Francis Simard, one of the Front de libération du Québec terrorists who were convicted in the killing of Quebec cabinet minister Pierre Laporte, has died.
Mr. Simard served 11 years of a life sentence before being released on parole. In recent years, while he kept a lower profile than other former FLQ members, he spoke up to criticize a movie that he felt romanticized events of his life.
He was also irked by conspiracy theorists who believed that the crisis of October 1970 and the assassination of Mr. Laporte were part of a plot to discredit the FLQ and the Quebec independence movement.
"I know what happened, I was there," he once snapped at another former FLQ member, Pierre Vallières, who was uttering such theories.
Mr. Simard was 67 when he died on Saturday, according to a death notice released by his family.
He died of a ruptured aneurysm, a friend and former FLQ member, Robert Comeau, told Journal de Montréal.
Mr. Simard was born on June 2, 1947, in Val-Paradis, a remote hamlet in the Abitibi region, 750 kilometres north of Montreal.
He was one of the three sons of Gérard and Marie-Claire Simard, a couple from Charlevoix who had been offered government land to settle in the northern hinterland.
The move didn't work out and by the time he was five, the family had relocated to the south shore of Montreal so his father could work as a longshoreman in the port.
Mr. Simard went to trade school and became an electrician.
In the summer of 1969, Mr. Simard was part of a group of Montreal youth who rented a barn in the coastal town of Percé.
La Maison du Pêcheur became a hangout for young people but the local mayor saw it as a magnet for "beatniks, hippies and bearded characters."
It was there that Mr. Simard became friends with Bernard Lortie and the brothers Paul and Jacques Rose, who formed the future core of their FLQ cell.
The four decided after leaving the Gaspé that they would join the underground and "create an organization to fight for national liberation. It might sound pretentious, but that's what we were aiming for," he said in his autobiography, Talking It Out: The October Crisis from Inside.
In his book, he described the feverish mood of the time, when nationalist fervour caught on among Quebeckers and young people felt that social changes in their province mirrored revolutionary movements in the Third World.
"Some people were into it because it was fashionable. They'd read Che's Journal, they bought themselves a khaki shirt and dreamed of being guerillas," Mr. Simard recalled.
He and his fellow FLQ cohorts meant it, however. "There was nothing trippy about what we were doing."
To evade police attention, they stopped attending demonstrations and events with militant groups.
In the summer of 1970, several FLQ members were discussing a plot to kidnap an American diplomat.
Feeling that they weren't ready to act, the Rose brothers, their mother, and Mr. Simard left for a road trip to the United States.
While they were in the U.S., they heard on the radio that another FLQ cell had gone ahead and kidnapped the British trade commissioner James Cross, on Oct. 5.
They hurried back home, to a safehouse in Longueuil, south of Montreal. Because of the heightened security triggered by the Cross kidnapping, they couldn't find a kidnapping target in Montreal and targeted instead Mr. Laporte, the local member of the Quebec legislature.
Mr. Laporte's address was in the phone book and he was abducted while he was playing football with a nephew outside his house.
Seven days later, Mr. Laporte's body was left in the trunk of the Chevrolet used to kidnap him. He had been strangled.
People have long debated whether the killing was intentional or an accidental strangling while Mr. Laporte was trying to escape. "We killed him, it was not an accident," Mr. Simard wrote in his autobiography.
He is survived by a wife, Béatrice Richard, his two children from a previous union, Renée-Louise and Émilie, and a stepdaughter, Fanny.