First Published: In Struggle! No. 252, May 26, 1981
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Malcolm and Paul Saba
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In issue 248 of our newspaper, we denounced Francois Seguin, former IN STRUGGLE! member, as an informer paid by Montreal police since at least 1972.
Francois Seguin’s behaviour was very questionable all through the Keable Commission, well before Keable exposed him in November 1979. He constantly criticized his lawyer, while asking him to defend him. He claimed that the leadership of IN STRUGGLE! was deliberately collaborating with the Keable commission. He kept questioning the decisions taken collectively with the other witnesses.
Francois Seguin never sought to collect proof for his defence after Keable’s denunciation. In particular, he did nothing to prove he had worked as a taxi driver when the news media kept repeating he was on the Montreal Police payroll.
When we questioned him on that point, he first answered that he worked three days a week in ’79. Then he told us two days. Then, maybe, he didn’t work at all from January to June. Finally, when we showed him proof that had only rented a taxi at the most 32 times, he admitted he’d lied.
Francois Seguin never took action against Keable or reporters for defamation of character. What is more, in the face of these accusations, he progressively cut himself off from all his friends. He has remained totally silent since the publication of the Keable Report that exposes him.
Although the Keable Report whitewashes 1970 politicians with impunity, which we criticized in issue 245, it reveals many facts and actions about the police in the 1970s. It is particularly damning to Seguin, reporting in detail his informating on former FLQ comrades. What makes these passages more credible is that the report does not indulge in witch hunting against communist organizations like IN STRUGGLE!.
The report thus confirmed the serious doubts we had accumulated through our inquiry. Today, we want to use examples to illustrate the tactics Francois Seguin used to build himself a solid cover and manipulate IN STRUGGLE! We hope thus to learn the lessons from this experience and show how wrong our preconceived ideas about police informers can be.
Contrary to what one may believe, police informers are not necessarily unpleasant people. Francois Seguin was considered at nice fellow and a good militant by those who worked with him. It was unthinkable that the police paid him, he was as poor as Job.
Both in the FLQ and after, he always pretended that he was involved in either spectacular or heavy acts like the murder of Laporte. On the one hand, this gave him a certain importance, and on the other it gave him an explanation of the “police harassment” he suffered. Thus he protected himself against suspicions militants could have if they happened to see him with policemen.
Despite his pleasant demeanor Francois Seguin always sought to excuse himself by sowing doubt or accusing others. Thus, he claimed to be the firmest defender of silence at the beginning of the Keable Commission. But when the Commission was persuaded that the testimony on the fabrication and circulation of official FLQ documents would demonstrate the part played by police provocation in the October Crisis and Francois Seguin’s role, he changed his tune, Seguin then wanted to speak and wanted other witnesses to speak to throw responsibility on others besides him.
He first tried to blame Pierre-Louis Bourret, a young FLQ member killed in 1971, for fabricating and circulating this document, then he tried to blame Nigel Hamer.
He used the same tactics with IN STRUGGLE!. If there was an infiltrator in the organization, it couldn’t be him. Thus, it was the others. He then proceeded to raise doubts and make insinuations even about his closest friends who were backing him.
Francois Seguin’s exact role in the FLQ is not clear yet. And his memory is very selective on the subject. He remembers other peoples actions better than his own. In particular there is a black hole for all that concerns the hold-up in Mascouche in September 1971. This is the period referred to by the policman Giguere, when he said “In ’72, we were the FLQ”.
We can even ask ourselves questions about the 1970-71 period: Francois Seguin talked big. Many holdups or bombing attempts he organized were failures. The police were often there. The circumstances surrounding the writing of certain communiqués were peculiar, to say the least.
One can also question the fact that he always defended the police spy, Carole Devault, until she testified before the Keable Commission. The way Francois Seguin considered her during October 70 is also particularly worrisome. For instance, Francois Seguin and Robert Comeau were eyewitnesses to a visit by the police at Carole Devault’s house during that period. On the same day, Carole Devault tried to hide the visit from Francois Seguin and Robert Comeau. Instead of being cautious with her and starting an inquiry, Francois Seguin continued to see her and called Robert Comeau paranoid because he had doubts about her.
Finally, during the Keable Commission, one could see the protection given him by the policeman, Julien Giguire. The latter completely forgot the circumstances surrounding the writing of communiques by Francois Seguin. He did not have the reports of Francois Seguin’s movements when participating in different FLQ operations. The special May 1st issue of Quebec-Presse raises very pertinent questions on this subject.
Francois Seguin always pictured himself as a victim in the face of accusations and proof accumulated against him: a victim of police harassment; a victim of a gigantic frame-up by the Keable Commission who had invented everything in collaboration with the police, in order to break him; and finally, victim of IN STRUGGLE!, which, with the witnesses’ lawyers, conciliated with Keable and didn’t even defend him publicly.
After this, Francois Seguin tried to use blackmail to at least gain some time. First he hid behind a depression, he was feeling down and even considered jumping from Jacques-Cartier Bridge.
He then declared that he agreed with an IN STRUGGLE! inquiry, but when he was confronted with his lies, he no longer wanted to see us and claimed to his friends that IN STRUGGLE! was more fascist than the police.
He wrote a letter of resignation which he tendered and withdrew according to his analysis of the situation.
He refused financial help from the organization “which did not back him”, but willingly accepted the $600 raised by some comrades.
One could consider this an emotional reaction to IN STRUGGLE!’s inquiry. But he had the same attitude towards all his friends. He couldn’t stand any of their questions. Soon he closed his door to all and isolated himself in complete silence.
He claims he is innocent but wants people to believe him on his word alone. He refused, for instance, the suggestion made him by a friend to give Keable permission to publish whatever he told him.
Obviously, it is very difficult to precisely evaluate the harm done by Francois Seguin. Since 1970 he has passed through several Montreal groups: the FLQ, Tenants Association, Centre-Sod Legal Clinic, Mouvement de liberation du taxi (Taxi Drivers Liberation Movement), Comite d’Action Politique St-Jacques (St. Jacques Political Action Committee), Agence de Presse Libre du Quebec (Quebec Free Press Agency), a study circle linked to the Taxi Information Committee and finally IN STRUGGLE!.
He always remained a militant at the base and did not seek positions of responsibility. It can be considered that this gave him a greater margin for action while putting him in contact with a number of militants and giving hint internal documents and information on our internal activities.
What is most important was that it permitted him to complete his book knowledge, which was extensive, by research from within, psychological portraits of militants, so appreciated by the police, ideas on how the world works and in particular, on how repression works and the behaviour and reactions of people in different situation.
It is true that Francois Seguin spent four years with IN STRUGGLE! and could do quite a bit of harm. But our experience also shows that infiltration also has limits.
First, in a difficult situation we were able to discover, despite our limited means, determinant facts. For instance, by verifying his claims with his employers. Or by studying his criminal dossier at the Court House.
We were able to get help from militants who knew Francois Seguin, once we explained our basic attitude in the face of Keable’s accusations to them.
We did not neglect the statements coming from the Keable Commission either, even though we disagreed with its aims and procedures.
We also measured the importance of not cutting our links with Francois Seguin despite our growing suspicions: through difficult relationships, we learned to know him better.
We also learned that even though we did not control all the elements of a situation, it is passible to act according to an independent point of view and not give into provocation. Thus, IN STRUGGLE! forced Francois Seguin to back Robert Comeau’s declaration denouncing the commission by organizing agitation on what is at stake in the Keable Commission. This is what led Keable to disclose Francois Seguin’s role.
We do not claim to be safe from infiltration, but we are, on the other hand, convinced that a greater collaboration between citizen’s groups, unions, civil liberty organizations and political groups can certainly limit undercover work.