Terror Scares Shaped Politics Since Earliest Days in BC, Canada

Posted by Howard on Oct 22, 2014

HMS Satellite


HMS Satellite
Warships attended arrival of the first train to BC owing to fear of a terrorist attack that never materialized.

Related objects


To judge by all the commentators saying Canada will never be the same after a lone gunman entered the House of Commons unopposed before being killed October 22, one might be excused for thinking such a thing had never happened in Canada before, even though it is common in almost every other quarter of the globe. In fact, violent attacks by zealots inflamed by wide-ranging ideologies and grievances have been occurring since Canada was founded, and are nothing new to BC. Canada was founded in the midst of a crisis called the Fenian raids, in which zealous Irish republicans killed 31 Canadian soldiers and wounded 103 between 1866 and 1871. Canadian confederation in 1867 was spurred by a perceived need for the existing colonies to band together for protection against such threats as the Fenians. Nor was BC left out of the Fenian terrorism scare--in 1886, two British warships attended the arrival of the first CPR train in Vancouver because of suspected Fenian plans to invade BC.


In BC alone, hardly a decade has gone by without some terrorist scares. The province was formed in 1858 mainly to counter fears unruly US gold miners would resort to vigilante action to seize the territory for the US. During the early years of European contact, First Nations resisted takeover of their territory mainly by terrorist actions, the most famous of which was the so-called Chilcotin War during which 18 white settlers were killed in 1864. From 1920 until 1964 a radical sect of Doukhobours called The Sons of Freedom carried out terrorist activities in the Kootenays, involving arson of public buildings and bombing of power lines. In 1982 a group of radical social activists later known as the Squamish Five bombed a power station at Dunsmuir on Vancouver Island and a factory in Ontario. In 1985 radical BC Sikhs placed bombs aboard an Air India 747 jetliner, killing 329 people, by far the most deadly terrorist act in Canadian history.


Government buildings have been frequent terrorist targets in past. In 1966 Paul Joseph Chartier got into the House of Parliament in Ottawa with 10 sticks of dynamite, intending to kill MPs but misjudged the fuse and killed only himself. Between 1963 and 1970 a small separatist group in Quebec called the FLQ killed 8 people in 160 violent attacks, culminating in the kidnapping and murder of Quebec Labour Minister Pierre LaPorte and imposition of the War Measures Act by Prime Minister Trudeau. As recently as July, 2013, police foiled an attempt by two deranged Muslim converts to plant pressure-cooker bombs during Canada Day celebrations at the BC legislature.


In almost every case terrorist actions ignited fears, fanned by the popular press, that Canadian society was under threat by formidable forces while in every case the formidable forces turned out to be disturbed individuals or small dissident groups infected with violent delusions. This has resulted in questionable responses by government, typified by Prime Minister Trudeau's placing the entire nation under martial law to deal with the actions of a small cell of radical separatists within the province of Quebec during the FLQ Crisis.

On the other hand, but for government's tendency to overreact to terrorist threats, both Canada nor BC might not exist.