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Former FLQ member Paul Rose is shown in Montreal on Aug. 19, 1994. (Marcos Townsend/CP)
Former FLQ member Paul Rose is shown in Montreal on Aug. 19, 1994. (Marcos Townsend/CP)

Globe Editorial: First Take

Paul Rose more deserving of being forgotten than being honoured Add to ...

It is egregiously wrong for a member of the Quebec National Assembly to table a motion honouring the convicted terrorist Paul Rose. "You can share the reservations he had about his past in the FLQ, but no one can question his sincerity, his devotion, his integrity, his intellectual honesty,” Amir Khadir of the separatist Québec Solidaire party said on Thursday after Rose died. But that’s not true. The sincerity, integrity and intellectual honesty of a man who refused to show remorse for the cold-blooded kidnapping and murder of another man for political reasons are entirely suspect, and his devotion was warped.

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Quebec is a peaceful place today, but in the 1960s and early 70s, the province was the scene of hundreds of bombings and, ultimately, two kidnappings by two different cells of the terrorist group Le Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ). Paul Rose led the cell that kidnapped a provincial cabinet minister, Pierre Laporte, on Oct. 10, 1970. Laporte was a random choice; he happened to live nearby to where Rose and his gang were hiding out. A week later, Laporte was found strangled to death in the trunk of a car.

Quebeckers were horrified by the senseless and brutal act, and the FLQ lost any popular support it had. Rose and his fellow felquistes were quickly caught and convicted. Rose was released on parole in 1982 and went on to work in the separatist movement as a politician and union activist. With his death on Thursday, he is being remembered in some circles through, well, rose-tinted glasses. But the facts do not work in favour of the resuscitation of his reputation. He remained stuck in the past and never took responsibility for the death of Laporte, even though he was caught boasting on a wiretap that he had “ finished him with the chain he had around his neck.” To this day, none of the FLQ members who kidnapped Laporte has accepted personal blame; they say the murder was a collective act and prefer to blame the heightened radicalism of the times. Right up to his death, Rose continued to align Quebec’s separatist movement with the struggles of Palestinians, an odious but telling comparison.

It is also important to remember that the Parti Québécois, led then by René Lévesque, was already in existence by 1970 and had won seven seats in the general election in April of that year and taken almost a quarter of the popular vote. The separatist movement had moved into the legitimate political sphere by the time Rose and his gang carried out their amateurish and misguided act of terrorism and murder, further adding to the pointlessness of their act.

Rose’s death brings to an end a painful episode that most Quebeckers would sooner forget. He was an important figure in the province’s modern history, but not for the right reasons. By announcing he will table a motion honouring Rose in the National Assembly, Mr. Khadir has obliged us all to remember what Paul Rose truly represents: the self-destructive use of murder and terror to advance political ends. The wiser course for Mr. Khadir would have been to remain silent and let Rose fade quickly into well-deserved oblivion.

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