On October 5th, 1970 four young men riding in a stolen taxi pulled up to the property of British Trade Commissioner James Cross. Three men jumped out, one dressed as a delivery man carrying a package. He knocked on the door and the Cross’ nanny opened the door holding an infant.
“Birthday present for Mr. Cross” said the delivery man “but you’ll have to sign for it.”
“I don’t have a pen” the nanny replied.
“Here’s one” the delivery man said as he tore off the gift wrapping to reveal a machine gun. The two other men then revealed their revolvers.
The three men entered the Cross home and found James Cross upstairs in the master bedroom getting dressed and discussing the week ahead with his wife. The three men marched James Cross out of his house at gunpoint and put him in the back seat of the taxi. And so began the October Crisis of 1970.
This is how Journalist and Author D’Arcy Jenish began his talk at the Canadian Club of Halton on January 23rd at the Oakville Conference Centre. Jenish discussed his latest book The Making of the October Crisis: Canada’s Long Nightmare of Terrorism at the Hands of the FLQ in which he explores the origins of the FLQ, what kept it going for nearly eight years, and why the passage of time has not deepened and clarified our understanding of this traumatic period in the history of our country. The October Crisis led to over 500 arrests – although most were never charged or sentenced.
D’Arcy Jenish explained how the October Crisis was the culmination of a long campaign of urban terrorism that began in Montreal in the Spring of 1963 with a wave of bombings. It continued year after year with bombings, bank robberies, kidnappings and murder.
Jenish’s interest in these events began in 2010 as he was researching information for an article on the October Crisis for the 40th Anniversary. Jenish called a reporter from the Montréal Gazette who introduced him to Robert Coté,who was the Head of the Montréal Bomb Squad during the 1960’s. Coté oversaw the investigation of many bombings throughout Montréal including the 1968 bombing at City Hall, the 1968 bombing of the Montréal Stock Exchange, and the 1969 bombing of the Mayor’s Office. Jenish shared some of Coté’s stories including the time he dismantled 24 FLQ bombs with his bare hands and without any protection.
Robert Coté also shared the story of the arrest of Pierre-Paul Geoffroy. Police received a tip which led them to Geoffroy’s apartment – where they found three bombs and 160 sticks of dynamite. Geoffroy admitted to his role in 31 bombing incidents including the City Hall and Stock Exchange, but refused to identify any other FLQ members. To the shock of the court, Mr. Geoffroy pleaded guilty to 129 charges receiving 124 concurrent life sentences – this was the harshest sentence delivered in the British Commonwealth.
Jenish explained that he is the first writer, in English or French, to interview retired police offers charged with investigating terrorist acts and organizations. D’Arcy Jenish also relied on Québec government documents and the memoirs of former terrorists to reveal the meticulous planning that went into the kidnapping of James Cross and the recklessness behind the kidnapping of Pierre Laporte.
Jenish also discussed how the kidnappers evaded police for weeks and he provided an eyewitness account of the arrest of the Laporte kidnappers in December 1970. He continued to discuss the Cross kidnappers who spent nearly a decade in exile (in Cuba and France) and what became of the prominent terrorists.
D’Arcy Jenish ended the evening taking questions from the audience which included the reception of the book in Québec, the sentencing of the terrorists, and the outcome of the Cross and Laporte families.
October 2020 will mark the 50th anniversary of the October Crisis – one of the most serious terrorist acts carried out on Canadian soil, which led to the only invocation of the War Measures Act in Canadian history.
About D’Arcy Jenish
D’Arcy Jenish graduated from the University of Western Ontario with a degree in English. He began his journalism career at small town newspapers in southwestern Ontario, then returned to the West in 1979 and became a Senior Editor at Alberta Report in Edmonton. He stayed seven years, covering business, politics and sports amid a period of political upheaval and economic discord.
In the fall of 1985 Jenish became Alberta Report’s first Ottawa Bureau Chief. His mandate was to cover national affairs from a regional perspective and his work in the capital quickly came to the attention of a larger rival. In November, 1986, he joined Maclean’s, Canada’s National Newsmagazine, as a Senior Writer. Jenish interviewed and wrote about leading personalities in the worlds of sports, business, the arts and the sciences. He covered royal tours, federal elections and major trials, but always kept an eye open for the local or regional story that would touch readers across the country.
Jenish left Maclean’s in June, 2001 and developed a thriving freelance writing business. He writes magazine features, newspaper commentary, speeches, corporate histories and corporate reports. He has written for the Globe and Mail, National Post, Toronto Star, The Walrus, Toronto Life and Legion Magazine.
Jenish is the author of seven works of historical non-fiction. His histories of the Stanley Cup, the Montreal Canadiens and the NHL were national bestsellers. His two books about the opening and settlement of the Canadian West both won major national awards.
Article written by Kristen Curry