Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pop History Moment: The Kidnapping of Pierre Laporte

From 1945 to 1961 Pierre Laporte worked at the newspaper Le Devoir, where he quickly gained a reputation for his crusading work against the right-wing tyranny of Premier Maurice Duplessis. After Duplessis' death, Laporte ran for office, and was elected to serve the constituency of Chambly as a Liberal, where he served in the cabinet of Jean Lesage.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketAlthough he ran for the leadership of the party in 1969, Laporte was considered to be on the party's left wing; he lost to the more centrist Robert Bourassa, who appointed Laporte deputy premier and Minister of Labour.

On this day in 1970 Pierre Laporte was kidnapped from his home in Saint-Lambert, a suburb of Montreal, by terrorists with the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) as part of that group's escalating campaign of terror in the province. While it's almost understandable that the FLQ - themselves a Marxist organization - would kidnap British Diplomat James Cross (which they had done on October 5th) blindly loathing as they did everything anglais, observers were stumped as to why they would snatch a prominent left-wing journalist and politician; possibly they felt he was a dupe.

Whatever effect the FLQ might have thought kidnapping Laporte would have, I doubt they could have imagined what actually happened. Within days Jean Drapeau, the mayor of Montreal, and Laporte's boss Premier Bourassa were successful in their efforts to get Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau to invoke the War Measures Act to deal with the rising unrest.

Alas, it was to no avail; a week after his capture, Pierre Laporte's strangled body was found in the trunk of a car. He was 49. Despite being given lengthy sentences, none of his killers were jailed longer than 11 years. Laporte is buried in the Cimetière Notre-Dame-des-Neiges in Montreal.
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