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Diehards with a vengeance: the FLQ attempts to stoke the fires of the flagging Quebec independence movement.

ON Jan. 15, the notorious Front de liberation du Quebec issued a communique, the second in two months, threatening to wreak havoc on Montreal's English-speaking communities. Exactly one week later, French presidential candidate Segolene Royal declared her support of "Quebec's freedom."

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FLQ terrorists using violence to back a sovereigntist agenda. Busybody French politicians giving moral support to the separatists. Hadn't we heard all this before?

Of course we had. It was back in 1967, near the height of the FLQ's original terror campaign, when French president Charles DeGaulle bellowed from a Montreal balcony: "Vive le Quebec libre." His incendiary declaration helped fuel one of the stormiest periods in Canadian history, culminating with the October Crisis of 1970, in which the Trudeau government imposed the War Measures Act after FLQ cells kidnapped British trade commissioner James Cross and Quebec cabinet minister Pierre Laporte, who was soon murdered. On the political front, Quebec separatist governments eventually held and lost two sovereignty referendums. The question now is whether the renewed FLQ threats and a fresh outbreak of French meddling is a sign things are about to heat up in Quebec.

It doesn't appear to be the case at the Quebec National Assembly. A Leger Marketing poll, made public Jan. 31, shows that support for the separatist Parti Quebecois has taken a nosedive under leader Andre Boisclair (whose visit to Paris had sparked Royal's remarks) and that Jean Charest's governing Liberals were now two points up on the PQ. "He hasn't been very good," CROP Inc. pollster Claude Gauthier says of Boisclair. "And my guess would be that if there would be an election in Quebec in the next month, the Liberal party [would be re-elected]."

No one's making any bets about what the FLQ is up to, however. After being driven out of business following the October Crisis, terrorists operating under the FLQ banner have been ratcheting up their nefarious work in recent years. For example, a 1960s FLQ retread, Rheal Mathieu, was sent to jail in 2001 for arson attacks on three Montreal coffee shops; he was apparently upset about the chain's English name, Second Cup.

The language issue figures in the latest threats. The FLQ cell that issued them named itself after Camille Laurin, the late Quebec politician who was the father of the province's French-only language laws. The first of the cell's communiques alleges French speakers in west-end Montreal "are systematically ridiculed by a local anglophone majority." The second declaration gets down to business, saying the terrorists will hit "strategic targets of importance," including rail lines, bridges and shopping malls over the course of a month, starting Feb. 15. The date is the anniversary of the 1839 execution of five members of the Patriotes rebellion in Quebec.

RCMP Cpl. Luc Bessette says police are taking the threats "very seriously." The case is being investigated by the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team, comprising officers from the RCMP, the Montreal police, the Quebec provincial police and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. Nevertheless, terrorism expert John Thompson, president of Toronto's Mackenzie Institute, thinks today's FLQ members are nothing but "a few outcast losers" who do not represent a serious threat. "They've been hysterical wannabes and every three or four years they keep trying to bring back the old times, and it never really works," he says.

Even so, Andre Gerolymatos, a terrorism expert at B.C.'s Simon Fraser University, thinks there's a good chance today's FLQ radicals have been inspired by the success of radical Islamic terrorist groups. "Fundamentally, there's the perception that terrorism works," Gerolymatos states.

But he says Canada's response to that very terrorism has been to harden its domestic defences, with the likely result the FLQ terrorists are going to be caught and "whacked pretty hard." Says the professor, "They're not going to get pensioned off by the Quebec government [like many sixties-era radicals were]. They're going to go to jail. And the jails aren't like they used to be when their parents were in the FLQ. They're going to have to learn to dance with a lot of guys."

If Gerolymatos is correct, the radicals' obsession with language rights and cultural imperialism will then be supplanted by an entirely different preoccupation.
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Title Annotation:QUEBEC
Author:O'Neill, Terry
Publication:Western Standard
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Feb 26, 2007
Words:705
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