REFUSING TO GET BACK TO THE LAW OF
THE JUNGLE - TRUDEAU 1970
The War Measures Act
I am speaking to
you at a moment of grave crisis,
when violent and
fanatical men are attempting to destroy the
unity and the freedom of Canada. One aspect of
that crisis is the threat which has been made on
the lives of two innocent men. These are matters
of the utmost gravity and I want to tell you
what the government is doing to deal with them.
What has taken place in Montreal in the past two
weeks is not unprecedented. It has happened
elsewhere in the world on several recent
occasions: it could happen elsewhere within
Canada. But Canadians have always assumed that
it could not happen here and as a result we are
doubly shocked that it has.
Our assumption may have been naive, but it was
understandable: understandable because democracy
flourishes in Canada; understandable because
individual liberty is cherished in Canada.
Notwithstanding these conditions, partly because
of them it has been demonstrated now to us by a
few misguided persons just how fragile a
democratic society can be if democracy is not
prepared to defend itself, and just how
vulnerable to blackmail are tolerant,
Because the kidnappings and the blackmail are
most familiar to you, I shall deal with them
The governments of Canada and Quebec have been
told by groups of self-styled revolutionaries
that they intend to murder in cold blood two
innocent men unless their demands are met. The
kidnappers claim they act as they do in order to
draw attention to instances of social injustice.
But I ask them whose attention are they seeking
to attract. The Government of Canada? The
Government of Quebec?
Every government in this country is well aware
of the existence of deep and important social
problems. And every government to the limit of
its resources and ability is deeply committed to
their solution. But not by kidnappings and
bombings. By hard work..
And if any doubt exists about the good faith or
the ability of any government, there are
opposition parties ready and willing to be given
an opportunity to govern. In short there is
available everywhere in Canada an effective
mechanism to change governments by peaceful
means. It has been employed by disenchanted
voters again and again.
Who are the kidnap victims? To the victims'
families they are husbands and fathers. To the
kidnappers their identity is immaterial. The
kidnappers' purposes would be served equally
well by having in their grip you or me, or
perhaps some child.
Their purpose is to exploit the normal, human
feelings of Canadians and to bend those feelings
of sympathy into instruments for their own
violent and revolutionary ends.
What are the kidnappers demanding in return for
the lives of these men? Several things. For one,
they want their grievances aired by force in
public on the assumption no doubt that all
right-thinking persons would be persuaded that
the problems of the world can be solved by
shouting slogans and insults.
They want more. They want the police to offer up
as a sacrificial lamb a person whom they assume
assisted in the lawful arrest and proper
conviction of certain of their criminal friends.
They also want money. Ransom money.
They want still more. They demand the release
from prison of 17 criminals. and the dropping of
charges against six other men, all of whom they
refer to as "political prisoners."
Who are these men who are held out as latter-day
patriots and martyrs? Let me describe them to
Three are convicted murderers; five others were
jailed for manslaughter; one is serving a life
imprisonment after having pleaded guilty to
numerous charges related to bombings; another
has been convicted of 17 armed robberies; two
were once paroled but are now back in jail
awaiting trial on charges of robberies.
Yet we are being asked to believe that these
persons have been unjustly dealt with, that they
have been imprisoned as a result of their
political opinions, and that they deserve to be
freed immediately, without recourse to due
process of law.
The responsibility of deciding whether to
release one or another of these criminals is
that of the federal government. It is a
responsibility that the government will
discharge according to law.
To bow to the pressures of these kidnappers who
demand that the prisoners be released would be
not only an abdication of responsibility, it
would lead to an increase in terrorist
activities in Quebec.
It would be as well an invitation to terrorism
and kidnapping across the country. We might well
find ourselves facing an endless series of
demands for the release of criminals from jails,
from coast to coast, and we would find that the
hostages could be innocent members of your
family or of your neighborhood.
At the moment the FLQ is holding hostage two men
in the Montreal area, one a British diplomat,
the other a Quebec cabinet minister. They are
threatened with murder.
Should governments give in to this crude
blackmail, we would be facing the breakdown of
the legal system and its replacement by the law
of the jungle. The government's decision to
prevent this from happening is not taken just to
defend an important principle.
It is taken to protect the lives of Canadians
from dangers of the sort I have mentioned.
Freedom and personal security are safeguarded by
laws; those laws must be respected in order to
If it is the responsibility of government to
deny the demands of the kidnappers, the safety
of the hostages is without question the
responsibility of the kidnappers. Only the most
twisted form of logic could conclude otherwise.
Nothing that either the government of Canada or
the government of Quebec has done or failed to
do, now or in the future, could possibly excuse
any injury to either of these two innocent men.
The guns pointed at their heads have FLQ fingers
on the triggers. Should any injury result, there
is no explanation that could condone the acts.
Should there be harm done to these men, the
government promises unceasing pursuit of those
During the past 12 days, the governments of
Canada and Quebec have been engaged in constant
consultations. The course followed in this
matter had the full support of both governments,
and of the Montreal municipal authorities. In
order to save the lives of Mr. Cross and Mr.
Laporte, we have engaged in indirect
communications with the kidnappers.
The offer of the federal government to the
kidnappers of safe conduct out of Canada to a
country of their choice, in return for the
delivery of the hostages, has not yet been taken
up. neither has the offer of the government of
Quebec to recommend parole for the five
prisoners eligible for parole.
This offer of safe conduct was made only because
Mr. Cross and Mr. Laporte might be able to
identify their kidnappers and to assist in their
prosecution. By offering the kidnappers safe
exit from Canada, we removed from them any
possible motivation for murdering their
Let me turn now to the broader implications of
the threat represented by the FLQ and similar
If a democratic society is to continue to exist,
it must be able to root out the cancer of an
armed, revolutionary movement that is bent on
destroying the very basis of our freedom. For
that reason the government, following an
analysis of the facts, including requests of the
government of Quebec and the city of Montreal
for urgent action, decided to proclaim the War
It did so at 4:00 a.m. this morning, in order to
permit the full weight of government to be
brought quickly to bear on all those persons
advocating or practicing violence as a means of
achieving political ends.
The War Measures Act gives sweeping powers to
the government. It also suspends the operation
of the Canadian Bill of Rights. I can assure you
that the government is most reluctant to seek
such powers, and did so only when it became
crystal clear that the situation could not be
controlled unless some extraordinary assistance
was made available on an urgent basis.
The authority contained in the act will permit
governments to deal effectively with the
nebulous yet dangerous challenge to society
represented by terrorist organizations. The
criminal law as it stands is simply not adequate
to deal with systematic terrorism.
The police have therefore been given certain
extraordinary powers necessary for the effective
detection and elimination of conspiratorial
organizations which advocate the use of
violence. These organizations, and membership in
them, have been declared illegal.
The powers include the right to search and
arrest without warrant, to detain suspected
persons without the necessity of laying specific
charges immediately, and to detain persons
without bail .
These are strong powers and I find them as
distasteful as I am sure you do. They are
necessary, however, to permit the police to deal
with persons who advocate or promote the violent
overthrow of our democratic system.
In short, I assure you that the government
recognizes its grave responsibilities in
interfering in certain cases with civil
liberties, and that it remains answerable to the
people of Canada for its actions.
The government will revoke this proclamation as
soon as possible.
As I said in the House of Commons this morning,
the government will allow sufficient time to
pass to give it the necessary experience to
assess the type of statute which may be required
in the present circumstances.
It is my firm intention to discuss then with the
leaders of the opposition parties the
desirability of introducing legislation of a
less comprehensive nature. In this respect I
earnestly solicited from the leaders and from
all honourable members constructive suggestions
for the amendment of the regulations.
Such suggestions will be given careful
consideration for possible inclusion in any new
I recognize, as I hope do others that this
extreme position which governments have been
forced into is in some respects a trap. It is a
well-known technique of revolutionary groups who
attempt to destroy society by unjustified
violence, to goad the authorities into
inflexible attitudes. The revolutionaries then
employ this evidence of alleged authoritarianism
as justification for the need to use violence in
their renewed attacks on the social structure.
I appeal to all Canadians not to become so
obsessed by what the government has done today
in response to terrorism that they forget the
opening play in this vicious game. That play was
taken by the revolutionaries; they chose to use
bombing, murder and kidnapping.
The threat posed by the FLQ terrorists and their
supporters is out of all proportion to their
numbers. This follows from the fact that they
act stealthily and because they are known to
have in their possession a considerable amount
To guard against the very real possibility of
bombings directed at public buildings or
utilities in the immediate future the government
of Quebec has requested the assistance of the
Canadian Armed Forces to support the police in
several places in the province of Quebec. These
forces took up their positions yesterday.
Violence. unhappily, is no stranger to this
decade. The Speech from the Throne opening the
current session of Parliament a few days ago
said that "we live in a period of tenseness and
unease.". We must not overlook the fact,
moreover that violence is often a symptom of
deep social unrest.
This government has pledged that it will
introduce legislation which deals not only with
symptoms but with the social causes which often
underlie or serve as an excuse for crime and
It was in that context that I stated in the
House of Commons a year ago that there was no
need anywhere in Canada for misguided or
misinformed zealots to resort to acts of
violence in the belief that only in this fashion
could they accomplish change.
There may be some places in the world where the
law is so inflexible and so insensitive as to
prompt such beliefs.
But Canada is not such a place. I said then, and
I repeat now, that those who would defy the law
and ignore the opportunities available to them
to right their wrongs and satisfy their claims
will receive no hearing from this government
We shall ensure that the laws passed by
Parliament are worthy of respect. We shall also
ensure that those laws are respected.
We have seen in many parts of Canada all too
much evidence of violence in the name of
revolution in the past 12 months. We are now
able to see some of the consequences of
Persons who invoke violence are raising
deliberately the level of hate in Canada. They
do so at a time when the country must eliminate
hate, and must exhibit tolerance and compassion
in order to create the kind of society which we
Yet those who disrespect legal processes create
a danger that law-abiding elements of the
community, out of anger and out of fear, will
harden their attitudes and refuse to accommodate
any change or remedy any shortcomings. They
refuse because fear deprives persons of their
normal sense of compassion and their normal
sense of justice.
This government is not acting out of fear. It is
acting to prevent fear from spreading. It is
acting to maintain the rule of law without which
freedom is impossible.
It is acting to make clear to kidnappers,
revolutionaries and assassins that in this
country laws are made and changed by the elected
representatives of all Canadians -not by a
handful of self-selected dictators. Those who
gain power through terror rule through terror.
The government is acting, therefore, to protect
your life and your liberty.
The government is acting as well to ensure the
safe return of Mr. James Cross and Mr. Pierre
Laporte. I speak for millions of Canadians when
I say to their courageous wives and families how
much we sympathize with them for the nightmare
to which they have been subjected, and how much
we all hope and pray that it will soon conclude.
Canada remains one of the most wholesome and
humane lands on this earth. If we stand firm,
this current situation will soon pass. We will
be able to say proudly, as we have for decades,
that within Canada there is ample room for
opposition and dissent, but none for
intimidation and terror.
There are very few times in the history of any
country when all persons must take a stand on
critical issues. This is one of those times;
this is one of those issues.
I am confident that those persons who unleashed
this tragic sequence of events with the aim of
destroying our society and dividing our country
will find that the opposite will occur. The
result of their acts will be a stronger society
in a unified country. Those who would have
divided us will have united us.
I sense the unease which grips many Canadians
today. Some of you are upset, and this is
understandable. I want to reassure you that the
authorities have the situation well in hand.
Everything that needs to be done is being done;
every level of government in this country is
well prepared to act in your interests.