, Security Service agents suddenly developed a taste for espresso and the music of Jacques Brel.

One day in November 1962, they saw Bachand sitting with someone from the YCLC. From then on, his name appeared in Security Service reports on the group. In February 1963, the service sent an investigator to examine his files at the Montreal Demographerʼs Office, where civil records are kept, and the Unemployment Insurance Commission. When Bachand and his YCLC friends met at La Paloma on Saturday, March 2, 1963, to vote on a constitution for the group, a Security Service source reported the following:

“MAB,” re. Young Communist League of Canada, French Club, is identical to one Mario BACHAND living at 3694 St–Christophe St. Mario Bachand is approximately 20 years old, has dark brown hair, 5′ 10″ tall, wears moustache and is often dressed in sweater and windbreaker. The YCLC is a new club composed of young separatists sharing the ideology of communism. Records at the Demographerʼs Office, 1133 Ontario St. East, were checked on the 27.2.63 and they revealed that case number 31044 registered at the City Hall of Montreal of the 13.12.62 is relevant to Mario BACHAND. A girl named Elsa was born on the 7.9.62 at the Royal Victoria Hospital, 857 Pine St., the first child of Louise, age 19 years old and Mario BACHAND, age 18 years old, occupation: artist–painter. Mario BACHAND, apart from living out of his fatherʼs pocket, had been receiving benefits from the St–Vincent de–Paul, but could not advise if this was so at the present time… of the opinion that Mario BACHAND, besides painting, does not work or hold any steady employment.20

Two days later, a member of the Security Service reported: “Bachand is a member of the RIN with communist tendencies and is very violent. He is an artist but presently unemployed. He frequents Café La Paloma and LʼEnfer, and is a beatnik.” A teacher at École supérieure Monseigneur Georges Gauthier told the investigator: “Mario is fond of his studies, likes history and reading very much. He has completed 12th grade.” A second teacher added that Bachand “read too much literature, especially literature condemned by the Church, and this is a main reason for his present behaviour.”21

Less than a week after the Molotov cocktail attacks, a Security Service source overheard Bachand at La Paloma boast that he was on the executive of the FLQ.22 It confirmed their suspicions, and on March 24, at Security Service headquarters in Ottawa, a clerk at an IBM card–punch machine began a new card: “Name: Joseph François Mario BACHAND. True aliases: ‘Mab.’ Current full address: Montreal, Quebec, 3694 St–Christophe Street. Date and place of birth: 24 March 1944, Montreal. Nationality: Canadian. Industrial Group: unemployed.”23

He was in the net.

The Security Service had identified Mario Bachand as a member of the FLQ just as the movement had entered a new, more dangerous phase. The Molotov cocktail attacks had brought little more than ridicule, and when Schoeters, Hudon and Villeneuve met the day after the attacks, they complained that car accidents got more newspaper coverage. “If we make enough noise,” one said, “the papers wonʼt be able to ignore us.”24

First Bombing

Shortly before 8:00 p.m. on April 1, 1963, a pale blue Volkswagen drove through the tiny village of Lemieux, on the main CNR railway line thirty kilometres south of Montreal. On the far side of the village, the car turned onto a muddy side road that skirted a forest before reaching the tracks. It came to a halt, and three men emerged: Gabriel Hudon, Georges Schoeters and François Gagnon, nineteen, a student. Hudon removed a haversack from the rear of the vehicle, then he and Schoeters headed along the track towards a shed about half a kilometre away. Gagnon, carrying a can of white spray paint, headed for a nearby barn.

When Schoeters and Hudon reached the building, Hudon set the haversack down and removed five sticks of dynamite, bound in black electrician’s tape. He walked six metres along the track and set the bomb alongside one of the rails. He returned trailing two strands of wire. They retreated to the far side of the shed and crouched while Hudon attached the ends of the wire to the posts of a battery. “One… two… three…Merde! It didn’t explode! What’s going on?” Hudon ran back to the bomb and found a loose wire. He made the necessary repairs and returned to the others. The shock wave almost knocked them over. They rushed to the car, where Gagnon was waiting for them. He had just finished painting “FLQ” in giant white letters on the roof of the barn.

The following day, the FLQ executive—Villeneuve, Schoeters and Hudon—and several suicide commandos met at the home of Villeneuve. By coincidence, a train carrying Prime Minister John Diefenbaker had been scheduled to travel the line cut by the bomb. It was delayed for two hours, bringing the publicity the fledgling movement had longed for.

It also brought dissent within the FLQ. One of the bombers had talked about the action, and that made the others nervous. To tighten security, Villeneuve, responsible for recruitment, and Denis Lamoureux, responsible for propaganda, insisted that all actions be under the control of an executive, which would make decisions based on a “political perspective.” In reality, the two were vying for power. Hudon and Schoeters objected, declaring violence was necessary to a terrorist movement.

On April 5, the Security Service’s Montreal office reported it had placed a number of FLQ suspects under “continuous surveillance,” among them “Joseph Guy François Mario BACHAND, nickname MAB, alias Maurice R. GODIN.”25 Bachand had acquired a second alias, but it too had been quickly known to the Security Service.

The following evening, in the kitchen of Gabriel Hudson’s apartment in east–end Montreal, two men stretched a length of wire covered in bright yellow plastic along the floor. At the kitchen table, Hudon checked over an assortment of items, including a Burgess Radar Light No. TW1 battery, twenty–four sticks of dynamite marked “CILGEL” 70%, and a Westclox alarm clock, model Silver Bell, which promised “A good time for a long time.”26

It was eleven–thirty by the time Hudon carefully lowered the bomb into a dark blue nylon sports bag, and the three men left the apartment. They walked to St–Christophe Street, near Parc Lafontaine, and knocked on the door of number 3694. Bachand answered. They asked if he would go with them. He got dressed and left Louise and daughter Elsa.

The four FLQ men walked towards Mount Royal. From time to time they could see the lights of the cross there, and the red light on the transmission tower, high on the summit and bright against the dark sky. They climbed among the trees in the darkness, at times slipping and falling in the snow. Through breaks in the trees they could see the lights of the city, glittering like pearls down to the black curve of the river. It was 2:30 a.m. when they arrived at the summit.

The tower rose a hundred metres into the sky. At its top were several VHF antennas, which carried the communications of emergency services: fire, police and ambulance. Bachand kept watch as Hudon placed the bomb, in two parcels of twelve sticks of dynamite. The wire had become tangled in the climb up the mountain, so Hudon set the packages together against one leg of the tower. He hooked up the battery and the alarm clock, then inserted two detonators, as Bachand painted “FLQ” and “Liberté” on the concrete base of the tower. It was 3:00 a.m. They walked back down the mountain. Hudon stopped at an intersection, looked back and saw that the red light still glowed on the mountain. “Missed!” he said aloud. 27

Had the bomb exploded, the tower would have crashed to the ground, bringing fire, police and ambulance services to a halt. It also would have stopped transmission by several radio and television stations.

The police and the Quebec government were now desperately worried. The FLQ were clearly on a ladder of escalating violence, with each terrorist action more serious than the one before. It was just a matter of time until someone was killed. The trouble was that the police had a very incomplete picture of the FLQ. The informal structure of the movement, with cells of three or four individuals with little contact, made it difficult to identify the members; only a very few were known. The leadership and internal structure of the movement remained a mystery.

Early on the morning of April 12, police raided sixteen homes across Montreal. At six o’clock, Constable Rocicot of the RCMP and Constable Coutu of the Montreal police banged on the door of the apartment at 3694 St–Christophe.28 They searched through Bachand’s belongings and seized a few Communist books and RIN pamphlets.

Police also raided La Paloma, El Cortijo, the Swiss Hutt and Casa Espagnola, checking the patron’s identification against lists of suspects and taking some to headquarters for questioning.

The raids uncovered little intelligence on the FLQ but brought people into the streets in protest. On April 19, seventeen hundred demonstrators gathered at the statue of John Cabot in Atwater Park. The RIN leader, Pierre Bourgault, gave a speech. Demonstrators carried placards that proclaimed “Down with Ottawa Fascism,” “Death to Colonialism by Ottawa,” “Canadian $ out,” “Ottawa GESTAPO get out,” “To the devil with leaders close to Ottawa,” “Long live the Revolution,” “Berlin 1943–Montreal 1963.”

The demonstrators then set off down Atwater towards RCMP headquarters, where a line of police awaited them. Someone threw a stone through a window. A demonstrator knocked off a policeman’s hat, starting a scuffle, during which the policeman knocked the demonstrator to the ground. A cut to his scalp streamed blood, and he rushed to a group of journalists and insisted on being photographed. At that point, twenty RCMP officers emerged from the building, ready to put down what looked like the beginnings of a full–scale riot. The crowd quieted, then returned to Atwater Park, where Bourgault made another speech. Pierre Schneider, the habitué of La Paloma, and a second youth, Michel Massicotte, unfurled a Union Jack, set it alight and were promptly arrested.

An RCMP photographer had taken shots of the crowd from inside the building. When the black–and–white images emerged in the developing tank, the face of a skinny young man with large ears and a pencil moustache was readily identified: Mario Bachand. 29

At one o’clock in the morning, a car sped past the RCMP headquarters. A passenger threw a package from a window that landed on a flower box. The car sped off into the darkness. Moments later came the flash and roar of an explosion that sent glass, clumps of earth and pieces of torn flowers into the street.

It was Necessary to Die

On the evening of Saturday, April 20, Raymond Villeneuve telephoned Yves Labonté, a seventeen–year–old friend who lived nearby, and asked him to come over. When Labonté arrived, Villeneuve talked to him about separation, independence and the need for violence. He told Labonté it was necessary to die so the peoples suffering would end.30 He showed him a photograph of the statue in Montreal’s Dominion Square of John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, and asked if he would blow it up. Labonté agreed, and a few minutes later Gabriel Hudon arrived, carrying a dark blue nylon bag. He set it down on the kitchen table and pulled out an alarm clock, electric wire, eight sticks of dynamite, black electrician’s tape, a large dry–cell battery, a soldering iron and a shoe box. He worked for half an hour, taping the sticks of dynamite together, soldering wire, then taping the clock and the battery to the dynamite. He put the bomb in shoe box, then carefully slipped the box into the nylon bag. Hudon told Labonté of the safety measure he had devised. The alarm would ring a few moments before the bomb exploded. If he heard the alarm, he should throw the bomb as far as he could and run.

Hudon and Labonté left Villeneuve’s and walked to the corner of St–Denis and St–Joseph, where they met Jacques Giroux, a recent recruit to the FLQ. “Giroux knows what to do,” Hudon told Labonté before disappearing into the darkness. Labonté and Giroux walked south and then west on Dorchester Street, taking turns carrying the bag. They heard the clock ticking all the way to Dominion Square. However, there were too many people near the monument, and some looked like plainclothes policemen, so they continued walking.

Giroux suggested they leave the bomb at the Canadian Army recruiting centre on Sherbrook, across the street from McGill University. Giroux stayed at the corner as a lookout while Labonté continued along the lane to the back of the centre. He removed the cardboard box from the bag and placed it between a wooden garbage bin and the wall. It was 9:30 p.m.; the bomb was set to go off in thirty minutes.

They walked two blocks down McGill College Avenue to Benʼs Delicatessen, where they took a table at the window, ordered soft drinks and kept a nervous watch on the clock on the wall. Outside, pedestrians walked peaceably by, and apart from the swish of cars, there was silence. Something had gone wrong. They hurriedly paid their bill and left, passing beneath the sign above the door that declared, “The nicest people in the world pass through this door our customers.”

They walked back up the lane and found the bomb still wedged between the box and the wall. “Donʼt touch it,” Giroux told Labonté, “it could go off in your hands.” They walked to Ste–Catherine Street and took a bus home.31

At eleven–twenty, Wilfred Vincent OʼNeil, sixty–seven, a veteran of the two world wars and now a watchman at the recruiting centre, arrived for the midnight shift. He spoke for a few minutes about the FLQ with the man he was relieving. “They should be taken out and shot,” OʼNeil said as he stepped out into the lane to make a tour of inspection.32 Since the Molotov cocktail attacks on the armouries, the guards at military establishments in Montreal had been keeping a sharp lookout for suspicious objects. That night OʼNeil found one—a shoe box. He reached to pick it up.

The sound of the explosion startled people as far as Parc Lafontaine, almost a kilometre away. Three doors down from the centre, a veteran of the First World War sat bolt upright in bed and for a moment thought he was in the trenches under artillery bombardment. He ran out into the alley in his nightclothes. Acrid blue smoke hung in the still night air. In the distance, he heard the wail of a siren and the shouts of people running from all directions. A large metal door lay on the ground, seven metres from where it had been torn from its hinges. Shards of glass were still falling from broken windows. OʼNeil lay face down in a widening pool of blood. “I knew at a glance,” the veteran said, “he would never get up again.”33

Detective–Sergeant Léo Plouffe, the head of the Montreal police bomb squad, and his men spent hours searching the lane. They found a spring, two gears and a winding key from a Westclox Silver Bell alarm clock.

Next day, Le Devoir published a letter protesting the police raids of April 12. It was signed by forty–four “intellectuals,” among them Pierre Schneider, Gilles Pruneau and François Dorlot.

But Quebec authorities now had more important things to worry about than letters from self–proclaimed intellectuals. They had a deeply upset populace and a terrorist movement that had graduated to killing. The Security Service and Montreal police had good leads, especially on Mario Bachand. They were certain he was in the FLQ; they thought he might even be its leader.34 But they had only one other suspect, a man who had been seen with Bachand at La Paloma and had been arrested at the April 19 demonstration: Pierre Schneider. It would serve no purpose to pull Bachand in while the other terrorists remained unidentified. Meanwhile, they kept a close watch on La Paloma. They took down the licence numbers of cars, especially taxis, that brought young people to the café. Inside, a young couple would be seated at a table, saying nothing, unobtrusively observing and listening to everyone in the room. Especially to Mario Bachand.

The RCMP set up an observation post on St–Christophe Street from where they could see the front door of number 3694. When Bachand walked out in the morning, paused and looked carefully to the left and to the right, his image floated across the objective lenses of a pair of binoculars before his foot met the sidewalk. Every morning he would walk to Harry’s Restaurant, six blocks away on St–Denis, for breakfast. A surveillance team would be sitting within earshot of his favourite table when he walked through the door. They knew before the waitress how he wanted his eggs. When he left, they followed. Throughout the day, everyone he met was photographed, identified and assessed as to whether they too should be put under surveillance. The RCMP and the Montreal police were making gradual progress. But an unspoken question haunted the minds of investigators: could they get to the FLQ before they killed again?

The death of OʼNeil on April 20 had shaken the FLQ, and on the evening of April 22, Villeneuve, Hudon and Denis Lamoureux, the FLQ propaganda chief, visited the suicide commandos. Labonté flatly refused to continue. “The revolution is finished,” he told them.

“Calm down,” Villeneuve and Hudon said. “There is no action planned, and in a week all will be forgotten. Do you think the Jews did not kill Arabs before they won their independence? And the French not shoot Germans?” Villeneuve added, “Besides, it was not serious; it was only un Anglais who died.”35

The widow of Wilfred OʼNeil thought otherwise and said, “Didn’t those people know that sooner or later they would kill someone? All of them should be shot.”36

Meanwhile, the watch on Bachand continued. The surveillance report for April 24 stated:

Bachand was visited at his home by an unknown male answering the following description: age 35, height 5’ 9”, weight 170 lbs., short brown hair starting to recede, wide face and forehead, large nose, full black moustache, sloping shoulders, bow legged, dark–blue beret, brown sports jacket, high necked long green sweater, light grey double–breasted overcoat. Bachand and the unidentified male left the former’s house at 3694 St–Christophe Street and entered Harry’s Restaurant 3620 St–Denis where they remained for about one half hour.37

At the beginning of May 1963, the FLQ acquired a cottage at St–Faustin in the Laurentians north of Montreal, which they used to store dynamite and detonators stolen from construction sites along the Métro. The cottage belonged to a new recruit, twenty–five–year–old Jacques Lanciault, a part–time student at the Université de Montréal who recently had begun to appear in the back room of La Paloma.

The evening of Thursday, May 2, Hudon, Villeneuve and Schoeters decided on their next target: the Royal Canadian Legion building in St–Jean, fifty kilometres east of Montreal.38 Later that evening, Villeneuve went to Houdon’s apartment and watched Hudon build the bomb on the kitchen table. They left on a motorbike, arriving in St–Jean at 11:30 p.m. The streets were in darkness. They soon located the legion, housed in a brick building on a side street. Hudon squeezed under the front steps with the bomb, armed it and set it to explode in two hours. The following morning, after hearing over the radio that the building had been heavily damaged, they released a communiqué:

A suicide commando of the FLQ successfully attacked the Canadian Legion, symbol of a federal institution aiming at the assimilation and elimination of all national patriotism in Quebec. The Canadian Legion, as a servile branch of the British Imperial Legion, invariably supports Anglo–Saxon imperialism and the exploitation that crushes our nation. The mere fact that they favour the Union Jack as the official emblem of Canada demonstrates the mentality of these infamous traitors.39

Raymond Villeneuve

Hudon, Villeneuve and Lamoureux—the FLQ “executive”—wanted to improve the image of the FLQ, which had suffered with the death of OʼNeil. At the same meeting at which they decided to bomb the Canadian Legion in St–Jean, they decided to attack the Solbec Mines company. The mine had been on strike for more than a year. They thought that if the FLQ took action against Solbec, Quebec workers would look positively on the FLQ. On May 1, Villeneuve met a suicide commando named Roger Tetreault in a restaurant on St–Denis. Tetreault, a twenty–four–year–old freelance writer, had been recruited into the FLQ by Villeneuve. Villeneuve asked Tetreault to reconnoitre the Solbec head office, which was on the fourteenth floor of a building in downtown Montreal. Tetreault visited the target the following morning and that afternoon reported to Villeneuve that there were problems. The office was at the far end of a corridor, with a secretary on duty at the entrance. The washroom was off the corridor. It would be impossible to get into the office undetected. Villeneuve thought for a few minutes, then had an idea. Tetreault, in suit and tie, would arrive at Solbec carrying a briefcase with the bomb inside. He would ask to speak with the public relations officer. While waiting, he would go to the washroom, leaving the briefcase behind. Reaching the street, he would telephone a warning for the building to be evacuated.

The next day, May 3, Tetreault returned to the Solbec office, dressed in suit and tie and carrying the briefcase. Departing from the plan, he left the bomb, concealed in a cake tin, on a windowsill in the washroom. He left the building. He and Villeneuve wrote “FLQ” in red spray paint on a wall of the building, then Villeneuve called the Solbec secretary. She laughed when he told her there was a bomb and hung up. Villeneuve called a radio station, which passed the warning to the police.

The building was evacuated. Detective–Sergeant Léo Plouffe found—and opened—the cake tin. To disarm the device, he cut the wire from the battery to the detonator. Two minutes later, there was a click… click from the alarm clock. Had he arrived two minutes later, he would have been blown to pieces.

The day of the Solbec incident, a Security Service surveillance team followed the RCMPʼs main suspect: Mario Bachand. He visited the Château Tavern, the École des Beaux–Arts, La Paloma, the Paladine Restaurant and the café El Cortijo.40

On Friday, May 9, an FLQ bomb exploded beneath a car behind the Black Watch Armoury on Bleury Street. The FLQ executive met that day at the home of Raymond Villeneuve and drew up another manifesto.

During a night raid against the Canadian Army Recruiting Centre in Montreal, something unforeseen happened, causing the death of an English–speaking person. The collaborationist press immediately spoke of murder and assassination. Unfortunately, no revolution takes place without the shedding of blood. It would be utopian to maintain the contrary. While Gandhi was on strike, hundreds of his compatriots were mowed down by British machine guns. The patriots are not guilty of the death of OʼNeil. The guilty ones are the collaborators, the infamous exploiters who force the Quebec patriots to take up arms for the liberty of the nation.41

The manifesto announced a further, more sinister, development.

The FLQ announces the formation of the Revolutionary Tribunal of Patriotic Quebecers (TRPQ). The duty of the tribunal will be judging foreign criminals and in the most important cases, only two sentences will be applied: exile or death.42

On the weekend of May 9–10, the FLQ gathered sleeping bags, hunting knives, cooking gear and rifles and set off by car for Lanciaultʼs cottage. They had decided to reorganize the movement. One group would set themselves up in the countryside and prepare for guerrilla warfare. There would be commando–suicide cells in Montreal. Hudon, Schoeters and Villeneuve would support them all with money obtained by armed robberies.

There was a second motive for the trip. Bachand was getting more and more out of control. Being in the FLQ had gone to his head, and at La Paloma, the Swiss Hutt, El Cortijo and anywhere else, he talked about his past—and future—exploits as a terrorist and revolutionary leader. He talked too much, and the talk threatened the FLQ. Moreover, it seemed at times that he had difficulty distinguishing reality from fantasy. Schoeters, Villeneuve and Hudon decided the weekend would provide the opportunity to reason with him.

At the cottage, the FLQ talked about strategy and argued with Bachand. He was rebellious and anarchistic by nature and by conviction and resisted efforts to control him. He went off alone, carrying a .303 rifle, and from time to time during the next few hours they heard shots from the forest across the lake. Bachand was on manoeuvres, shooting an imagined enemy. He returned after midnight, exhausted.

The FLQ executive met again on May 11 in Montreal. Villeneuve and Lamoureux were pushing Schoeters out, telling him he was better suited to organization than to action. They began making decisions without him—in part because he was Belgian, not Québécois, but mostly out of rivalry. Lamoureux especially wanted to be the chief. At some meetings in his apartment, he would dress up in an embroidered bathrobe and call himself Emperor Denis I. Schoeters insisted on taking part in actions. He asked for two bombs, for himself and another FLQ member to attack two military targets near his home on Côte–des–Neiges. Villeneuve controlled the dynamite, which he kept in a secret location at St–Faustin. Schoeters was so insistent that the others agreed, and after the meeting Hudon made up two bombs for him, with ten sticks of dynamite each.

That afternoon, Schoeters and FLQ member Richard Bizier took a bomb to an RCAF building on Bates Street and left it beneath a parked car. It failed to go off. They returned with the second bomb, and with Jeanne Schoeters acting as lookout, they placed it beside the first. The two bombs went off together with a terrific explosion, wrecking a dozen cars and breaking windows for a block. In nearby apartments, shards of glass flew through the air; it was only by chance that no one was injured or killed.

There was No Sure Way to handle a Bomb

On Sunday, May 12, Pierre Schneider, Mario Bachand and Gilles Pruneau met with Denis Lamoureux in the latter’s apartment on St–Louis Square.43 Pruneau, a nineteen–year–old clerk, had joined the FLQ the day before, when Bachand introduced him to Lamoureux. They discussed the Bates Street bombing. Someone argued that they should continue setting large bombs, with at least fifty sticks of dynamite, targeting City Hall and military buildings. Pruneau objected that it might cause another death, like O’Neil’s. Lamoureux had recently suggested that “there ought to be some thing in Westmount,” home to Montrealʼs wealthy, English–Canadian elite.44

Rather than employing a single large bomb, members decided that they would place several small bombs in mailboxes, which would create panic among residents. They called it Operation Westmount. Pruneau said he had studied physics in high school and could make the bombs himself. Instead of using a clock mechanism, they would use a watch movement. That would make the bomb compact enough to pass through the narrow opening of a mailbox.

Richard Bizier called an RIN activist, René Bataille, who had the use of his fatherʼs 1963 black Chevrolet, and asked, “Are you busy? We would like a lift.”45 That afternoon Bataille drove Pruneau, Bizier and Bachand west on Westmount Avenue, south on Claremont and east on Ste–Catherine. Bachand sat in the back seat with a map. As they passed certain spots, someone would say, “Here” or “There,” as he timed the intervals with a watch. One of the spots was at Westmount and Lansdowne, another Sherbrook and Claremont, near Batailleʼs home.

They did not tell Bataille what they were doing, but Bachand advised him, “If you have to post a letter, better do it in Montreal.”46

After Pruneau finished his night class on May 14, he rented a room at the Diplomat hotel on Metropolitan Boulevard.

Lamoureux arrived with a large suitcase containing materiel for ten bombs: watch movements, batteries, detonators, wire and forty sticks of dynamite. Pruneau assembled the bombs, each with four sticks of dynamite, in three hours.47

Shortly before midnight on May 16, a blue Volkswagen came to a halt beside a mailbox on Ste–Catherine Street, near the Montreal Forum. At the wheel was Denis Lamoureux, beside him was François Gagnon and in the back seat were Pierre Schneider and Mario Bachand, who had his face covered. Lamoureux stepped out of the car, went up to the mailbox and slipped a package through the opening, gently lowering it at the end of a piece of wire. Lamoureux then crossed the street to take a bus home. Gagnon took the wheel, and with Bachand consulting a map, they drove off. They stopped again on Ste–Catherine for Schneider to leave a second bomb, then turned at the next corner, entering the dark, treed streets of residential Westmount. Following Bachandʼs directions, they stopped at three more intersections, with Schneider placing two more bombs, Gagnon one. Meanwhile, Gilles Pruneau was walking along streets in upper Westmount, also dropping bombs into mailboxes. He placed five, one at the intersection of Westmount and Lansdowne Avenues.48

At 3:00 a.m. on Friday, May 17, the thud of an explosion hit the comer of Lewis and Ste–Catherine. The mailbox that had been there was torn to shrapnel. Minutes later there was a second explosion at Churchill and Côte St–Antoine. A half hour later, bombs exploded at three other intersections.

The Montreal police bomb squad arrived shortly, then waited until dawn. At first light, assisted by explosives experts from the Canadian Army, they began a search of the remaining eighty–two mailboxes in Westmount. They discovered seven bombs.

By mid–morning, Army Major Walter Leja had reached into two mailboxes and retrieved two bombs with his bare hands. He disarmed them by cutting the wire between the battery and the detonator.

Each had four sticks of dynamite, taped together with black electrician’s tape, a six–volt Eveready battery and a four–centimetre copper cylinder—the detonator—buried in the end of one of the sticks of dynamite. Two copper wires covered in bright yellow plastic ran from the detonator—one to a terminal of the battery, one to the back of a watch movement. A wire ran from the post to the second terminal of the battery.

The hour hand would make its slow and deadly progress. At the set time, it would make contact with the post, completing the circuit: the explosion would be instantaneous. The devices were devilishly simple, crudely constructed with cheap pocket watches. On the unexploded bombs, the hour hand had stopped just short of the post. The slightest touch could bring the two together.

“There was” declared Detective–Sergeant Léo Plouffe, “no sure way to handle a bomb.”

At 10:45 a.m. on the corner of Westmount and Lansdowne Avenues, Leja reached into a mailbox to retrieve a bomb for the third time that day. A half a block away, police and military personnel, journalists and photographers watched in silence. Leja carefully took the bomb in his left hand and lifted it. He looked at the cameras and smiled. There was a burst of light, the thud of the explosion, then a cloud of smoke and debris. Leja lay in the street, his left hand gone, his left arm nearly severed, one eye destroyed, his brain injured and paralyzed on one side. He struggled to breathe. A doctor wrapped a tourniquet around the stub of his left arm. He inserted a breathing tube between what remained of his lips. For a month, Leja would hover between life and death. He would live, but never fully recover.

Denis Lamoureux

The FLQ met on the evening of May 21 to discuss Operation Westmount. Most judged it to have been a success—it had hit the “English exploiters” where they were most vulnerable, in their homes. It also attacked a federal symbol, the postal service. Schoeters, who had only learned of the action the night before the bombs were set, did not approve. The FLQ was no longer fighting symbols of English–Canadian colonialism, he said. It was attacking people.

Between May 17 and 25, Detective–Sergeant Plouffe and his eight–man squad twice worked forty–eight–hour days. Plouffe alone handled the bombs, with a stock of equipment that had grown from a penknife and stethoscope to include a truck carrying barrels of oil, meant to absorb the shock of an explosion. During that time there were so many alerts—the false alarms were as nerve–racking as the bombs—that Plouffe was on the verge of nervous collapse. At 4:00 p.m. on May 24, while he and his men ate lunch in the police canteen, he asked for volunteers to handle the bombs. He was answered by silence.

Shortly afterwards, a man who didn’t give his name called Montreal police headquarters and said there was one bomb in the mail box at Laurier Park, and another at Westbury and Maplewood, both in Westmount. Plouffe rushed to Laurier Park with his squad and again reached into a mailbox to grope for a package that could blow him to pieces. The box was empty. With tears running down his cheeks, he kicked it. A few minutes later, at Westbury and Maplewood, he again reached into an empty box. “Will I always be the only one?” he cried aloud.49

But the nightmare was about to end.

The FLQ was dividing into factions, and the plans for reorganization merely masked differences that were both political and personal. The extreme nationalists, such as Hudon and Villeneuve, were driven by hatred of all things English Canadian. Politically, they tended to the right, though they spoke the language of the left. Pruneau, Schneider and Bachand were on the left. Bachand, whose RIN membership was merely a formality, loathed the organization, considering it a bourgeois clique that wanted to replace one class of exploiters, the English Canadians, with another, itself. Schoeters was sidelined further; and others, particularly Lamoureux, wanted to be the leader of the FLQ. Moreover, Schoeters was becoming more and more unhappy with the FLQ move to out–and–out terrorism.

Tensions were rising. When one of the members talked of quitting, Bachand told him he would be killed if he did.50

End Game

Meanwhile, the police were closing in.

For two weeks, every time Jeanne Schoeters left the apartment she felt she was being followed. At first she dismissed it as nerves. Then she became convinced. One day, while out shopping, she saw the same man three times. She thought he looked like a detective. He was.

On the afternoon of Saturday, June 1, the FLQ gathered at Denis Lamoureuxʼs apartment. As they arrived, they removed their shoes at the door so their footsteps would not be heard in the apartment below. But the threat came not from without but from within.

The meeting was to discuss the planned reorganization of the movement into three sections: one would carry out guerrilla warfare in the countryside; a second, to comprise cells in Montreal, would continue bombings and other “actions;” and in the third cell, Hudon, Villeneuve and Schoeters would supply the other sections with money from armed robberies. Lamoureux and Lanciault were chosen to lead the Montreal cells. Lamoureux, vying for leadership, had been largely responsable for Operation Westmount, which had left Walter Leja fighting for his life. Lanciault had gained the confidence of the others by placing a bomb next to a three–storey–tall oil reservoir of the Golden Eagle Refinery in east Montreal.

Fortunately, the tank happened to be empty, and the bomb caused little damage. Nonetheless, the action had been Lanciaultʼs idea, and he had impressed the others with his initiative. He had even suggested assassination as an FLQ tactic.51 At the June 1 meeting, Lanciault was handed a list of all the FLQ members. The meeting ended at four o’clock. Hudon and Villeneuve walked home. Georges Schoeters, Pierre Schneider, Jacques Giroux and François Gagnon left in the Volkswagen. Lanciault and Lamoureux stayed behind to discuss how they would manage the Montreal cells.

The arrests began almost immediately.

The Volkswagen stopped on Ste–Catherine Street, in front of Eaton’s department store, and let Gagnon out. A man wearing jeans and with long hair and beard approached, pulled out a revolver and said they were under arrest. Schneider thought it was a joke and asked for identification. But it was not a joke, and suddenly police were everywhere. Shoppers gathered across the street to watch as the four FLQ members were taken away in handcuffs.

Not all the FLQ members were arrested that day. The police left some at large to see if they would lead them to others yet unidentified. They followed Hudon the five kilometres to his home after the meeting and saw him stop along the way to buy an alarm clock. After dinner, Hudon went out again and was followed to a nearby hardware store, where he bought a second alarm clock. The police were sure Hudon did not simply have a problem getting up in the morning. They followed him back to his apartment building and saw the lights go out. At 2:00 a.m., Jeanne Schoeters telephoned Hudon to ask if he knew where her husband was. She already knew Georges was in jail but was trying to warn Hudon that the police were on the way. “Donʼt be upset!” he told her. “Its not the first time that he’s come back at two or three in the morning.” Oblivious to her warning, Hudon went back to sleep. Two hours later, eight policemen appeared at the door with a warrant for his detention as a material witness in the death of Wilfred OʼNeil. As Hudon carefully read the warrant his mother appeared in her nightclothes.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

“They think I’m in the FLQ” he replied, “and they are looking for dynamite. But they won’t find any here.” Nor did they, but when they searched the shed in the back yard, they found a locked cupboard. There they discovered two assembled bombs, totalling fifty sticks of dynamite. As the policemen stood looking anxiously at the devices, which were powerful enough to blow them all to pieces, Hudon said, “Donʼt worry. The batteries are not hooked up.”52

That afternoon, Jeanne Schoeters, accompanied by a lawyer, arrived at police headquarters. She hoped to see her husband but got an unpleasant surprise instead. Georges had told police about her involvement as lookout in the Bates Street bombing, and they promptly escorted her to a fifth–floor detention cell.

With the timely help of his father, Bachand began working as a painter for the City of Montreal on June 3. At nine forty–five the following evening, while he was walking along Pine Street, just east of St–Laurent, two RCMP officers in plainclothes approached, flashed their badges and presented a warrant for his arrest.

Where do we live? In a totalitarian state or in a liberal democracy?

The FLQ members were detained under the Coroner’s Act. By holding them as material witnesses into the death of Wilfred OʼNeil, the police avoided the problem of having insufficient evidence to lay criminal charges. Under the Coroner’s Act, witnesses could be held indefinitely—the police did not even have to release their names. They scattered the FLQ members in jails across the city. When mothers appeared at police headquarters pleading for information about their sons, all they got was a curt “No comment.” Lawyers would be sent from station to station, referred to officers who, mysteriously, were never there.

The tactics brought a storm of public protest. On June 7, Gérard Pelletier, in his La Presse editorial asked, “Where do we live? In a totalitarian state or in a liberal democracy?” Pierre Trudeau declared, “The Coroner’s Act had been misused and diverted from its purpose in the FLQ affair. I understand—without excusing—the attitude of the police who could have let themselves be carried away by passion. But I cannot imagine lawyers and politicians giving a law an interpretation contrary to the most elementary liberties. When there is no case against someone, one does not arrest him. There are enough policemen in this city to keep suspects under surveillance until, the charge being reasonable and probable, one can bring proof against him.”53

Premier Lesage replied to the protest by quoting from the Coroner’s Act: “The coroner, before or during the inquest, has full power to order the detention, with or without a warrant, of any person or any witness that he may need and who, in the opinion of the coroner, might neglect or refuse to appear at the inquest.” He went on to say: “Isn’t it obvious when they must fight to crush a revolutionary and anarchistic movement, it is time for police to use even all exceptional powers allowed in all democratic countries when they are endangered?”54

The inquest into the death of OʼNeil opened on June 10 at Montrealʼs Palais de Justice. In a second–floor courtroom with beige walls and an elaborately carved ceiling, high above the judges bench, hung the Canadian coat of arms. At the back hung a giant crucifix. Caught between Canadian justice and divine mercy, the FLQ would find little of either.

That was evident from the start, when a defence lawyer asked Judge Trahan if he “had determined the objectivity of the five–man jury.”55 It was a pointed criticism, for though in a criminal trial both prosecution and defence select the jury, under the Coronerʼs Act the judge alone makes the selection.

There were other disagreeable aspects to the proceedings. The court could compel witnesses to testify against themselves, and the testimony would be admissible as evidence in any criminal trial that followed. The “protection of the court” could be offered to witnesses. This meant that if they accepted, their testimony could not be used against them, but they would have to answer all questions. Moreover, defence lawyers had no standing, which meant they could not question witnesses without permission of the judge.

Alain Brouillard, nineteen, a slightly built science student at the Université de Montréal, was the first to take the stand. After accepting the protection of the court, he gave damning testimony against Raymond Villeneuve. Brouillard related that they had grown up in the same neighbourhood and had known each other for eight or nine years. He described a February meeting at Da Giovanni restaurant, at which Villeneuve, Hudon and Schoeters questioned potential FLQ recruits. He also testified that on March 7 he and Villeneuve had thrown Molotov cocktails at the Victoria Rifles armoury.

The next witness, Yves Labonté, testified about the bomb that killed Wilfred OʼNeil. He described how Hudon had assembled it in Villeneuve’s kitchen, and how he and Giroux had carried it to the Sherbrooke Street recruiting centre.

“You did it for fun?” asked the prosecutor.

“Yes”

“Not for the FLQ?”

“No.”

“For kicks?”

“Yes.”

George Schoeters, dressed in a dark gray sports jacket and a dark blue shirt open at the neck, appeared next. When Judge Trahan called him to take the stand, he wailed, “I didn’t sleep last night. I haven’t seen my lawyer… I haven’t had a change of clothing in two days.” The prosecutor tried to encourage him to testify by asking if he had designed the blue–and–white flag with red star that had appeared on FLQ communiqués. Schoeters admitted he had, saying the blue represented France, the white liberty and the red star revolution. But he refused to give the names of the others.

“I cannot in good conscience tell them. This was a resistance movement. I will tell the truth, but I will not name names.”

The coroner’s inquest ended June 12 with the naming of twenty–one persons as accountable for the death of Wilfred OʼNeil. Two days later, a total of 150 charges were laid against sixteen FLQ members. Schoeters, Hudon, Villeneuve, Jacques Giroux and Yves Labonté were charged with non–capital murder in the death of Wilfred OʼNeil. If found guilty, they could be sentenced to life imprisonment. Mario Bachand, Denis Lamoureux, Pierre Schneider, François Gagnon and Gilles Pruneau were charged with criminal negligence causing bodily harm to Walter Leja “by placing explosive substances in various letter boxes.” For that, they could be imprisoned for up to ten years. They were also charged with conspiracy which carried a maximum penalty of fourteen years’ imprisonment.

It’s not a question of Murder

Preliminary hearings began a week later. When Schoeters was called to testify in Gabriel Houdon’s hearing, he declared, “In remembrance of Riel and Chénier, I refuse to testify, for political reasons.” Nor did Villeneuve or Giroux take the stand. But this did not help Hudon, for Labonté repeated the testimony he had given at the inquest.

The hearing on charges against Denis Lamoureux for the Westmount bombings began July 2. The tall, pudgy Lamoureux seemed to enjoy all the attention, smirking as he entered the court and turning his face towards the camera whenever he saw he was being photographed.56

When Bachand was called as a witness, he walked casually to the witness box, looked at the court clerk and said in a low voice, “I refuse to testify.” He also refused to be sworn in.

“I refuse to testify against any separatist, whoever he may be or whatever separatist group he may belong to.”

“Do you mean to tell me you would condone murder if done in the name of separatism?” Judge Émile Trottier asked.

“It’s not a question of murder. I just don’t want to testify.”

Judge Trottier ordered Bachand escorted from the witness stand and back to his cell.57 The next day Trottier asked him to testify, “in the name of the Queen and of your country.” “But my country is not Canada, it is Quebec,” replied Bachand, his arms crossed.58

Pruneau, however, testified in detail about Denis Lamoureuxʼs role in Operation Westmount.

The RCMP had recently reported:

Lamoureux appears to be mentally deranged, dreaming of being a second “Nero” and calling himself Denis the Emperor the first. Photographs of him in his Emperor’s robes were found among his effects. He strongly desired being the uncontested ruler of this group, and mentioned that he could get in mental contact with the spirits. His claim to leadership and his overbearing attitude caused dissension in this group, especially between the actual leader of the group, Schoeters, and himself. Several meetings were held at his residence. He was also the head of the political information and recruiting office of the FLQ. Lamoureux also made all the plans, except the first one.59

On August 7, Bachand asked deputy Crown prosecutor Jacques Bellemare if he could testify about the Westmount bombings but was told it would not be necessary.60 The Crown had all the evidence it needed. There was, however, one FLQ action for which they had little evidence: the Solbec bomb. Bachand informed Bellemare that Tetreault had told him that he (Tetreault) and Villeneuve were responsible.61

When Bachand appeared in court two days later, his reluctance to testify had vanished, which ensured a guilty verdict for Tetreault and Villeneuve. Three weeks later, the court granted Bachand bail of $10,000, which he did not have; on September 12 it was reduced to $5,000. It was put up by a sympathetic journalist, and Bachand walked out of Bordeaux jail and was picked up at the front gate by his father.62 A week later, he appeared at a demonstration protesting the opening of Place des Arts.63

On October 7, the court passed sentence on those responsible for the bomb that killed Wilfred OʼNeil. Gabriel Hudon and Raymond Villeneuve were sentenced to twelve years, Jacques Giroux to ten. Yves Labonté was given six years. Georges Schoeters, the eldest, who had been portrayed as leading the others astray, was sentenced to five consecutive twelve–year sentences. After agreeing never to return to Canada, he would soon be deported to Belgium. Denis Lamoureuxʼs lawyer described his client as an idealist and an intellectual for whom a too–severe sentence would make reform impossible. He was given four years.64

Missing from court that day were Pierre Schneider, Roger Tetreault, Gilles Pruneau and Mario Bachand. Months later, after receiving assistance from the French government, Pruneau would surface in Algiers, where he opened a souvenir stand. As for Bachand, on October 9 the RCMP asked External Affairs if he had recently applied for a passport. By then Bachand, Tetreault and Schneider were on St–Pierre and Miquelon, the French islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The governor of the islands told them, “France would not stand idly by if Quebec chose independence,” but refused their request for political asylum. They took the ferry to Maine, then a bus to Boston, where police picked them up as they were about to board a bus to Mexico. The next day an immigration hearing ordered them deported to Canada. Tetreault stayed to fight the order; Schneider and Bachand were put on an Air Canada flight, and were arrested on their arrival at Dorval.

On November 27, Mario Bachand pleaded guilty to charges relating to the mailbox bombings in Westmount and to setting the bomb on the telecommunications tower on Mount Royal. On December 13, he was sentenced to four and a half years’ imprisonment.

____________________

5 Gabriel Hudon, Ce nʼétait quʼun debut (Montreal: Les Editions Parti Pris, 1977), p. 70.

6The Montreal Star, March 8, 1963: pp. 1, 6.

7RG 146, box 33, 93–A–00208, p. 298.

8 Claude Savoie, La Véritable Histoire du FLQ (Montreal: Les editions du jour, 1963), pp. 27–28.

9Le Devoir, April 27, 1959, p. 1.

10 Jeanne Schoeters, “I Helped the FLQ Terrorists Because I Loved My Husband,” Weekend Magazine, November 23, 1963, p. 4.

11Quartier Latin, September 27, 1962.

12Quarter Latin, October 4, 1962.

13Quarter Latin, October 16, 1962.

14Quarter Latin, October 18, 1962.

15Quarter Latin, October 23, 1962.

16 Jeanne Schoeters, “I Helped… Because I Loved My Husband,” Weekend Magazine, November 23 and 30, 1963.

17Le Devoir, March 4, 1963, p. 5; Louis Fournier, FLQ: Histoire dʼun Mouvement Clandestin (Montreal: Québec–Amérique, 1982).

18 Carole de Vault, The Informer (Scarborough: Fleet Publishers, 1982), pp. 35–40.

19 C Division RCMP report on Bachand, 1963, RG 146, box 25, 92–A 00132; Security Service Brief 51, Separatism and Subversion in Quebec 1957–1964, CSIS AtIP 117–91–102.

20RG 146, box 22, 92–A–00134, pt. 1, pp. 37, 59, 64.

21RG 146, box 22, 92–A–00134, pt. 1, pp. 37, 59, 64.

22RG 146, box 22, 92–A–00134, pt. 1, p. 18.

23RG 146, box 14, 92–A–00043, pp. 2291, 2293.

24 Schoeters, “I Helped…”

25 Montreal RCMP report on the FLQ, April 8, 1963, RG 146, box 33, 93–A–00208, p. 189.

26 Hudon, Ce nʼétait…, p. 86.

27 Ibid., p. 88.

28RCMP report, RG 146, 93–A–00208, p. 47.

29RCMP C Division report, April 24, 1963, RG 146, box 22, 93–A–00134, pt. 1.

30 Savoie, La veritable histoire…, p. 43.

31The Montreal Star, June 27, 1963, p. 2.

32Allô Police, April 28, 1963, p. 7.

33The Montreal Star, April 21, 1963, p. 25.

34 C Division report, March 14, 1963, RG 146, box 22, 92–A–00134, pt. 1, p. 18.

35Allô Police, June 23, 1963, p. 26; Le Devoir, June 12, 1963, p. 2.

36The Montreal Star, RG 146, 93–A–00208, p. 126.

37RG 146, box 22, 93–A–00134, pt. 1.

38 Savoie, La véritable histoire…, pp. 56–57.

39 Gustav Morf, Terror in Quebec (Toronto: Clark, Irwin, 1970), pp. 3–4.

40RCMP surveillance report, May 6, 1963, RG 146, box 22, 93–A–00134, pt. 1.

41 Morf, Terror…, pp. 59–60.

42 Savoie, La véritable histoire…, pp. 59–60.

43The Montreal Star, July 5, 1963, p. 4.

44 Schoeters statement to police, quoted in The Montreal Star, June 11, 1963, p. 4.

45IDLS report, February 26, 1965, RG 146, box 35, 94–A–00078, pt. 1 p. 134.

46 My interview with René Bataille.

47The Gazette, July 4, 1963, p. 3.

48The Montreal Star, July 4, 1963, p. 4.

49Allô Police, May 25, 1963, p. 14.

50RCMP C Division report, FLQ, July 22, 1963, RG 146, box 22,92–A–00134, pt. 1, p. 161.

51 My interview with Pierre Schneider.

52 Hudon, Ce nʼétait…, p. 47.

53Le Devoir, June 8, 1963.

54The Montreal Star, June 8, 1963, p.1.

55The Gazette, June 11, 1963, p. 3.

56The Gazette July 4, 1963, p. 3.

57The Gazette, July 4, 1963, p. 7.

58The Montreal Star, July 5, 1963, p. 4.

59 C Division report, July 22, 1963, RG 146, box 22, 92–A–00134, pt. 1.

60 Bellemare testified that the visit had taken place because the Quebec solicitor general had ordered him “to investigate the causes of FLQ terrorism.” More likely, Bachand wanted out on bail and called him.

61La Presse, May 27, 1964.

62 C Division file 63M–1184–1–92, op. cit. Also La Presse, September 14, 1963, p. 3.

63RG 146, box 22, 93–A–00134 pt. 1.

64La Presse, October 8, 1963, p. 10.