New virtual exhibit explores the military's side of the October Crisis

As the province marks the 50th anniversary of the October Crisis, a new virtual exhibit is telling the story of the Canadian soldiers who were on Quebec's streets.

Their presence was often seen as a provocation by Ottawa and angered many Quebecers.

The soldiers, however, tell a very different story.

The Royal Montreal Regiment and its education program 'je me souviens' features interviews with veterans who served with le Royal 22ieme Régiment and were deployed in October 1970.

Their video testimonials explore four themes:

  • The 60s in Quebec: Years of Celebration… and Uncertainty
  • The Army Arrives: Soldiers’ Roles
  • Respect and Cooperation
  • In Hindsight

One soldier explains as a French Quebecer, he didn't understand why then-prime minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act against his own people.

Another said he didn't understand what was going on.

"This is Quebec. This is Canada. We had a job to do, but we didn't know what to expect," he said.

Despite the ire of many Quebecers who bristled at seeing the army on Montreal's streets, the documentary reveals another side: gratitude.

"The soldiers would be cold and wet, and they’d be patrolling somewhere in October, and local Montrealers would bring them a coffee, would not allow them to pay for something in a restaurant," said RMR Honorary Colonel Colin Robinson.

Westmount High School history teacher Chantal Clabrough will be using "Je Me Souvien" to teach her students about the October Crisis.

She hopes they will see more than one angle to the controversial chapter in Quebec's history.

"There’s not one or two sides to the issue and what is presented in the textbook in terms of the role of the military or in terms of the role of the press, or in terms of the role of the government is actually much more complex than a simple paragraph in a textbook," she said.

The virtual exhibit of the crisis is available at jemesouviens.org.

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