The October Crisis, 1970

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Historical Context:

"The October Crisis began on the 5th of October, 1970 with the kidnapping of James Cross, the British trade commissioner in Montréal, by members of the Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ). It rapidly devolved into the most serious terrorist act carried out on Canadian soil after another official, Minister of Immigration and Minister of Labour Pierre Laporte, was kidnapped and killed. The crisis shook the career of recently elected Liberal Premier Robert Bourassa, who solicited federal help along with Montréal Mayor Jean Drapeau. This help would lead to the only invocation of the War Measures Act during peacetime in Canadian history."--The Canadian Encyclopedia.

In response to the crisis, the Mapping and Charting Establishment of the Department of National Defence was ordered to rapidly update many of the map sheets in the Canadian National Topographic Series covering the Province of Quebec--a task that under normal conditions would have been undertaken by the Canadian Government's civilian mapping agency, the Surveys and Mapping Branch of the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. The MCE revised maps are very distinctive in appearance as the updated features are overprinted in purple. Each map bears the disclaimer: "The overprinting to update this map has been office compiled from best available plans and aerial photography. The information has not been field checked and is therefore subject to interpretation errors," indicating the speed and urgency in which they were prepared.

Four maps conspicuously absent of purple updated features are those entitled,  "Laval," "Beloeil-West," "Lachine," and "Saint-Jean." These are the four adjoining sheets covering the main FLQ target area of Montréal. The reason for this anomaly is that as early as 1966, in an effort to confront the threat of "low-intensity" warfare anticipated as an escalation of FLQ violence, a Mobile Command Headquarters was established under the direction of Lieutenant General Jean Victor Allard at the airfield on the outskirts of Montréal at Saint-Hubert. Revision of the local topo sheets for this sensitive area was performed once--and in some cases twice--between the years 1966 and 1970, with the result that they were already up-to-date when the crisis broke. Saint-Lambert, where Laporte was abducted from his home, and Saint-Luc, where his abductors Paul Rose, Jacques Rose, and Frances Simard were later discovered in a twenty-foot tunnel beneath a house on December 28, 1970 can both be seen on the updated "Saint-Jean" sheet. Armstrong Street (now "Bachand"), where Laporte was held captive near the Saint-Hubert airport--also the location of the Mobile Command HQ and the scene where Laporte's body was to eventually be found--appear on the "Beloeil-West" sheet. Redpath Crescent, where James Cross was abducted from his home, appears on the "Lachine" sheet. And Recollets Street in Montreal North, where he was held captive for two months, is covered by the Laval sheet.

Map sheets covering areas outside of Montréal, where FLQ training camps and safe houses were later found to be located, were not updated until January or the early months of 1971. Some of these areas included Saint-AlphonseSaint-Boniface-de-ShawiniganLac Saint-Jean, and the forests of Mont-Tremblant National Park.

This same process of revision was undertaken by the Mapping and Charting Establishment just six years later, as part of the security preparations for the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games.


References and Recommended Reading:

Bouthillier, G. Trudeau's Darkest Hour: War Measures in Time of Peace, October 1970. Montreal: Baraka Books, 2010.

Loomis, D. G. Not Much Glory: Quelling the FLQ. Toronto: Deneau, 1984.

Meagher, John. "The 1970 October Crisis: Unanswered questions remain 45 years later." Montreal Gazette. October 6, 2015.

Sinclair, John. One Hundred Years of Military Mapping, 1903-2003: an Illustrated History. Ottawa: Baico Publishing Inc., 2008. 

Tetley, William. The October Crisis, 1970: an Insider's View. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2006.

The October Crisis, 1970

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