Not Much Glory: Quelling the F.L.Q.

Description

199 pages
Contains Illustrations, Index
$21.95
ISBN 0-88879-118-6

Publisher

Year

1985

Contributor

Reviewed by James Pritchard

James Pritchard is a history professor at Queen’s University and
author of Louis XV’s Navy, 1748-1762: A Study of Organization and
Administration.

Review

Although Dan G. Loomis is a retired Major General from the Canadian Armed Forces and was involved in the events surrounding the F.L.Q. crisis, this is not a personal memoir. General Loomis sets out, instead, to prove a rather startling hypothesis: that between 1963 and 1984 the Canadian government, with the full support of the Armed Forces, fought and won a protracted domestic war against an armed revolutionary group and thereby preserved Canada as we live in it today. For 20 years, successive governments pursued a grand strategy that included both military and civic action programs designed to overcome an armed revolutionary threat to Canadian sovereignty and keep Quebec in Confederation. The author’s argument, arranged in thirteen chapters, comprises four parts. The first deals with the revolutionary threat to Canada; the second concerns the development of the civic action programs designed by Lester Pearson and refined by Pierre Trudeau; and the third and fourth sections cover the military action programs and the events of 1970 and after. In brief, Loomis argues for a radical reinterpretation of recent Canadian history.

Loomis rejects generally accepted opinion that the F.L.Q. lacked much formal organization and comprised various small groups that employed a common name from time to time and thereby gave rise to an illusion of continuing hydra-headed conspiracy. In the author’s view, this conspiracy was all too real. The F.L.Q. was a civil-military organization for waging protracted revolutionary warfare no different from similar national liberation fronts that have met with success in Nicaragua, Algeria, Angola, Mozambique, and Vietnam. The well-intentioned but politically inept Prime Minister Pearson is transformed into a determined leader and one of “the most brilliant strategists the country has ever produced.” The diminished presence of Canada’s Armed Forces abroad and commitment to NATO was not due to Prime Minister Trudeau’s aversion to the military but to his “military bent of mind” and his recognition of the government’s need to continue Pearson’s strategy of reshaping the Canadian forces into a unified force capable of dealing with “low intensity” terrorist warfare at home. Finally, General Jean Allard is “perhaps, Canada’s greatest soldier,” for to him fell the “not much glory” of successfully reorganizing the army’s command structure, redeploying its forces, re-equipping its units, and retraining its personnel. In 1970 all this planning worked, nipping armed revolutionary warfare in the bud, saving countless lives.

Unfortunately, none of this is very convincing. Loomis cannot identify a single member of the leadership and high command of his F.L.Q. and revolutionary movement. His only evidence for the existence of a far-flung revolutionary infrastructure across Quebec and elsewhere in Canada is the testimony of Liberal party members of the Quebec caucus, who suddenly discovered this phenomenon on 16 October 1970 during the debate on the War Measures Act! Loomis also assumes the federal government was omniscient and omnipotent. The idea that the Pearson-Diefenbaker feud in the House of Commons was an elaborately designed cover to divert media and public attention from the brilliant action programs of our greatest strategist invites suspension of belief. Loomis also ignores some events of October 1970 that might suggest other interpretations. Arrests of hundreds of Quebeckers occurred largely on the say-so of Messrs. Pelletier and Marchand, not on the basis of lists carefully assembled beforehand. The decision to bargain with terrorists by agreeing to comply with some of their demands suggests confusion rather than a counter-revolutionary tactic. Those who find solace in the simplicities of conspiracy to explain the complexity and anxieties of our times will love this book; others may find that it stimulates critical thought. Still more may worry about possible paranoia among senior military officers, while some may find it simply fun to read.

Citation

Loomis, Dan G., “Not Much Glory: Quelling the F.L.Q.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 24, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/36317.