Did Pierre Elliot Trudeau overreact to the October Crisis of 1970 when he instituted the War Measures Act?

Pierre Elliot Trudeau was governing Canada in 1970 when Canada was brought into turmoil for the first time since WWII. In October of 1970 the FLQ terrorist group kidnapped a diplomat from Britain, and a Quebec cabin member. This outrage along with some other factors forced Mr. Trudeau to implement the war measures act. Pierre Elliot Trudeau overreacted to the October Crisis of 1970 by implementing the War Measures Act because he had other alternatives to be used, the war measures act infringed on people’s human rights, and he basically listened to the amount of peer pressure he was under.

1During the October Crisis of 1970, Trudeau implemented a harsh act called “The War Measures Act”. He had many other alternatives that he could have used that would have been more peaceful and humane. The war measures act allowed police to arrest if they are suspicious that someone is a terrorist and they don’t need proof, and it allowed the army to come in they too were allowed to arrest without cause, a lot of civilians were injured or killed because of this, this is classified as inhumane. So, one alternative to the War Measures Act was implementing martial law. By doing this Trudeau only be putting restrictions on what civilians can do and they would only be arrested if there was a reasonable cause. This is far more human then just throwing people in jail and having no proof that they have done anything, the war measures act would have done this. Martial law would have allowed Trudeau to place certain regulations in place that would have allowed society to run normally as it usually would. If people were to be thrown in jail, it would have been because they had actually done a crime not just because they were suspicious of something. This is a far better alternative then the War measures Act because it gives a more humane way of handling the situation in Quebec.

[2] Along with martial law, Pierre Elliott Trudeau could have also implemented the riot act, which too would have been better than the War Measures Act. The riot act would have allowed police to keep the protesting crowd under control and only arresting very violent protesters, this would also give officers a reasonable cause to arrest someone, unlike the war measures act, where the police didn’t need a reasonable cause to arrest. By putting the riot act into effect Trudeau would still be able to bring the army into Quebec and he would still be able to find the FLQ terrorist group, but by keeping civil unrest and rioting to a minimum. The war measures act would have allowed police to jail people unnecessarily which brought a lot of commotion to Quebec.

[3]Trudeau’s final alternative could have been to leave the problem to be dealt with by the provincial government of Quebec instead of making it a national matter. By leaving the problem in Quebec to be internal, Trudeau would have allowed the situation to be dealt with in the way the provincial government wanted it to be dealt with without having to bring the federal government into the matter. This also would have allowed the issue to be resolved more civil instead of the harsh and cruel way that the war measures act would have done it.

[4]There are a lot of human rights that were overlooked when Pierre Elliot Trudeau implemented the War Measures act which goes against our constitution. The first human right that was infringed on was the right “not to be detained without reason”. Without reason, people should not be detained, but hundreds of people were jailed without reason and never given an apology because the government felt that they did nothing wrong. The war measures act allowed anyone to be arrested if they seemed suspicious. By arresting hundreds of people, with no cause, Trudeau was violating a civil right. If he did not overreact he would have not jailed hundreds of people and he would not have violated people’s civil rights.

[5]The next humane right that was violated during the October Crisis was “the right to know the reason of being detained”. Once the War Measures Act was put into place, people were being arrested without probable reason, and when they asked, they were never given a reason. This is against the civil rights of Canadian civilians. People like Gerald Godin were jailed without cause and were never given a reason to why they were jailed, to this day people have never found out why they were thrown in prison, or what led for these people to be jailed. The governments’ main reason to all that were arrested was that they have seemed suspicious of being with the FLQ, this is not a reason to be jailed because there were no stone-cold facts, so innocent people were jailed for no real reason. If Trudeau never overreacted these people would never have been arrested or if they were they would at least been able to give a reason to why they were jailed.

[6]The last human right that was infringed on was “every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age, or mental or physical disability.” This right was overlooked because no one was protecting the people who were arrested. Everyone is entitled to equal protection but the government was only speaking out on the behalf of the government. If every individual is equal, and if there was no cause to arrest someone, then everyone should be jailed because they are equal as the person next to them. So when people were jailed, they were not protected from this, and they did not get equal benefits as stated in the constitution. Equal benefits would have been being told what they are being jailed for and not being jailed for no reason. If Trudeau hadn’t overreacted people would have been treated as equals given equal protection.

[7]Throughout the October Crisis Trudeau had talked to many people, and was persuaded to put the war measures act into place, he overreacted to the amount of peer pressure he was under. First of all, when the October Crisis first hit, Pierre Elliot Trudeau appeared on a talk show, while there the host was constantly talking about how the government was not doing enough to keep its citizens safe. Then the talk show asked Trudeau how far he was willing to go to resolve this crisis, and Trudeau responded with “Just watch me”. From these words, a person could tell that Trudeau was getting fed up with what people have been saying about him and his government and was just willing to do anything to prove how his government could take appropriate action. If Trudeau just ignored what he was hearing and if he kept his head on straight, he probably won’t have imposed such a harsh act. By overreacting to what he heard Trudeau implemented the war measures act.

[8]The next piece of peer pressure that Trudeau faced was coming from the mayor of Quebec. The mayor was actually convincing Trudeau to use the war measures act, and when Trudeau said no the first time, the mayor said it was necessary to solve the issue. Under this stress from being constantly talked to, by the Mayor who kept suggesting the War measures act, Trudeau implemented the War Measures Act which brought inhumanity to Quebec. If Trudeau had not overreacted and not listened to the peer pressure Trudeau would have been able to find another resolution to this issue.

The final person who was peer pressuring Trudeau was Robert Bourassa. Bourassa was constantly asking Trudeau to put the War Measures Act into effect, because he thought that it would solve the problem in Quebec. He was constantly asking Trudeau to do this, and eventually Trudeau did read the War Measures Act. Once the act was in effect, Bourassa realized how inhumane it was and suggested the riot act, but since the War Measures Act was in place, Trudeau could not change his mind. If Trudeau had kept his cool, and not listened to what other people were peer pressuring him to do, he could have implemented a more civil and less harsh act.

So in 1970 when the October Crisis hit, there were a lot of mistakes made in the way that the situation was handled. Pierre Elliot Trudeau overreacted when he implemented the War measures Act, because he had other alternatives to use, he was infringing on peoples human rights and he listened to the peer pressure that he was under.