MONTREAL – Convicted terrorist Paul Rose, who died Thursday of a stroke, is best known as an architect of the 1970 October Crisis, which saw political kidnappings and murder and troops flooding into Quebec. Now a member of the provincial legislature wants to honour him.
Amir Khadir, one of two members of the pro-sovereignty Quebec solidaire, promises to table a motion for him in the national assembly next week.
“This is someone who is significant to the independence movement,” Khadir told The Canadian Press when asked about Rose’s passing.
“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.”
The party also issued a written statement offering its condolences — to Rose’s family and friends, and the progressive and sovereigntist activists “who had the pleasure of” working with him. It saluted his decision to pursue the “emancipation of the Quebec people” using democratic means after 1970.
Rose, 69, was convicted in 1971 in the murder and kidnapping of then-Quebec vice-premier Pierre Laporte.
For its part, the Parti Quebecois government refused to issue any comment on the death. Khadir decried the government’s silence about Rose, who had supported Quebec solidaire in recent years.
“It shows once again the government’s lack of courage,” he said. “This is an important figure in the Quebec independence movement and I invite all sovereigntist members, including ministers, to publicly express their condolences.”
The PQ has repeatedly distanced itself from the legacy of the October Crisis, one of the most tumultuous periods in Canadian history.
PQ founder Rene Levesque was scornful of the FLQ and its members. He was appalled in 1981 when delegates to a party convention gave a standing ovation to Jacques Rose, Paul Rose’s brother.
The PQ founder had been a friend to Laporte, and a cabinet colleague.
Paul Rose is best known to Canadians as leader of the Chenier cell of the Front du liberation du Quebec that snatched Laporte from the front lawn of his suburban home as he played touch football with his nephew on Oct. 10, 1970.
Laporte, who was also Quebec labour minister, was found strangled in the trunk of a car a week later, a day after the invocation of the War Measures Act that sent Canadian troops into Quebec to back up police who were carrying out mass arrests.
Rose died peacefully in a Montreal hospital surrounded by his wife and two children, as well as his sisters and brother Jacques, another former member of the FLQ.
“His son Felix and his daughter Rosalie read to him from ‘Un Canadien errant’ (‘A Wandering Canadian’), the poems of Gerald Godin and Gaston Miron, and passages from “Nous etions le nouveau monde” by Jean-Claude Germain,” said Pierre Dubuc, who worked with Rose at l’aut’journal publication.
The selections reflect Rose’s past as an activist for Quebec sovereignty and the promotion of French-language rights. “A Wandering Canadian” is a classic song written in the wake of the 1837 rebellions. Gerald Godin was a renowned poet who became a minister in the first Parti Quebecois government.
In recent years, Rose had been involved in the labour movement and advocated for convict rights. He was also a prominent speaker at a march last year in favour of Quebec students fighting tuition increases.
His nomination in 1992 as a provincial New Democratic Party candidate in a Quebec byelection prompted an objection by the federal NDP to the use of its name. Rose withdrew because he was still on parole and ineligible to run.
Rose’s first forays into Canadian political issues involved more baton-swinging than ballot-casting.
In 1968, he was one of the rioters in the famed St-Jean-Baptiste Day clash that saw newly minted prime minister Pierre Trudeau staring down sovereigntist protesters from the reviewing stand as bottles flew. Trudeau won the federal election the next day.
Rose was also was one of the organizers of the McGill francais demonstration in 1969 which called for the university to be transformed into a French-language institution. That march erupted into clashes with police.
But it was his role in the 1970 October Crisis, one of the most tumultuous periods in Canadian history, that cemented Rose in the public consciousness.
His mugshot, a scruffy depiction of the labourer and sometimes supply teacher, was plastered everywhere until he was flushed out of an underground tunnel beneath a rural farmhouse on Dec. 28, 1970. He and his accomplices, who included his brother Jacques, had threatened to blow everyone up.
Another image of Rose became iconic when he was photographed being taken to court in January 1971. Rose’s free arm shot up in a clenched-fist salute but was yanked down by a burly provincial police officer as the cameras clicked.
Richard Meloche, a retired provincial police officer who was handcuffed to Rose’s other arm at the time, told the editor of the Beststory.ca journalism site in an interview that the officer, Sgt. Albert Lisacek, almost broke Rose’s arm.
“He really yanked it down,” Meloche said.
“Rose didn’t say anything but I could see he wasn’t too happy.”
When he got to court, Rose yelled, “Vive le FLQ” as his trial date was set.
Rose, who delivered a political rant even as his trial wound up, was not quiet in prison either, speaking out for convict rights and organizing strikes to get better education for detainees.
Although a Quebec government commission determined in 1980 that Rose was not present when Laporte was killed, he was not paroled until two years later.
He pursued his activism through l’aut’journal, which confirmed his death on Thursday, and through work with the Confederation of National Trade Unions and various fringe political parties.
Gerald Larose, the former president of the union, said no one would hire Rose at the time and he thought he had paid his debt to society.
“He was a man of conviction, he was an idealist,” said Larose, who said he enjoyed Rose’s company even if he disagreed with his terrorist tactics in the past.
Larose said if nothing else, Rose made an impact on Quebec society by showing that violence doesn’t work in the pursuit of an objective.
“He paid dearly for a collective lesson,” Larose said.
(With files from Alexandre Robillard and Lise Milette)