50 years ago: Ottawa sends troops to occupy Quebec

By Terry Evans
October 26, 2020
50 years ago: Ottawa sends troops to occupy Quebec

Fifty years ago this week, protests mounted in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada following the decision of Prime Minister Pierre-Elliot Trudeau — father of the Canadian prime minister today — to invoke the repressive War Measures Act on Oct. 16, 1970. His assault aimed to quell the rising movement for language and national rights of the Quebecois, a long oppressed French-speaking people in Canada, and stem growing moves towards the formation of a labor party based on the unions. 

Some 8,000 soldiers occupied the streets of Montreal. More than 500 people were arrested without a warrant and over 31,000 search raids were carried out by the police and army. Vigorous protests involving the unions, students and others were organized to win the release of those detained. 

Above, a firsthand report in Oct. 30, 1970, issue of the Militant  from Mary-Alice Waters, the paper’s managing editor, who traveled to Montreal to help cover the struggle against the government’s assault. 

Among those arrested in Trudeau’s roundup were Arthur Young and Penny Simpson, campaign manager and treasurer of the election campaign of Manon Leger, inset, candidate of the League for Socialist Action/Ligue socialiste ouvrière for Montreal mayor. The league was a forerunner of today’s Communist League.

Despite the arrests, League supporters waged an unflinching campaign, taking their literature to soldiers at army barracks and to working people across Quebec. 

The government crackdown failed to quash the rising movement for national rights, which transformed conditions for people in Quebec. 

The Militant Labor Forum is organizing a special forum Oct. 17, 7:30 p.m., at 7107 St. Denis, Suite 204 in Montreal. Next week’s Militant  will feature further coverage.