The October Crisis (French: La crise d’octobre) was a series of events triggered by two kidnappings of government officials by members of the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) during October 1970 in the province of Quebec, mainly in the Montreal metropolitan area.
The circumstances ultimately culminated in the only peacetime use of the War Measures Act in Canada’s history, invoked by Governor General of Canada Roland Michener at the direction of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, having been requested by the Premier of Quebec, Robert Bourassa, and the Mayor of Montreal, Jean Drapeau.
The invocation of the act took place at the same time as the widespread deployment of Canadian Forces troops throughout Quebec and in Ottawa, under separate legislation, giving the appearance that martial law had been imposed, although the military remained in a support role to the civil authorities of Quebec. The police were also enabled with far-reaching powers, and they arrested and detained, without bail, 497 individuals, all but 62 of whom were later released without charges.
At the time, opinion polls throughout Canada, including in Quebec, showed widespread support for the use of the War Measures Act The response, however, was criticized at the time and subsequently by a number of prominent leaders, including René Lévesque, Robert Stanfield, and Tommy Douglas, who believed the actions to be excessive and the precedent to suspend civil liberties dangerous. The criticism was reinforced by evidence that police officials had abused their powers and detained, without cause, prominent artists and intellectuals associated with the sovereignty movement.
The events of October 1970 galvanized support against violence in efforts for Quebec sovereignty and highlighted the movement towards political means of attaining greater autonomy and independence, including support for the sovereignist Parti Québécois, which went on to form the provincial government in 1976.