the quiet revolution gets silenced:
killing the flq

Last Stop, Paris: The Assasination of Mario Bachand and the Death of the FLQ
Michael McLoughlin
(Viking Canada, xx pages)
last stop ,paris cover
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The murder of a marginal, emotionally unstable onetime member of the revolutionary separatist group, the Front de Liberation du Quebec (FLQ), in a Paris apartment was the lynchpin of a Canadian security operation to intimidate the remaining terrorist cells of the FLQ into silence. This is the assertion of author Michael McLoughlin, who spent five years trawling through the dusty archives of Ottawa and Montreal piecing together a paper trail from the discards and scattered threads left after the records of the action were, inevitably, destroyed. Already, before the book’s publication, there have been rumours of lawsuits and hints of deeper political intrigue that seem of a piece with the book’s faintly pedantic, methodical paranoia.

McLoughlin follows Mario Bachand from his middle-class origins in the cauldron of Quebec’s “Quiet Revolution”, through the formation of the FLQ and the bombings of 1963, to imprisonment, exile in Cuba and France during the frenzy and aftermath of the October Crisis, to his execution in 1971, a seeming victim of factionalist infighting. McLoughlin does a good job sketching the faddish prevalence of revolutionary rhetoric through the Sixties and early Seventies, so well that you wonder if Bachand’s assasination would really have been necessary. The winds of fashion would make the FLQ irrelevant, replaced by the tub-thumping constitutional feints and political intrigue of the Bloc Quebecois, a national shadowplay more in keeping with venerable Canadian political traditions.

In this light, one has to conclude that, even if his assertions are correct, McLoughlin’s tale of cloak-and-dagger would still prove little more than a footnote. His research appears thorough, and he makes the connections, however tangential, with unerring confidence. Still, his version of Bachand’s death is based on mostly incomplete paper documentation, since few of the many players interviewed - from the RCMP, the FLQ milieu, the media, French security services and elsewhere - seem to have gone on record with actual quotes. 

McLoughlin relies on the tactic of reconstructing scenes - terrorists skulking around Westmount planting bombs, bureaucrats meeting in Ottawa conference rooms - with ominous “you are there” narrative. At the same time, he records so many blunders on the part of Canadian security services - passports for alleged assassins sent to the wrong embassy, police raiding parties overlooking a half-dozen terrorists hiding in a house - that you wonder if the author is giving his sinister authorities too much credit. The reader may - if armed with sufficient paranoia and perfect confidence in espionage professionals - dare call in conspiracy.

©1999, 2002 Rick McGinnis