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Reporters Tim Ralfe, right, and Peter Reilly, centre, question Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau on the steps of Parliament Hill about the FLQ crisis and the invocation of the War Measures Act. (PETER BREGG/Peter Bregg/CP)
Reporters Tim Ralfe, right, and Peter Reilly, centre, question Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau on the steps of Parliament Hill about the FLQ crisis and the invocation of the War Measures Act. (PETER BREGG/Peter Bregg/CP)

Trudeau: 'Just watch me' Add to ...

It is Oct. 13, 1970 - eight days after James Cross's kidnapping. Soldiers are stationed on Parliament Hill as CBC reporter Tim Ralfe calls out to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau: "What is it with all these men and guns around here?" The interview lasted more than seven minutes and includes some of Mr. Trudeau's best-known remarks.

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With your army troops, you seem to be combatting [the FLQ]almost as though it is a war, and if it is a war, does anything that they say have validity?

Don't be silly. We're not combatting them as if it's war, but we're using some of the army as peace agents in order that the police be more free to do their job as policemen and not spend their time guarding your friends against some form of kidnapping.

You said earlier that you would protect them in this way, but you have said before that this kind of violence, what you're fighting here, the kind of violence of the FLQ, can lead to a police state.

Sure. That's what you're complaining about, isn't it?

Well, yes, but surely that decision is yours, not the FLQ's.

Yes, but I've asked you what your own logic is. It's to let them abduct anybody and not give any protection to anyone - call off the police, that seems to be your position.

Not call off the police. Surely the police's job is to catch people who break the law.

Yes, but not to give protection to those citizens who might be blackmailed for one reason or another?

Which must be half of the population of the country, in one way or another. I explained it badly, I think, but what you're talking about to me is choices, and my choice is to live in a society that is free and democratic, which means that you don't have people with guns running around in it.

Correct.

And one of the things I have to give up for that choice is the fact that people like you may be kidnapped.

Sure, but this isn't my choice, obviously. You know, I think it is more important to get rid of those who are committing violence against the total society and those who are trying to run the government through a parallel power by establishing their authority by kidnapping and blackmail. And I think it is our duty as a government to protect government officials and important people in our society against being used as tools in this blackmail. Now, you don't agree to this, but I am sure that once again with hindsight, you would probably have found it preferable if Mr. Cross and Mr. Laporte had been protected from kidnapping, which they weren't because these steps we're taking now weren't taken. But even with your hindsight I don't see how you can deny that.

No, I still go back to the choice that you have to make in the kind of society that you live in.

Yes, well there are a lot of bleeding hearts around who just don't like to see people with helmets and guns. All I can say is, go on and bleed, but it is more important to keep law and order in the society than to be worried about weak-kneed people who don't like the looks of …

At any cost? How far would you go with that? How far would you extend that?

Well, just watch me.

At reducing civil liberties? To what extent?

To what extent?

Well, if you extend this and you say, okay, you're going to do anything to protect them, does this include wire tapping, reducing other civil liberties in some way?

Yes, I think the society must take every means at its disposal to defend itself against the emergence of a parallel power which defies the elected power in this country, and I think that goes to any distance. So long as there is a power in here which is challenging the elected representative of the people, I think that power must be stopped and I think it's only, I repeat, weak-kneed bleeding hearts who are afraid to take these measures.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

 

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