With all the hubbub in France
where the youth and the trade unions are staging nation-wide protests against particularly (and peculiarly) discriminatory labour legislation, I am transported back to my salad days as a protester, agent-provocateur
and terrorist. It is my role as enemy of the state which will be the subject of today's post.
The late sixties and early seventies were interesting times - winds of change carried copious amounts of marijuana wafting across the social landscape, the birth control pill brought about the sexual revolution, and liberation movements sprung up like so many mushrooms seemingly overnight.
Here in Quebec (I was living in Montreal with my parents at the time, before making the great trek northward) we started off having the Quiet Revolution in the early-to-mid sixties. A cabal between the Anglo minority in Montreal and the Catholic Church had substantially limited the career prospects for the Quebecois majority. You had to be fluent in English to get a decent job, and the abbés
made sure French Canadians spent all their spare time procreating and struggling to manage extremely large families, or risk excommunication if they practiced any form of birth control other than Vatican roulette.
Then came a more direct confrontation: the Front de Libération du Quebec
, which had hitherto provided considerable amusement with their penchant for blowing up mail boxes in English-speaking districts of Montreal, shocked us all with the kidnapping of British Trade Commissioner James Cross and Quebec cabinet minister Pierre Laporte in October, 1970.
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau hastily invoked the War Measures Act (basically martial law) and sent in the army - in full force. I remember soldiers with machine guns patrolling Ste-Catherine street, and hundreds of members of Quebec's intelligentia were detained without due process, often for many months.
So, you are asking, how did a young Anglo youth in Montreal become a subject for detention during the October Crisis
? The answer involves fate, romance, drugs and illegal weapons.
You see, I was going out to a jazz club on a first date with a really sweet girl named Shirley. Ron, fortunate enough to have a car, was my wheel-man. We were heading up Guy Street and sharing a spliff when we were encircled by police cars with lights on full strobe.
I immediately assumed this was a drug bust, and frantically tried to swallow the evidence, but panic having turned my normally well-lubricated throat into a parched desert, I could only spit out the hash onto the dashboard and hope for the best.
At least five officers came over with weapons drawn, and as Ron casually rolled down the window a dense cloud of smoke and fear billowed out. After asking us to remain where we were with our hands in plain view, one cop searched the inside of the car with a flashlight. I could not believe my luck when he seemed to ignore all the hash crumbs on the dash. But all good fortune was reversed when he focused in on the glove compartment, opened it, and a massive hunting knife fell out.
Now Ron honestly didn't know whose knife it was nor how it got there, but these are not the words police like to hear when investigating insurrection. When all occupants of a vehicle disavow any knowledge of a weapon or its provenance, the shit is going to hit the fan. And hit the fan it did.
Reinforcements were called in, and we remained prisoners of Ron's vehicle for a good hour as the cops tried to sort the whole thing out on their radios. All the while my somewhat disabled brain poured over and over the ramifications of being busted for possession.
So imagine my joy when the police cars started disappearing one by one, the pistols started being holstered, and we were told that the knife was going to be impounded. Not a word about drugs.
In retrospect, it was probably the knife which saved us from being brought up on a drug charge. The police were so obsessed with the knife and Ron's old Plymouth Valiant that the obvious presence of hashish became a non-issue.
That, by the way, was my one and only date with Shirley - I was so freaked out by the whole experience I overimbibed by a factor of four and made an ass of myself.Plus ça change, plus ça reste la même.