The FLQ Manifesto – part of our history
It started out as a commemoration of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham — the crucial 1759 contest between English and French that made Canada British.
It’s degenerated into a war of words over what’s to be read at a two-day marathon next weekend in Quebec City.
The read-fest was organized after plans for a 250th anniversary recreation of the Battle were abandoned in the face of stiff opposition by Quebec nationalists and sovereignists.
Now the shoe’s on the other foot. Federalists, led by the Quebec Liberal government of Jean Charest, have raised a hue and cry over having the manifesto of the FLQ — the Front de liberation du Quebec — read at the event, Moulin à paroles.
If anyone needs reminding, the manifesto was issued by a murderous gang of terrorists who kidnapped the British trade commissioner in Montreal, James Cross, and murdered the Quebec minister of labor, Pierre Laporte.
The FLQ got the manifesto read on TV as a condition of freeing Cross. I wonder how many remember what it contained?
The Front de Libération du Québec wants total independence for Quebeckers; it wants to see them united in a free society, a society purged for good of its gang of rapacious sharks, the big bosses who dish out patronage and their henchmen, who have turned Quebec into a private preserve of cheap labour and unscrupulous exploitation.
Pretty scary stuff, yes, and it was a scary time. The manifesto went on to declare that the FLQ “is not an aggressive movement.” But this didn’t prevent the killing of Laporte.
As it later turned out, the governments of Quebec and Canada grossly overreacted to the FLQ’s desperate grasp for power. Events would prove it was a tiny group, with little influence on the population.
But the grievances aired in the manifesto — exploitation at the hands of foreign capitalists and mistreatment by the vendus in Ottawa — are still felt by many in Quebec. (That’s the FLQ flag on the left.)
A total of 140 works have been selected for reading. They include texts by Louis Riel about the Red River Rebellion in Manitoba, and by Louis Joseph Papineau, leader of the 1837 Lower Canada (Quebec) Rebellion.
Reviled during their lives, both are seen today as heroes and patriots.
The Quebec government has apparently withdrawn from the event, having first demanded the exclusion of the FLQ tirade. Ottawa is having nothing to do with it.
One of the organizers says the government criticism of a privately-staged event is over the top.
“What rights do governments have to interfere with an event that is not publicly funded and that is an artistic event?” asks Brigitte Haentjens.
Good question. The FLQ Manifesto is a primitive but powerful document. It drips with venom. But it’s part of the history of Quebec, and Canada.
Let it be read. And let anyone who is troubled by the fact commit themselves to ensuring that the conditions that brought it into being are also relegated to history.