First Published: The Worker, Vol 12, No 1, January 24, 1980
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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MONTREAL – Jean Keable’s courtroom exposť of alleged police agent Francis Seguin climaxed the new strategy of his commission. Last year, he had focused on what the bourgeois press euphemistically calls “wrongdoing“ by the RCMP. The revelations where extremely valuable. The federal government tried, unsuccessfully, to shut him down. Then Trudeau set up his own, run by three Liberal Party hacks, to try and soften Keable’s blow.
But now Keable seems to perceive his principal enemy as the FLQ, not the RCMP. His thesis is that the FLQ and the police were so intertwined in October that is impossible to tell where one stops and the other begins. His conclusion – as more and more grow impatient with the PQ’s wavering on independence – is that militant independentist tactics play into the hands of the police.
Keable and the rest of the PQers owe more to the FLQ than they ever care to admit. The FLQ had awakened the world to the struggle to free Quebec long before Levesque had even quit the Liberals. And for its courageous efforts, the FLQ has borne heavy blows from the Canadian state. Pierre-Paul Geoffroy is still in jail after 10 years. On the other hand, the PQ is sufficiently harmless that it has yet to produce a political prisoner.
It seems that Keable can’t get anyone to testify for him now. The police are fighting right to the Supreme Court to avoid telling their sorry tale. Keable also called three “ex-FLQers” to testify: Nigel Hamer, Francois Seguin and Robert Comeau. All three refused to testify. Last year, Hamer was widely publicized as the mysterious sixth kidnapper of James Cross. The implication was that he had never been prosecuted because of “services rendered” to the authorities. Hamer is now reputed to be an activist in a local gang of provocateurs, Peking’s Canadian PR agency – The Forge. His showdown with Keable is due early in 1980.
The other two, Seguin and Comeau, issued a statement denouncing the commission for its attacks on “progressive and communist movements.” They did not defend the record of the FLQ, however. The statement was available to the public only at the En Lutte bookstore. And En Lutte (Nov. 27) reserved the term “communist militants” for Comeau and Seguin, a description it did not extend to Hamer. The obvious concusion: Comeau and Seguin are cadre in En Lutte, presumably proteges of former FLQ leader Charles Gagnon.
Following the declaration, Keable put Seguin and Comeau on the stand and asked them once again for their testimony. When they refused, Keable announced he would “break the abscess” that is holding back his inquiry. He labelled Seguin as an agent provocateur, his file number with the Montreal police, named officer Bisaillon as his controller, and told him: “The courtroom guards will protect you until 4 PM. Then it’s up to your employer, the Montreal police, to look after you.” Seguin broke down and was led sobbing from the court. Then Keable called Comeau a “dupe” of the police. Comeau was apparently admitted to hospital with a nervous breakdown later that afternoon.
Keable asked the police to protect Seguin, but as far as we know the only organization to respond to this call has been En Lutte. Its newspaper presented Comeau and Seguin as victims of “McCarthyist” tactics. It did not comment on the legitimacy of Keable’s accusations, treating the question of Seguin’s “motives” as incidental. It lamented the fact that neither had a chance to defend himself. (Surely En Lutte would have loaned its pages, but neither Comeau nor Seguin appeared in any hurry to issue a denial.) Later, En Lutte praised a statement by civil rights lawyer Claude Armand Sheppard, without mentioning that Sheppard’s attack on Keable was basically a defense of the right of police informers to be protected from exposure (Dec. 11). En Lutte has taken, de facto, the same position as Sheppard. By failing to address the question of Seguin’s guilt or innocence, and by presenting the case purely on the civil liberties level, it too is effectively defending the right of police provocateurs to civil liberties!
Two weeks after being denounced, Seguin finally produced a brief denial. However he did not address the many questions which have been raised about his political “activities.” Keable’s lawyers, for example, say they are confident in their denunciation because Seguin had testified earlier, in camera, that he was working for the police.
There is no question that the Keable Commission greatly abuses the civil liberties of its witnesses. For years, the Quebec government has used such inquiries to deny people their right to refuse self-incrimination, to have legal counsel, and to be confronted by their accuser. But revolutionaries do not regard civil liberties as an important issue when they are the civil liberties of alleged police informers. We have only one objective: to weed out these dangerous scum, and prevent them creating any more confusion, disruption and sabotage. Of course, we will not allow Keable to use the broad brush, of “provacateur” to tar the stalwarts of the FLQ. On the other hand, if En Lutte persists in ignoring the issue, by whining about civil liberties, then it is participating in a police cover-up! With every day of silence this conclusion becomes more certain.
En Lutte’s one feeble defense appears to be that Seguin cannot be a police agent because he is now a “communist militant.” But what activities do En Lutte’s “communist militants” pursue today? Within Quebec they incessantly attack left wing nationalists and PQers, who are supposedly the “main danger.” They picket the PQ’s public meetings, harass its candidates, and denounce serious militants like Michel Bourdon as “traitors.” This is a more sophisticated and perhaps more effective form of harassment than the RCMP barn burnings of the early 1970s. But the target – of the RCMP in 1971 and En Lutte in 1979 – is identical.
In its international work, En Lutte provides a left-wing echo of Carter and Brzezinski, by slandering every major struggle against US imperialism. The revolutions in Iran, Palestine and Nicaragua have all been regularly denounced in its pages within the past year. The tone is left wing. The target – of the CIA and En Lutte – is the same.
To paraphrase Voltaire, if En Lutte didn’t exist, the police would have had to invent it.