Saturday, November 06, 2004


Canada's October Crisis

Fri November 05, 2004 01:30 PM ET

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The number of U.S. citizens visiting Canada's main immigration Web site has shot up six-fold as Americans flirt with the idea of abandoning their homeland after President George W. Bush's election win this week.

"When we looked at the first day after the election, November 3, our Web site hit a new high, almost double the previous record high," immigration ministry spokeswoman Maria Iadinardi said on Friday.

On an average day some 20,000 people in the United States log onto the Web site, -- a figure which rocketed to 115,016 on Wednesday.
As frustrated Dems cry out in response to Bush's victory, "America will surely become a police state now! I'm moving to Canada!" they might wish to pause for a moment first and consider this: Canada has been hit with terrorism before, so we have some history on the subject. Not the usual peacetime rhetoric from a safe distance, but concrete actions taken when we too were attacked.

Here's what happened. The year was 1970. The Prime Minister of the day was Pierre Trudeau, leader of the Liberal Party, and a man who would philosophically fit right in with the modern US Democratic party. The event itself came to be known as "The October Crisis."

The terrorist group back then was the FLQ - The Front de Libération du Québec - a separatist group that wanted the province to secede from the rest of Canada. On October 5th, they kidnapped British Trade Commissioner James Cross and Quebec Justice Minister Pierre Laporte, then issued their demands.

To make along story short, Trudeau hunted them down. They released Cross but killed Laporte. Here's the key to this story though: Trudeau did all this by using Canada's "War Measures Act," a holdover from the First World War. Civil liberties? Out the window - there were terrorists at large.

And it worked. Years later, when asked if he still felt he had made the right decisions, Trudeau replied "well, it worked, didn't it?" Canadians at the time, and to this day, supported our Prime Minister's actions.

Did 3,000 Canadians die in a fiery attack? No, two men were kidnapped. At the time that the WMA was invoked, neither hostage was known to be dead. Was the FLQ considered a threat on a par with Al-Qaeda? No, but better to nip it in the bud. Was there a nuclear danger, as there is today? Again no, but if you let the problem grow it can only get worse.

We're a pretty nice bunch up here in Canada, if I do say so myself. But if you're coming here to find an ACLU-style of civil liberties, don't hold your breath. Like you, we're most likely to say that when it's easy to say. When the threat actually becomes an attack, though, even just a relatively small one, expect Canada to support measures far more restrictive than anything Ashcroft or Bush have done, or would even consider.

We did last time.

UPDATE: Just to give you the flavor of the War Measures Act, here's a few excerpts (but read the whole thing; it's only about a page):
(a) Censorship and the control and suppression of publications, writings, maps, plans, photographs, communications and means of communication;
(b) Arrest,, detention,, exclusion and deportation;
(c) Control of the harbours, ports and territorial waters of Canada and the movements of vessels;
(d) Transportation by land, air, or Water and the control of the transport of persons and things;
(e) Trading, exportation, importation, production and manufacture;
(f) Appropriation, control, forfeiture and disposition of property and of the use thereof.
may also prescribe whether such penalties shall be imposed upon summary conviction or upon indictment
As you can see, it's pretty much total government power and no civil rights. As for the Americans thinking of coming up here, they should first ask themselves what their reaction would be if Ashcroft were to propose the above. Though the Act was eventually superceded in 1988 (by the Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulrony), the Canadian government still retains wide powers in an emergency, moreso than in the US.

UPDATE: Feb 14, 2005 - Americans still considering emigrating North might also consider the details contained in this post before deciding if Canada is the liberal nirvana they expect it to be.