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Socialists and the October Crisis, Part 5

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Articles from Labor Challenge, Nov. 23 1970

Québec Trials Attempt
to Silence Nationalists

by the Editor

"The only reason for bringing these charges is to keep us guys in prison," Jacques Larue-Langlois told the judge in a Montreal police court November 5. "How can you charge guys who have been in prison, or organized unions, with conspiracy to overthrow the government, and not be ashamed?"

Larue-Langlois is one of 13 people charged with seditious conspiracy to overthrow the governments of Canada and Québec by force. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

The 13 are among more than 50 political prisoners held and charged under the War Measures Act in Québec. Most have been charged with membership in the now-outlawed Front de Libération du Québec between January 1, 1968 and October 16, 1970.

Two persons have been charged with "advocating the aims" of the FLQ. If convicted, they could be jailed five years.

The Montreal political trials indicate clearly that the federal and Québec governments, far from dropping their phony theory of an "insurrectionary plot" which they used to justify invoking the War Measures Act, are trying to sustain it through these charges.

Through drawn-out legal proceedings and possibly long jail sentences, Trudeau and Bourassa hope to remove a significant section of their most radical nationalist and left opposition, while at the same time maintain the witch-hunt atmosphere which will allow them to introduce a series of more permanent repressive measures.

Those accused of seditious conspiracy include Michel Chartrand, president of the Montreal Central Council of the Confederation of National Trade Unions, and former leader of the Québec CCF and the Parti Socialiste du Québec; Pierre Vallières, author of Negres Blancs d’Amerique (White Niggers of America) ; Charles Gagnon, a teacher and former co-defendant of Vallières in numerous political trials dating back to 1966; and Robert Lemieux, lawyer for Vallières and Gagnon and defender of many political prisoners in recent years.

Among the women charged with FLQ membership is Andrée Ferretti, a former vice-president of the Rassemblement pour l’Indépendance Nationale (RIN), a mass independentist party which preceded the formation of the Parti Québécois.

All those charged have been refused bail and remanded in custody to January, 1971. Appearing in an improvised court at police headquarters November 5, the leading defendants ridiculed the charge that they had plotted since January 1988 to overthrow the government. Pierre Vallières noted that for most of that time he and Charles Gagnon had been in prison, on charges of inciting through their writings the death of a woman killed by a bomb in a strike-bound factory. Gagnon, who had been acquitted, said the current charges didn’t surprise him since "I have already been accused of having incited a bomb to explode."

Michel Chartrand said it was "an error" to accuse him of having conspired since 1968. "I have conspired since 1938, when I began to struggle against the rouges of Taschereau and the bleus of Duplessis! I have fought the governments in all the third parties except Social Credit.

"But where is it that I have been seditious? When I contested the labor code? When I supported the workers of Murdochville and Asbestos? When I denounced the lower court judges who followed to the letter the orders of Duplessis?"

Robert Lemieux denounced the trials as "this shameful game, this nameless buffoonery, this extraordinary farce!" The charges should be quashed, he said, as contrary to human and legal rights. "I want to know of what act, of what omission I am accused ... If you reject the motion you should be ashamed of yourself," he told the judge.

Lemieux has since smuggled out of prison a 32-page letter to the Québec Bar and prominent personalities including Trudeau and Bourassa, demanding release from jail, access to his files (seized by police), and vigorous action by the Bar to stop the official harassment of his efforts to defend political prisoners. As to the charge that he engaged in seditious conspiracy while he was defending political prisoners, he says, "this idiotic charge should shake and scandalize everyone concerned with the administration of justice, and the Bar in the first place."

The Montreal trials shift the focal point of the campaign against the repressive laws, the War Measures Act and its successor, to a vigorous struggle to defend these political prisoners. A united campaign must be waged across the country for the dropping of these scandalous frame-up charges. For the governments concerned, the trials are the key expression of their determination to block the aspirations of the Québécois nationalist movement. They mark a new stage in Trudeau’s campaign to intimidate the mass independentist movement and harass and repress its leadership.

The trials indicate the real purpose of the new repressive legislation now before parliament. The emergency powers act underwrites the legal basis of most of the charges against the Montreal political prisoners.

The governments’ failure to convict Vallières and Gagnon of manslaughter and other serious charges throughout repeated legal proceedings since 1966, was due in no small part to the successful defense campaign waged outside the courts. A similar setback for the current repressive campaign is possible and necessary. What is needed is a massive mobilization of opinion, of the trade unions, the New Democratic Party, the civil liberties organizations, the student movement in support of the demand that the government drop the charges against the Montreal political prisoners.



Chartrand Speaks From Jail

From his cell in the headquarters of the Québec Provincial Police, Michel Chartrand, Montreal labor leader on trial for "seditious conspiracy," has managed to issue the following tape-recorded message:

"Today, as in the time of Duplessis, when you attack the regime, you are treated as traitor to the country and the State. Mr. Bourassa said it on television: what the youth are seeking is to change the regime in Québec and not to keep the regime which exists throughout North America.

"The crime of those who are in prison is wanting to get rid of capitalism which has killed hundreds and thousands of people thanks to the international bandits in Washington whose faithful servants are Messrs. Trudeau and Bourassa.

"The basis of the problem is that all these charges (against us) are as foolish as those that Duplessis made against all the officers of the union federation during the Asbestos strikes. The conspiracy which exists is a conspiracy against the economic dictatorship—the tiny minority which governs our economic life and decides to leave unemployed hundreds and thousands of people. That is the root of the problem —it’s not a question of new powers, it is a question of changing that government, of getting rid of the economic dictatorship. It’s an old story which will be settled some day and sooner than we think."

Fourth International Urges
Protests Against Ottawa

In a statement issued October 25, the Fourth International, world party of socialist revolution founded by Leon Trotsky, condemned the Trudeau government’s "wave of repression against the people of Québec and Canada," and called for international demonstrations of protest.

The Fourth International statement denounces the widespread arrests, raids, and seizures of literature carried out under the War Measures Act, including the arrests of two leaders of the Ligue Socialiste Ouvrière, the Québec Trotskyist organization. The scope of the government attack, it says, demonstrates that "the emergency powers are not just aimed at the Front de Libération du Québec," but against all political dissent.

It declares: "The Fourth International calls for the immediate repeal of this (War Measures) Act and all similar repressive legislation. All political prisoners must be released. All victimization and persecution must stop. Demonstrations’ for the repeal of the Act and in solidarity with all political prisoners should be-organized in as many countries as possible."

The individual terror practiced by the FLQ, it notes, is not "the correct means to bring about a mass struggle for an independent socialist Québec.

"The Canadian government, no doubt with the advice and guidance of the U.S. State Department, has seized the opportunity to exploit the situation for their own reactionary aims….

"The same politicians who grieve over the death of Pierre Laporte have nothing to say about the mass killings of the Vietnamese people perpetrated by the American government. They remain silent about the mass murder of the Palestinian refugees in Jordan. They have nothing to say on these questions because they support and are part and parcel of the system of organized violence that is responsible for these atrocities. The attempts by the Canadian government to push back the developing nationalist and socialist movement in Canada through the War Measures Act will not succeed.

"The fact that they have to resort to such measures is a sign of their own political bankruptcy."

NDP’s Support Undercuts Protests
Entire Left is Target of Bill

by Robert Dumont

NOVEMBER 15—As parliament approaches third reading and final passage of the "temporary emergency powers act," designed to replace the War Measures Act, the Trudeau government chalks up another success in its campaign to create a permanent body of repressive legislation.

The new bill is substantially the same as the War Measures Act. It gives police the same power to arrest and search without warrant. Those arrested can still be held for up to 90 days without even a date for trial being set. The FLQ is still outlawed, and those convicted of membership—even membership before passage of the act—are still subject to five years’ imprisonment.

The few modifications which distinguish this bill from the War Measures Act are of a very minor character, designed to confuse and undercut the opposition to the WMA while retaining the Act’s essential features.

The immediate purpose of the bill is to provide the legal basis for the extensive frame-up charges against the Montreal political prisoners arrested under the War Measures Act. This is the first time in many years that a political movement has been outlawed, making it possible to sentence persons to long jail terms on the sole basis of their views.

But the government’s overriding purpose in both the new legislation and the Québec political trials is to take advantage of the favorable circumstances afforded by the FLQ kidnapping crisis to move against the entire Québécois nationalist movement. At the same time, it seeks to sustain the witch-hunt atmosphere which can enable it to introduce repressive laws and police measures for future use against the left throughout the country, and ultimately to strike against the broad labor movement.

No one can seriously believe that the Front de Libération du Québec is the prime target of this repressive legislation. The governments’ stories of an "FLQ plot," an "apprehended insurrection," are today only a threadbare farce. Many of the close to 500 persons arrested under the War Measures Act report they were not even asked about the FLQ. The testimony furnished by FLQ suspects themselves reveals not a cohesive plot by a tightly-disciplined organization but at most the erratic actions of isolated handfuls of youths.

No, the real purpose of the repressive legislation is revealed by the way in which influential forces in the ruling class have been emboldened by it to move against dissenters in general.

In Vancouver a top military officer calls for banning the Vancouver Liberation Front. In Toronto, the Star demands similar action against Rising Up Angry, a small ultraleft group, and insinuates in various articles that Maoists and the Front de Libération Populaire should also be brought within the purview of the ban. The Star’s "left" editorialists Steven Langdon and David Lewis Stein call on the Waffle group to clean its ranks of revolutionaries.

In Québec, Justice Minister Choquette threatens to introduce a bill giving him special police powers on a permanent basis; he calls for compulsory identity cards with fingerprints and photos, and threatens direct censorship "if necessary." In Ottawa, Prime Minister Trudeau threatens to enlarge the powers of the RCMP, even to treat a new force of intelligence spies for use against the left.

Farfetched rhetoric? Not at all. Canada has a long history of official attacks on democratic rights.

In 1919, to suppress the Winnipeg General Strike, Section 98 of the Criminal Code was rammed through parliament in record time; it was used to prosecute strike leaders for sedition, to deport those who were foreign-born, and in later years, until its repeal in 1938, it was used to illegalize the Communist party.

The War Measures Act of 1939 was maintained in force until 1954, nine years after the war ended Prof. James Eayrs, writing in the Toronto Star on November 10, records that "a secret order-in-council, passed on October 6, 1945 under the War Measures Act and kept in force under the Emergency Transitional Powers Act, allowed the minister of justice to hold without trial anyone suspected of acting in a manner prejudicial to the public safety." This ruling was used to arrest dozens of people during the Gouzenko spy scare.

Only a year and a half ago, the Royal Commission on Security recommended many similar measures, including closer restrictions on the views of civil servants, formation of a new security police force, and tighter surveillance of the "separatist" movement in Québec. It smeared the Ligue Socialiste Ouvrière, the Québec Trotskyist movement, as an "extremist" group which had "infiltrated" the "separatist" movement.

The new "emergency powers act" clearly falls within this pattern of repression. Justice Minister Turner’s hysterical attack on the NDP as he introduced the bill in parliament is symptomatic; seldom was the government more vulnerable to exposure by the opposition as a violator of basic democratic rights. The new bill reaffirms the War Measures Act’s suspensions of civil liberties—at the very time when all the evidence is accumulating to show that the real target is the entire left and nationalist movement.

How completely indefensible, then, is the NDP’s position on this new bill! The NDP voted for the principle of the bill on first and second readings.

It now appears the NDP will vote against it on third reading—not out of principle, however, but simply because its own paltry amendments were defeated.

The NDP’s capitulation to the bill and its encouragement of the labor movement to endorse the legislation was a cruel blow to the campaign against the repression in Québec. The party must reverse course immediately. It must denounce the frame-up trials in Québec. It must mobilize mass demonstrations and other forms of protest across the country against the repression.

Let there be no mistake. In banning the FLQ "or any successor group that advocates crime or force to bring about governmental change" the government has created an extremely dangerous precedent for the suppression of all dissent. The ultimate target of these repressive measures is nothing less than the labor movement, the New Democratic Party, the democratic rights of all Canadians.

Que. Defense Tour Finds
‘Growing Disbelief’ Of Govt

by Al Cappe.

"When the War Measures Act was first invoked I was behind Trudeau all the way but now I feel he’s put one over on me and I feel threatened."

"I think that big business is the cause of pollution—so I guess that in the eyes of the government I’m an anticapitalist and a danger to our democratic institutions."

"When you balance the death of Laporte with the deaths of workers who have died on construction sites, children who have died in slum fires, and women who have died from backroom abortions, then you start getting the right perspective on the situation."

Penny Simpson, a member of the Ligue Socialiste Ouvrière and the Ligue des Jeunes Socialistes who was arrested under the War Measures Act in Montreal and held for six days incommunicado, and myself, her tour organizer, heard these comments many times on our trip through the Atlantic provinces and Ontario. They reflected the sentiment that was growing day by day against the federal government. The Canadian people were reflecting, reconsidering and growing alarmed.

We wanted to consolidate that sentiment and organize the people expressing it into action committees against the Act, the new legislation and the frame-up trials. That was why the League for Socialist Action and the Young Socialists sent Simpson on a speaking tour.

At all the meetings in Halifax—at Dalhousie, King’s College, and St. Mary’s University (600 people spoken to in all)—the discussions revealed the growing disbelief in the stories of "FLQ plot," "apprehended insurrection" and "provisional government." There was acceptance that the government was moving against all left and independentist elements.

Someone recounted the story of a high school radical who was held for two hours in Dartmouth jail, the police giving no other reason than the War Measures Act.

More than 60 people showed interest in forming a committee, including persons from CJCH radio, the Fourth Estate community newspaper, the New Democratic Youth, and the Halifax Welfare Rights Committee.

Only a handful of the 1,500 students who crowded into the gym at Memorial University of St. John’s, Newfoundland to hear Penny’s speech opposed the government—but by the end of the meeting and a long, fruitful discussion, almost 40 percent were opposed to Trudeau’s actions.

One student put it this way: "If Joey Smallwood keeps selling out this province, and does nothing for the 25 percent unemployed, then in a few years he too can expect to have his minister of labor kidnapped." A meeting was called for all those interested in working against the new repressive legislation.

Fredericton also reflected the changing attitudes—and very impressively. One of the leaders of a demonstration held in support of the government attended the meeting of 80 people at University of New Brunswick and was shocked to hear that in her entire stay in jail Simpson was never asked a single question about the FLQ. He, like others at the, talk, subsequently reconsidered his position and the committee which had been set up in opposition to the Act found some new members.

The 60 people in Moncton, the 450 in St. Catharines, the 100 in Ottawa, the 125 in Kingston, all revealed the widespread feeling against Trudeau.

Throughout our tour we put forward the call for united fronts of all groups and individuals who wanted to fight for our civil liberties. That struggle is now beginning.

OFL Backs Trudeau In Québec Repression

The top brass of the Ontario Federation of Labor was able to carry its resolution at the Niagara Falls convention endorsing the Trudeau government’s Public Order Temporary Measures Act (Bill C-181). But not without a struggle carried by a sizeable opposition bloc of delegates who had coalesced around the Ontario Reform Caucus, and only by sugar-coating its craven words with claims that they had been worked out in close consultation with the same NDP leaders who had earlier opposed the War Measures Act itself, for which Bill C-181 is a substitute.

The reversal of the NDP leadership was effectively used to bludgeon the opposition and confuse the majority of the 1,000 delegates into thinking that, after all, if those who had opposed the original War Measures Act think there is no real danger in the substitute—what basis did they have to think otherwise?

Steel leader Eamon Park, who had opposed the blanket endorsation that the executive had first projected, trotted out the fatuous argument that only by supporting this bill can the government lift the War Measures Act. He and others spread the illusion that the new bill was really only directed against the FLQ, and that the union movement, even though the president of the Montreal CNTU Council is still in jail, has nothing to fear from this repressive legislation.

The opposition tore into this pap, scoring in particular point 6 of the resolution which even went so far as to support the idea of "permanent legislation" to deal with "anticipated insurrection." A leaflet put out in the name of the Ontario Reform Caucus pointed out that the joint executive committees of the united Québec labor movement thought otherwise—that the new legislation "changes nothing essential"—but the opposition was overwhelmed.

The Toronto leadership of the OFL has already had some second thoughts about their servile action. When they came to put the Niagara Falls resolution through the Toronto Labor Council the next day, they removed point 6. They will have more thoughts about their treacherous disarming of the struggle against this repressive legislation as the rank and file undergoes new experiences and advances to drive them out of their offices rf misleadership.

Québec Committee Appeals
For United Defense Actions

Montreal, November 11, 1970

The Comité Québécois pour la Défense des Libertés (Québec Committee for the Defense of Freedom) calls for solidarity actions throughout the country and, where defense committees have already been created, for:

  • Repeal of any special law for Québec.
  • Withdrawal of the Canadian army from Québec territory.
  • An end to the repressive offensive of the military and police. -Immediate release of the political prisoners.
  • Awareness that the real problems are social, economic and political.

In addition, we ask:

  • United action of all the committees already formed toward a greater offensive against the repressive forces.
  • The regroupment of all those in each locality who are struggling for the same ends.
  • A meeting within the shortest possible time of representatives of all the committees across the country in order to elaborate joint actions.

Moreover we wish to receive all available information on the other committees already formed, and the actions which they have undertaken or will undertake.

For the Comité Québécois pour la Défense des Libertés. 738-6631, Salle 1273, Pavilion des Sciences Sociales, Université de Montréal, Montréal. Denis Lambert, staff worker.

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