This may seem a bit… weird.
What do I remember about the FLQ Crisis? Everything. Everything a six year old child would remember. Road blocks. Military check points. The names; Laporte, Cross, Bourassa, Choquette, Rose…
I found something recently. Something that may be instructive.
By the bye, this is our 100th podcast. Let’s celebrate. Let’s have some fun.
We’re going to take the long way home today, I’m going a ways out of the way until we eventually come back towards the end and finally talk about murder.
This is Who Killed Theresa?
I think of these things, I think of them a lot, I guess we all do, those of us that were growing up in Montreal in the late 60s and early 70s. I’ve told the story of receiving that medal, the Canada 150th medal for service. I was honored to receive it from my friend, Senator Pierre Boisvenu in the fall of 2018. The ceremony was held at the Black Watch armory just up from Sherbooke street on Bleury behind the Place des Arts. I doubt that it was lost on any of us that this was the same armory that the FLQ bombed on May 13th, 1963.
[ This is a new CTV W-5 documentary on the October Crisis: https://www.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1762674 . ]
To tell you the truth, growing up, we weren’t really that aware of what was going on politically in Quebec in the fall of 1970. Theresa was turning 11, my brother was 10, I was 5 1/2. Truth is, that fall we were really into this:
The Partridge Family made its debut on CBC Montreal channel 6 on Monday, September 21st, 1970 and 8 p.m. We never had any interest in The Brady Bunch, right out of the starting gate we were a Partridge Family family, because for the most part the Bradys were wholesome where the Partridges were irreverent and funny. I went back recently and watched the first season – you can find it on Daily Motion. Fifty years later it still holds up. Laurie is wise and philosophical, an early feminist, always hanging out with intellectuals at some SolCal university. Danny Bonaduce – to this day – is flat-ass funny, his stuff with manager Reuben Kincaid still manages to be comic genius. Keith / David Cassidy may be the most remarkable cast member. Possessed with incredible talent – I still prefer the original opening which has him giving a bluesy feel to Common Get Happy – good looks, and still maintains a sense of humor, writers were pretty aware that Keith must never win in the series: he never gets the girl, never gets that part in the Hollywood screen test, is always bested by Laurie, and mainly by his nemesis Danny.
The Partridge Family in many respects was ground breaking, not only for depicting Shirley Jones as a single mother, but for its willingness to address social issues of the day.
One example is the first season episode Soul Club guest staring Richard Pryor and Lou Gossett ( Richard Pryor you all know, Gossett you will recall recently from HBO’s Watchmen, he plays Will Reeves, who it is revealed was once Minutemen member Hooded Justice ). In the episode, there is a mixup that sends The Temptations to a gig in Arizona and the Partridges to a Motown club in Detroit ( ignore the mental math of that bus driving for 4 days ).
At the conclusion of the episode Danny is given a black beret and made an honorary member of the “Afro American Cultural Society”. Now back up a bit. Soul Club premiered in January of 1971. That means the show was filmed in the summer of 1970, when the younger cast members were off from school. So think of that context: in the summer of 1970, with revolution in the air, on the cusp of the FLQ crisis, Danny is made a member of The Black Panthers.
Of the FLQ’s relation to the Black Panthers, kidnappee James Cross had this to say:
“The kidnappers claimed to be Marxist/Anarchist but I could find no trace of deep intellectual thought of either of these movements…. There was a certain amount of influence from the various movements of the 1960’s which swept the United States, such as the… Black Panthers but I do not think they had any strong intellectual connections. “
I wouldn’t describe myself as a Partridge Family fanatic. To be honest, we didn’t like the music that much, or pretended we didn’t like it. We would have called it “sucky”, and Theresa was taking us into new musical territory; The Who’s Tommy, Pink Floyd, Janis Joplin ( which is really unfortunate because David Cassidy didn’t want to be doing that music either!). I own two pieces of PF memorabilia: one trading card, coincidentally from the Soul Club episode – it has Danny on the front and the lyrics to Bandala on the back- and the Milton Bradley Partridge Family board game ) At one time we owned the second album, Up To Date).
Which brings us to an interesting bit of trivia. My original podcast idea was not a true crime version of Who Killed Theresa, originally I was going to do a podcast with my daughters called Board Game. The idea was that every week, I would introduce this generation weaned on a diet of Nintendo and PS4 to a traditional 70s parlour game: Clue, Masterpiece, The Game of Life. The fun for them would be figuring out how to play the game. The fun for you, listener, would be the added monotony of listing to my daughters play something that was entirely visual: git it? Bored Game. Aren’t you glad I switched to true crime?
The idea never survived beyond the “pilot”, but that pilot – it’s never been aired – survives, and – as it happens – the inaugural board game was, in fact, the Milton Bradley Partridge Family Game. So here it is, an excerpt from Board Game:
There’s a video I made from some home movies, I’ll post it on the website. It’s from the fall of 1970, two birthday parties – the second one being of my brother’s 10th birthday – and we look very much of the style / under the influence of The Partridge Family. Theresa’s in a Laurie Partridge macrame poncho, my behavior clearly influenced by Danny Bonaduce exuberance. My brother, not unlike Keith, especially his hair.
I bring this up because the 8mm movie was clearly shot in October 1970. That’s the date on the Kodak box, Theresa’s birthday, 1970. You can see those black and white posters we talked about in the last episode of Robert Kennedy and Pierre Trudeau. Here’s the thing. Theresa’s birthday is October 12th, so in that year it fell on a Monday. The way my parents did it, you had your birthday party on whatever Saturday fell closest to your birthday, so October 10th. This home movie was shot on the afternoon of Saturday, October 10th: the afternoon that Pierre Laporte was abducted from his front lawn while playing touch football with his nephew 20 miles away on Robitaille Street in Saint-Lambert.
Opening presents and eating birthday cake: that’s what we were doing during the October Crisis.
The 1976 Montreal Olympics
What Quebec couldn’t achieve by violent means they now sought through a political solution. Six years later in the fall of 1976 René Lévesque’s fledgling Parti Québécois swept the Liberals from office, promising to take Quebec out of Canada through a province-wide referendum. But before the PQ victory, there was the last gasp of Mayor Jean Drapeau’s run of success – the 1976 Summer Olympics.
As early as 1966 – even before the launch of Expo 67 – Drapeau had gone on a wooing expedition to IOC delegate nations to secure the 1972 Summer games. Montreal lost out to Munich, which may have been fortunate, imagine how that had turned out if what befell the Olympic village in Munich had unfolded in Montreal and the Dorval airport. In fact, as a result of the Black September Massacre, security at the Montreal games four years later was ultra-tight. It was all-hands-on-deck with federal, provincial, and local law enforcement agencies all pitching in – no one wanted a repeat of Munich, let alone a revisit of October 1970. Some of the players in my sister’s story lended to this effort. Robert Beullac – the private detective hired by my father to locate Theresa – and I believe Leo Hamel – the small town police chief from Lennoxville – both worked security detail for the 76 Summer Games. Even members of Quebec militia units such as the Sherbrooke Hussars joined the effort that summer.
Things started as they always did with a Drapeau project; with the promise of greatness, then quickly spiraled out of control. By the fall of 1975 Montreal Mayor Drapeau realized that the debt for the Olympics would surpass $600 million dollars. Robert Bourassa and the province intervened to ensure the projected wouldn’t be cancelled, and that construction would be completed on time. Several cost-cutting measures were taken including the suspension of construction of the Olympic stadium tower and retractable roof ( those would come later).
Tickets went on sale in May, 1975, exclusively at Eaton’s department stores. I well remember accompanying my father to the downtown Eaton’s branch on Saint Catherines street to purchase tickets. I don’t know why he chose downtown, the Point Claire department store was certainly closer – perhaps he thought there would be better selection at the main branch. I remember an exceptionally long line, and we came out of there with tickets for rowing, the decathlon (yes we saw Bruce Jenner), and a quarter final football match (we saw East Germany beat France 4-0). This would have been on a Saturday, either the 10th or 17th. So it may well have occurred the eve-weekend before Diane Dery and Mario Corbeil were murdered 10 miles away across the Saint Lawrence in Longueuil on Tuesday, May 20th.
The Olympic Lottery
It’s often said that the Montreal Olympics are the reason there are lotteries in Canada. The history goes back further than that, and is another Drapeau innovation. In the spring of 1968 the mayor proposed a municipal lottery dubbed “Voluntax” to help pay for the swollen debt accrued from Expo 67. Montreal residents bought $2 tickets for a chance to win a $100,000 prize. The idea was so successful that it lead to a provincial initiative, Loto Quebec, which became the inspiration for all subsequent Canadian provincial lotteries.
In 1974, with another Montreal world event facing yet another cash shortfall, the Canadian federal government – also, and again on the hook for Montreal’s financial missteps – looked to the lottery model. The Feds sold $10 tickets across the country for the chance to win a $1 million tax-free jackpot – the biggest lottery payout in the world at the time – and thereby raised $15 million for the Games.
Not to be outdone with the spending frenzy, the Montreal police also got in on the act. Montreal MUC police spent what was then a whopping $48,000 on a mobile command unit that within a year was being described as a “white elephant”. In the spring of 1976 the police security council ordered what for all purposes was a mobile home from Campwagon, Ltd., a company outside Quebec City that specialized in building ambulances, with no experience in police security vehicles. According to a Campwagon official,
Everything was rushed and top secret. We had no idea what the mobile home was to be used for except that it played a part in Olympic security. Normally, a job like this should take six months, not two. The security council employee who contacted us insisted that only a Quebec company would get the contract.
The mobile command unit ended up being built in Owen Sound, Ontario, birth place of Canadian painter, Tom Thomson.
In the end, the mobile command vehicle only ever saw 30 days of service before being scrapped and auctioned off. By the time technicians installed 1,500 pounds of equipment, the truck was too heavy and bounced like a rocking chair when driven down the road.
The venues for the Olympics were scattered across the city. The main campus was located in Montreal’s east end at Sherbrooke street and Pie IX, this is where the stadium was constructed, location of the cycling velodrome, athletes’ village, and Olympic pool, with boxing and wrestling hosted at the nearby Maurice Richard Arena. Other venues included the canals from the Expo / Man and his World site for rowing, the Montreal Forum for gymnastics and basketball ( site of the Richard Riot), and the Paule Sauve Arena for volleyball ( where many a separatist rally was held) – you are never far from home.
“Then there was like quiet and we were full of like hate, so smashed what was left to be smashed.”
There was an arts component to the summer games, or at least that was the plan. Corridart was intended as a grand street fair stretching eight kilometers along Sherbrooke street from downtown Montreal to the site of the Olympic Stadium, filled with $400,000 worth of municipal and provincially commissioned art installations, musicians, and performance artists. Mayor Drapeau could have cared less. On the eve of the Olympics he did an evening car-tour of the project and found it decadent. In a move on par with the worst artistic repressions of the Soviet and Nazi eras, Drapeau ordered the installation destroyed. On the night of July 13, 1976 municipal workers supervised by the Montreal police ripped down the works of some of the city’s best known artists and had it carted to the junk heap. Writing in the Village Voice, Annette Kuhn called it “The Rape of Sherbrooke”, “an orgy of municipally sponsored vandalism”.
Despite his even-tempered, milquetoast appearance, Drapeau was a bit of a puritanical hot-head (he was once described by an opponent as a combination of Walt Disney and Al Capone). It’s worth remembering that his rise to success in the early 1950s was largely backed by conservative nationalist Premier Maurice Duplessis. He ordered the partial clear-cutting of the park at the top of Mount Royal because he had heard stories of homosexual encounters in the woods. Both Expo 67 and the Olympics gave way to “slum clearance” initiatives and urban renewal. He loved skyscrapers and shopping malls. He was not above advocating for highways and boulevards running through residential neighborhoods simply because he disliked the local representative. Drapeau would have felt perfectly at home in Robert Moses’ urban world, and at odds with Jane Jacobs’ The Death and Life of Great American Cities.
Corridart presented none-too-subtle reminders to Drapeau that not all of his great civic endeavors were appreciated. Among the artworks deemed “ugly” by Monsieur Le Maire was Melvin Charney’s “Les maisons de la rue Sherbrooke”, consisting of a scaffolded facade of Victorian homes erected in front of a vacant lot. Another artwork was simply a giant cross – similar to the one at the top of Mount Royal – laying on its side, suggesting it was in need of a rest.
Drapeau eventually received his comeuppance. Three months after the closing ceremonies Rene Levesque’s Parti-Quebecois swept into power, assuming control of the Quebec provincial government, and immediately launching a full-scale public inquiry into the Olympics, and Montreal’s municipal administration. ( Despite the fact that two years earlier there had already been a Montreal construction inquiry. You’ll recall some of this from last summer’s podcast, Downward Spiral – L’Affaire Matticks and the Poitras Commission – There are more details in that broadcast: The Malouf Commission looked into the billion dollar-plus cost overrun, but somehow Drapeau managed to survive and win the 1978 election). The Parti-Quebecois later passed a law forcing Montreal taxpayers to shoulder $200 million of Olympic debt (Drapeau had once famously stated that the Olympics, “can no more lose money than a man can have a baby.” )
To this day Montreal’s Olympic Stadium is none-too-affectionately referred to as The Big O or Big OWE. Translation = the amount the public had to ultimately shill out for the event. The $1.5-billion price tag for the 1976 Olympic Games was finally laid to rest thirty years later when the last debt payment was made in 2006.
Jean Drapeau would survive as mayor for another decade. He lost the election in 1986, and left office largely in disgrace. In interviews and speeches Drapeau characterized his opponent, Jean Dore as a Communist and a separatist. Reacting to this, and in a reference to Duplessis once blaming the Trois Rivieres bridge collapse on Communist operatives, Paul-Andre Comeau wrote in Le Devoir, “One has the impression of returning 30 or 35 years into the past, to the era when, to explain why a bridge collapsed, one dreamed up a sober plot led by agents from the East.”
The reign of Rene Levesque and his Parti Quebecois was short lived. By 1980 it appeared Pierre Trudeau’s tenure as Prime Minister of Canada seemed to be over. Levesque’s old rival had lost to Joe Clark in the election of 1979, but then the Conservatives were breathlessly swept from office in a vote of no-confidence. With this abrupt change in fortune, the Liberals were left leaderless, and asked Trudeau to come back and lead the party. At the same time, Rene Levesque unwisely hastened his Quebec independence referendum. The province-wide question on Quebec separation took place on Tuesday, May 20, 1980. But the campaigning had begun months before, right in the midst of Trudeau’s Federal election to power. Levesque’s hope for an independent Quebec was doomed from the start, and the question failed by a vote of 60% against separation and 40% in favour. Levesque’s final defeat would come in 1981 in the Ottawa chapter known as “The Night of Long Knives”, but that’s a story that will need to wait for another day.
From a friend: Paroles / Mon Chum:
10,000 castors entre toé pi moé mon chum ta rien a craindre moé j’mange mon blé – d’inde mon chum t’as l’air du bon dieu moé j’ai l’air d’un gru mon chumla grosse Maple Leafs entre toé pi moé mon chum
mais fait attention j’men vient chez nous a Oka mon chum même si j’sort de Kanawaké , mais fait attention cette tête là c’est pas le Canada
Cent milles caisses de bières entre toé pi moé mon chumpour toé sa flotte pour moé j’suis de la crotte mon chum tes en bâteau moé je calle dans l’eau mon chum
mais fait attention a mon bazouka moé j’vient de Kanawaké , ont vient du même pommier mon chumtu vas tomber pi moé je vais te pousser , fait attention mon chum chacun son tour .
Much of the research for this three part series on The October Crisis came from this fantastic Donald Brittain / National Film Board of Canada three part documentary on Pierre Trudeau and René Lévesque, The Champions: