War Measures: Pauline And Gerald And Henri And Michel And The Night Canada Threw Them In Jail


War Measures: Pauline And Gerald And Henri And Michel And The Night Canada Threw Them In Jail


PAULINE JULIEN’S living room is on the second floor of an old house on the first rise above Sherbrooke Street toward the mountain. It is filled with faded, rumpled furniture, with a rattan birdcage in the open upper window facing the morning sun. A very French room on the “English” side of Montreal.

When she enters, gay, expressive, catquick, with those beautiful high cheekbones and a few wisps of curly hair falling free, we test each other for a moment to see if English has to be the language of our conversation. It must, and I realize then that I can never really join the laughter and understand the passions of this entrancing woman and I am lessened by it, because to understand her must be one of the shared delights of those who know her.

Instead 1 trip on the TV cord and stumble halfway across the room, almost into her arms; she apologizes quickly on behalf of the room, but my mind for an instant is filled with all sorts of humiliating racial symbolism — the bumbling, stupid, awkward English, so gauche in the company of grace. I am being only partly silly because I know that she knows, or thinks she knows, that I represent that class of people, the uptightEnglish - and - their - lackeys - with - the -French - names who have so recently exerted their power. A few days later her teen-age children are to express almost precisely those sentiments I find so inhospitable within myself.

As I hunch down in the crinkly old chair and sip a morning beer and she darts back and forth to answer the phone, a malaise of unreality grips me, for I am not here because she is an intense and sensuous woman, because she sings so hauntingly of the mysterious seeking of the sexes, because those quick phone calls are finishing the details of her next concert in one of the great theatres of Canada. I am not even here for the simple pleasures of a morning beer, nor to enjoy a woman’s company; I am here, for God’s sake, because this woman has been in jail. This room is the scene of one of the great bungles of the War Measures Act. Here they all gathered in their nightshirts at five o’clock in the morning while the police rummaged around, being, oh yes, polite enough to let her find a housecoat. And that television set over there is the one they turned on and all of them watched while they learned of the secret new law that allowed the police to stomp into lovers’ bedrooms in the covering darkness before the dawn. — Ron Haggart.

“These are strong powers,” the Prime Minister of Canada said late on the night of the day they took Pauline Julien to jail, “and I find them as distasteful as I am sure you do. They are necessary, however, to permit the police to deal with persons who advocate or promote the violent overthrow of the democratic system.”

After the invocation of the War Measures Act by the federal cabinet at four o'clock in the morning on Friday, October 16, 1970 (but not fully revealed in the House of Commons until 11 a.m.) more than 450 Quebeckers were rounded up by the police, and many dozens more were detained for short periods. Among those officially catalogued, the average period of detention was about a week. All but a handful were released without any charges being laid and, in most cases, only perfunctory interrogations. But the most noticeable characteristic of the 450 detainees was their diversity, ranging from Pierre Vallières, the philosopher patron of violent revolution, to university student Les Lascau, who was doing nothing more suspicious than canvassing an apartment building with a public opinion poll for the McGill sociology department when he was arrested.

One of the results, intentional or otherwise, of the events after October 16 was to blur the distinction between all the varieties of dissent in French Canada. Newspapers fell into the habit of referring in their headlines to the “FLQ sympathizers” in jail, and wrote about the roundup of “suspected terrorists.” Some were. But, as Pauline Julien said, 99% of those who ended up in jail were opposed to terrorism, although a more accurate statistic would probably be about 90%.

In their third-floor bedroom in the old house in Montreal, Pauline Julien and Gerald Godin woke at five in the morning to the sound of voices. “Are there any anywhere else?” one voice said, and another, “Did you go around the house?” In bed, the two mumbled to each other something about there must be a fire, and Godin slipped on his trousers to look. On the threshold of his bedroom he found three policemen.

“Why didn’t you ring?” Pauline asked from bed and one of them replied, “We did but you didn’t hear us.”

“You must be crazy,” she cried, more incredulous than angry. “Do you go places and not ring the bell?”

Godin asked if they had a warrant, and one of them replied with what Godin described as a smiling, triumphant tone: “We don’t need a warrant any more, sir. A special law’s been voted and we can search where we want without a warrant. Listen to the radio, you’ll see.”

One policeman asked how many people were in the house and Pauline Julien replied, with a gay laugh, she didn’t really know; her daughter often brought friends home, they’d have to look and find out. There were six people in the house that night as it turned out, and now they were all gathered in the second-floor living room with four policemen, (wo from the Quebec police force and two from the city police. Then they began a two-hour search into books and papers, mainly of the publishing co-operative Parti Pris, of which Godin is secretary-treasurer.

“They asked nothing,” Miss Julien recalled. “They said, ‘You stay here.’ But I refused and I said, ‘I’m going to accompany you everywhere because this is my place.’ They were not so bad, they were not so savage here as I heard they were at some other places.”

By seven o’clock the search was over and the police had carried out two typewriters, a personal list of phone numbers and a pile of papers from the publishing business. They did not, however, seize the Montreal telephone directory, as they did at some houses (since people have a habit of marking their friends’ names in the book). And then they said: “Come on, get your clothes on, you’re coming with us.” Pauline Julien exploded with surprise, What! It was only then she realized that she was to be detained.

When she asked, she received an intriguing explanation from the policemen in her living room. Pauline Julien says she believes the explanation. Others may wonder if it was an explanation offered out of politeness by men anxious to transfer responsibility to others.

“We have nothing against you,” she quoted one of the policemen as saying. “We didn’t know you were here, we didn’t know you were at this address. We didn’t have any request for you but we just called the préfecteur and he said ‘All people you get, bring them in.’ ”

As an explanation, it leaves much to be desired although, as she says, if her name was on a list, why hers and not any of half-a-dozen other French-Canadian singers? In any event, the Montreal telephone directory lists P. Julien at 1627 Selkirk, and it lists Gerald Godin at the same address and the same phone number. If the explanation was true, that it was all an accident of the bedchamber, it does not serve to explain the arrest of Miss Julien’s two teen-age children, not on October 16 when she was arrested, but eight days later.

It was all done, as almost everyone who was detained has said, completely without rancor. As they drove down St. Catherine Street in an old blue, unmarked Chevrolet, Gerald Godin discussed current movies with the policeman beside him. When they entered the underground garage of the Quebec police headquarters and detention centre on Parthenais Street — where there was a traffic jam of police cars waiting to discharge their passengers — a passing Montreal policeman made some remark to Godin; it was the only rudeness he heard in eight days of jail.

By 7:30 a.m. Godin was in a common bullpen in the new building, a room with a red cement floor and yellowish walls, except for one wall, which was all bars. There were about 10 men in the small room when Godin entered, but soon there were 35. No one has eaten, and it is not until 1 p.m. that three guards bring in a basket full of ham sandwiches, biscuits and coffee. There is nothing to do and they have already felt the strangeness of being cut off from news or contact with the outside world; after lunch they try to lie down but there is not enough room around the walls for all of them to lie down, so they take turns, and they sustain each other with the inevitable jailhouse humor. “There,” says one as he stands up to give his place to another on the cement floor, “I’ve softened the mattress for you.” And another: “I’ve warmed the bed.”

They form up teams to play football with the blown-up sandwich bags, trying to make jokes of the rules. Anyone who gets a penalty will have to leave the cell.

They begin to refer to themselves as prisoners of war and they ask the guards, “Is the war over yet?” But the guards do not answer. The arrested men are being held incommunicado, and they are beginning to understand what it means.

Speaking of it afterward, Godin says his feelings on that first day are of rootlessness, of floating in absolute uncertainty. “Why am I here?” he asks himself. “If only they would ask me some questions, I would at least know what it is about. Are there some things I may have said, some things I may have written or published? But for the moment everything is absolutely empty under me, I have no place.”

Godin began his career as a newspaperman in Three Rivers, the city where Pauline Julien was born; he also worked on dailies in Montreal and was the chief story editor of a Radio-Canada daily television public affairs program, Aujourd’hui, leaving there to work on a National Film Board feature on the Quebec textile industry. In October, 1969, he joined the editorial board of Québec Presse, a union-sponsored popular tabloid full of lively coverage of movies, sports, television and, of course, politics. It is not hard to guess, however, why Gerald Godin was in jail; the co-operative publishing house he directs brought out in 1968 Pierre Vallières’ haunting account of his slum childhood, Nègres Blancs d’Amérique, a book that, after a slight hiatus around October 16, is still sold at the McGill University bookstore, not only for the insights it offers into Vallières’ desperation but also as the work, whatever his politics, of a great natural writer.

There is, at the same time, no doubt where Gerald Godin stands on violence: He regards it as suicidal to the Left. “From a Leftist point of view,” he said not long after his release from jail, “terrorism is not the way to save Quebec, but the way to kill Quebec, to destroy it. Quebec terrorism is brinkmanship of the extreme Left. The realistic Left cannot agree with that, it has been proved wrong every two or three years.”

While Gerald Godin was in a bullpen at Parthenais Street playing football with the sandwich bags, Pauline Julien was in another, with 36 other women, a slightly better place, since there were eight small cells off the common room where they could take turns lying down. Not everyone wanted to, however. Pauline Julien herself felt too anxious to lie down and, as often happens to people in such circumstances, everyone began to talk and a sense of community quickly developed.

“We tried to learn their stories,” she recalled afterward, “and for some of them it was because their husbands or their boyfriends belonged to the PQ or FRAP [Parti Québécois or Front d’Action Politique], Some helped, but some had nothing to do with that, they just kept the children. There was one American girl who answered a little advertisement at the university to get a room. She rented the room from a girl at the university, and that girl’s boyfriend was in FRAP or the PQ or something, and that caused the room to be raided.”

On Friday evening, Godin and five others from the bullpen were led out, happily assuming, quite wrongly, that they were to be liberated. The paper work of the prison was in obvious disarray and the six men were held for an hour in a four-by-four foot transfer cell, so small the men could not even kneel down.

Pauline Julien, at almost the same time, was being transferred to the Tanguay women’s prison, also a new building, “like a convent for young girls,” she is to call it. Montreal has more new jail cells than new units of public housing.

At Tanguay, the three dozen women detained under the War Measures Act could gather in a games room, watch television and read the current newspapers. They did gymnastics, danced, worked with fabrics and played dominoes. They also organized discussion groups, with heavy emphasis on politics and Women’s Lib. There were two young women there, Pauline Julien remembers, whose student-husbands often handed out pamphlets in Sherbrooke, “but the two women, they were absolutely not interested in politics.”

Back at Parthenais Street, Gerald Godin and the five others in the tiny transfer cell, which is really part of the hallway, are finally taken out, released, taken upstairs to the real jail on the top floors, where they are stripped, searched, and then given back their own clothes including, unlike most jail prisoners, their ties, belts and shoelaces. Godin’s cell is nine feet by five and, except for his interrogation on Saturday and a shower, he is in it all Friday night and Saturday.

An FM radio station is broadcast into the cells, but as soon as the announcer begins to read the news it is turned off. On Sunday, the prisoners can see the flags outside at half-staff; someone important is dead. The next day, a prisoner coming back from the infirmary reports that he was able to sneak a look at a newspaper: Pierre Laporte is dead.

Back at Tanguay, meanwhile, the women were holding their meetings, watching television and reading La Presse and Montréal-Matin. But they were still incommunicado from the outside world. One woman was worried about her cats, she had six of them and the police had locked them in the toilet as they left. Another woman had left four children at home, her husband was away on business, and she had a chance only to give a quick word to a neighbor she hardly knew as she left for jail. She hardly ate or slept for three nights.

Over the weekend, a matron came to the women with an offer to phone out messages. Pauline Julien remembers her saying, “I can ring for you, not saying who I am and not saying where you are, but saying to the person whose name you give me, please take care of the cats or the children.”

“She took all the names and by Monday she came back and said, ‘Okay, your cats are being taken care of by your friends,’ or ‘Your children are with the neighbors.’ ”

At Parthenais Street a guard told the men that those who had been picked up on the street, or away from home, could have a message sent to their families saying they were safe and alive. Although Henri Bellemare was arrested in full view of his family, he thought he might as well try to get a message to them. “No,” the guard said, “you were arrested at home. No message.”

Henri Bellemare is a handsome, 38year-old specialist in internal medicine and a founder and director of a community-run medical clinic in east end Montreal where for two dollars a month the families of St. Jacques get access to the services of five doctors, three psychiatrists, three or four dentists, as well as prescription medicines. He is of a rare breed in Canada: a socialist doctor who lives his creed.

The civic politicians of Montreal have plenty of reason to have Dr. Bellemare on their hate list. Among other recent campaigns, he attempted to convince City Hall to vaccinate children against measles, as is done in such suburbs as Outremont, Montreal North and Ville LaSalle. He exposed the city health department’s practice of telling parents in more affluent parts of Montreal that their children’s shots did not include measles, and that vaccination could be obtained from a private physician for $12 while neglecting to tell anything to poorer parents, who couldn’t afford it and would only worry if they knew.

In his campaign as a candidate for the Front d’Action Politique, Bellemare told the voters of St. Jacques that the City of Montreal spends more on its police horses than on the health of its people. One of his slogans was: three million dollars for health, $33 million for the police. And hé must have been on more than one list on October 16, because four Quebec police arrived at his door at 5:10 a.m., and just as they had finished searching the kitchen, four city police arrived on the doorstep, also under the command of an inspector. The city police searched the kitchen all over again, including a careful examination of the refrigerator freezing compartment.

The trademark of the police everywhere that morning was the green plastic garbage bag; they came well supplied, and from Dr. Bellemare’s comfortable bungalow they removed two full bags of material, including the complete list of voters in the electoral ward of St. Jacques, perhaps the most public document then around, since bits of it were posted on utility poles throughout the ward. They also removed the telephone directory, although Dr. Bellemare does not make a habit of marking the names of friends in the book. They did not take his personal list of phone numbers. “They took a lot of books,” Dr. Bellemare recalls, “they took any books that looked a bit socialist, but they were not very good at it.” Into the green garbage bags, went Samuelson’s Economics: An Introductory Analysis, the most widely used economics textbook in the U.S. and Canada, but not Karl Marx’s Das Kapital. By 5:45 they were at Dr. Bellemare’s office, all eight policemen in tow by now, and five searched his office while three sat in the waiting room with him.

The search at home had been thorough. The police had felt along the undersides of all the drawers in the dining room sideboard, had picked through his wife's lingerie, and had looked under the mattresses of his children, except for the mattress of the seven-year-old who was still asleep. But by the time they got to his office, Dr. Bellemare could sense that the search was becoming perfunctory. The police seized his appointment book for last year but not the one for the current year. When he told them a filing cabinet contained his patients’ records, they did not open it. But they searched the backs of the pictures on the wall.

For Dr. Bellemare’s children, five girls between seven and thirteen, the stress began not when the police were in the house — they found that rather interesting — but after their father was gone. He sat with them in the dining room while the police rummaged through the house and told them he would probably have to go downtown for an identification parade for a little while, and of course the police didn’t say for how long he would be away; they didn’t know.

“As the days passed and they had no news,” Dr. Bellemare says, “the girls thought I was on bread and water like they see in the movies and they thought I was questioned under a big spotlight and things like that.” His 11-year-old cried in the mornings and refused to go to school. The nine-year-old raced home from school out of breath, crying, “He’s here, he’s here,” but he wasn’t.

Until he was deposited at the Parthenais Street headquarters, Dr. Bellemare was in the company of eight policemen for two hours, the equivalent of two man-days not spent on other police tasks. The two officers who eventually questioned him went through a three page printed form, asking him the color of his wife’s eyes, what political groups he belonged to. He told them FRAP. They asked him if he had kidnapped James Cross or Pierre Laporte and if he had any dynamite, but they did not bother to complete the third page of the form, which Bellemare already knew from other detainees contained questions about the occupations of brothers-in-law. It was all very polite, friendly, and the police were laughing as they went through the routine.

Six days later when he was released he was given back his two green garbage bags full of assorted junk, and he also obtained, probably by mistake, the police list that went with it. Two hunting knives were described on the list as daggers (poignards) with a careful notation of which drawer they had come from. Another notation said: “Nothing incriminating, a lot of socialist literature.”

In the Montreal civic election three days after his release, Dr. Bellemare was the most popular of the FRAP candidates but still unsuccessful in an election in which Mayor Jean Drapeau received 92% of the vote and saw supporters of his Civic Party elected to every council seat. “I may have offended Mr. Drapeau or Mr. (Lucien) Saulnier,” Dr. Bellemare says, but he is reluctant to believe, since he was one of only two FRAP candidates arrested, that the explanation is quite that simple.

“I am an indépendantiste, what you call a separatist; I am a member of FRAP, which is a socialist party. And maybe,&;ny name is on a list from the old RIN [Rassemblement pour l’Indépendance Nationale], When they pass a law that they don’t need any warrant, and someone says go out and arrest 400 people this night — and don’t touch any crook, any bandit, any protection racketeer — that’s not easy to do. Maybe they have IBM cards, maybe they get out every card that has three notations on it.”

The green garbage bags were also much in evidence at the home of Michel Chartrand, where the police also arrived in the first 5 a.m. wave and found, quite by accident, a young friend of one of Chartrand’s sons who had spent the night there, as well as an organizer in the construction branch of the Confederation of National Trade Unions, who had come home with Chartrand after a late meeting the night before in the Paul Sauvé arena. The young man worked at a magazine edited by separatist Pierre Bourgault, to which Pierre Vallières had from time to time sent articles: in his personal list of phone numbers in his pocket, he had the numbers of Vallières and Bourgault. Off he went to jail, and so did the union organizer.

Of all the men and women rounded up on the dark morning of les mesures de guerre, none roused such contradictory feelings as black and snappish little Michel Chartrand, president of the Montreal central council of the CNTU, who had made a habit of hanging around the action in the first 10 days of the Cross-Laporte crisis. He had said, in his particularly direct and, to many, insulting way, that everyone was worried about the drugs Jasper Cross needed for his high blood pressure, but few worried about the medications that society denied every day to the poor. His worst scene occurred outside the home of Pierre Laporte, the night of the labor minister’s kidnapping. Chartrand drove by out of a desire to be where the excitement was, and when a radio reporter recognized him, and put a microphone before him, Chartrand said Laporte had been sent to do penance (it was frequently translated in the English press as penalty box) and now would have time to think things over.

Chartrand had reason to be annoyed with Laporte’s department, since the construction unions of the CNTU, to whom he acted as an adviser, had been involved for many months in a protracted argument on many sides concerning wages to be paid outside Montreal, a city where the generally more highly paid international unions predominate. But not even Chartrand’s best friends could lightly forgive him that gaucherie into the microphone, which appeared even worse a week later when Laporte was dead.

The thirteenth in a family of 14 children, Chartrand grew up amongst the middle-class trappings and aspirations of a family headed by a minor government official. His father was an accountant in the court system. As a boy at St. Jean de Brébeuf, the proud and arrogant Michel hissed at a student a few years his junior, “Speak French,” which Pierre Elliott Trudeau already did well. Chartrand entered the Trappist order for almost two years, although few today would believe he once was in an order with vows of silence. He spoke at that time an elegant and polished French. It was not until he was a mature man that he vulgarized his language and discovered the rough humor that made him the folk hero of many a labor battle.

It was ironic that one of Chartrand’s more conciliatory speeches had been made the night before his arrest, at the student meeting at the Paul Sauvé arena. The meeting was to become a feature of the Drapeau campaign for re-election because Vallières was there. Chartrand had told the students there were a lot of foreigners in town (the troops) and they should be kind to these people who were standing all over the place, they should offer them chairs. This was one of Chartrand’s typical inside jokes, based on the fact that work regulations in the City of Montreal require that any store employee who must stand at his work should have a chair and the chance to sit down every three hours. He urged the students to go home, which they did.

For Pauline Julien, the experience was not over when she arrived home from jail at 10 a.m. on Saturday, October 24. In the dining room she encountered that scene of so many frightening plots: the table set for dinner but never used. Her two children, 15-year-old Nicholas and 18-year-old Pasquale, were not there.

The police had been back to Pauline Julien’s house three times during the week when she was in jail, searching for more material from Les Editions Parti Pris, apparently, but without success. Then, at 7 p.m. on Friday, October 23, not long after Miss Julien had phoned her children to say she was being released, the police arrived again and said. “Come with us.” But for chance, the children would have been alone. Their aunt, Miss Julien’s sister, had arrived about five minutes before to give the children some money. She then decided to stay with them for supper, but she toe ended up in jail.

“It was completely crazy,” Pasqualt was to say later. “We’re children you know, my brother is 15 and I’m 18, and my brother isn’t even interested in politics or things like that...”

The police, of course, did not have to explain why the safety of the state required the jailing of a 15-year-old boy his sister and his aunt, but they did, on this one occasion, confirm that Nichola was in jail when Miss Julien arrived home next morning and found the house empty. Nicholas got home from jail a 8 p.m. that night and Pasquale at 10.

Pasquale blamed the neighbors, the English neighbors: “Everybody these days is making trouble for people they don’t like.” And Nicholas, who may not have cared much for politics before, became suddenly much more interested “The War Measures Act is a good act for Canadians,” he said, “but not fo us.”