In October, 1970, Nicolas Galipeau fit the profile of a typical North American teen, with a mop of frizzy hair hanging to his shoulders and a bedroom plastered with sixties icons such as The Doors and Janis Joplin.
But the evening of Oct. 22, his life careened off the standard teenage script. In the early evening, as he, his sister and a group of friends prepared to sit down to a chicken dinner, police burst into their family home in downtown Montreal and placed the party under arrest.
Nicolas, still too young to shave, was carted off to the Parthenais Detention Centre in Montreal, finger-printed, and locked up overnight.
He was 15 years old.
"Here I was behind bars, and being interrogated," he recalls today. "It all seemed like a cowboy movie."
Mr. Galipeau had been dragged into the vast net of the War Measures Act, the emergency law invoked 30 years ago today that gave police massive powers of arrest and detention. His crime: having the wrong parents. His mother was the beguiling chanteuse Pauline Julien; his stepfather was the poet and journalist Gérald Godin. Both were well-known nationalists who were themselves arrested and detained in the hours after the law's enactment. A week later, police came for the couple's children.
This month's anniversary of the October Crisis has produced a flood of testimonials from the drama's major players -- former members of the Front de libération du Québec, Trudeau cabinet ministers, even relatives of slain Quebec minister Pierre Laporte.
Largely overlooked have been the hundreds of people who experienced the immense power of a law at ground zero, and had their civil liberties suspended during peacetime. More than 450 people were arrested without warrants and put behind bars under the War Measures Act.
Some of the detainees were high-profile agitators such as Pierre Vallières and union firebrand Michel Chartrand. But the majority were street activists, labour organizers, intellectuals, entertainers and students like Mr. Galipeau.
They do not remember the late prime minister Pierre Trudeau as he has been recalled in English Canada, a great man who championed civil liberties.
"He was the man who had me put in jail," said Mr. Galipeau, now a 45-year-old high-school teacher.
"To have arrested me illustrates the absurdity and the improvisation of it all. I realized that if they were arresting a teenager, something was wrong. It meant they were ready to try anything."
Mr. Galipeau's arrest marked the second time in a week that he witnessed armed police swarm his home. In the darkness before dawn on Oct. 16, his parents, Mr. Godin and Ms. Julien, were awoken by the sound of men outside their bedroom door.
The officers explained that civil liberties had been suspended and police were free to raid the house without a warrant. While Mr. Galipeau watched television in the living room, police seized two typewriters, some chequebooks and a poster favouring Quebec independence.
Mr. Godin and Ms. Julien were driven to jail, leaving an aunt to look after the children. Mr. Godin spent the rest of his life trying to hold Ottawa accountable.
"There's nothing like cops in your bedroom at 4 in the morning to make you take a second look at your system of government," said Mr. Godin, who went on to become a popular Parti Québécois cabinet minister.
Jacques Larue-Langlois, a former radio producer who did public relations for the FLQ, was arrested and charged with seditious conspiracy. He spent more than two months in jail and was later acquitted.
"It made me more radical," he said in a recent interview. "It was an abusive move by Canada, an attempt to muzzle us for ideological offences." He said he'll never forgive Mr. Trudeau for invoking the act.
"He was an oppressor of the people, a sellout, the Lord Durham born in Quebec," said Mr. Larue-Langlois, referring to a reviled symbol of English domination. "Mr. Trudeau was my enemy. An intelligent enemy, perhaps, but an enemy."
Richard Théorêt was an idealistic street activist in 1970 who fought for free vaccinations for children. Then, one night in October while at a friend's house in Montreal, a scene unfurled around him that left him incredulous.
Helicopters swirled overhead and soldiers swarmed the roof as police knocked down the door. It turned out they were searching for James Cross, the British Trade Commissioner who had been kidnapped by an FLQ cell on Oct. 5.
All police found were Mr. Théorêt and his friends having coffee.
Mr. Théorêt was arrested and jailed for 20 days without charge. He recalls being interrogated and feeling the cold butt of a gun at the back of his ear.
"At that point, I was scared," said Mr. Théorêt, who has since become a Montreal city councillor. "It was a bit surreal. Sure, we were activists at the time, but this was completely nuts."
In the years after the War Measures Act, some former detainees wore their imprisonment as a badge of honour. But their pride wore thin as some lost jobs or found their reputations stained by their arrests. Mr. Théorêt recalls how, while doing consulting work in a jail years after his arrest, he discovered his fingerprints were still on file, even though he was never charged with breaking the law.
"Some people personally suffered from a backlash from their arrests," he said. "The period was never totally erased from their lives."