Tag Archives: protesting

I was Part of the French Revolution and I Forgot

I was Part of the French Revolution and I Forgot

Tensions were high here in the nation’s capital — and across Canada.

On October 16, 1970 — 51 years ago today — the Canadian government, under Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, invoked the War Measures Act following the kidnappings of British diplomat James Cross and Quebec MLA Pierre Laporte.

The Ottawa Citizen’s Bruce Deachman took a look back at the FLQ cris


Photo: Peter Bregg, Canadian Press

Ben Weiss shared a post.–Old Ottawa And Bytown Pics

I try to lay low on weekends, but once again Ben Weiss’s posting made me think of that era– so here is a piece I wrote years ago and seldom share.

I was Part of the French Revolution and I Forgot Linda Knight Seccaspina

Last year I wrote a blog on French Canada, and it seemed to rip open a box of memories that had been filed away in my mind for many years. I had actually lived through an important part of Canadian history and forgot all about it.

When Pierre Elliot Trudeau became Prime Minister in April of 1968 it changed Canadian history. The night he won I was at the Cowansville, Quebec Hotel with my friends and my father, who was a campaign manager for Jean Jacques Bertrand.

My French Canadian friends ran in and grabbed my arm for a night of celebrating. The feelings in the air were the same as when Barack Obama won in a 99% African-American neighborhood forty years later. My friends were thrilled that hopefully help was on the way for French Canadians.

My best friend kept teasing me, asking me if I was angry that a French Canadian man had won the election. Being Sally Sunshine all my life, I never take sides. Life should be about people working together, and not against each other. But, I was thrilled he had won, as I really liked him and hoped there would be no more taking sides. Even my stepmother and father were taking sides as she loved Trudeau also, and the conversation had gotten so unpleasant in my home that she had taped a giant poster of Pierre Trudeau to the living room wall. Sadly at one point, the people of French and English Quebec did take sides, and a revolution was born. Out of this unrest came the notorious FLQ (Quebec Liberation Front).

There were bombings, and declarations from them that called for a socialist uprising against those considered Anglo-Saxon imperialist oppressors. Yes, it felt just like the ‘play wars’ we always had in the lumber yard with my French friends as children, only on a bigger scale, and very real. They called for the overthrow of the Quebec government and the independence of Quebec from Canada.

At age 16, I started dating a French Canadian boy whom I will call Yves. His father had completely radical opinions about the English and did not mince words when his son brought home an English girl. It turned out that he had known my grandfather, and considered him one of the Anglo-Saxon imperialists, as he had money and what he considered “British airs”.

My father was equally concerned.  Not that Yves might have some radical tendencies, but the fact that his hair looked a little long. This was typical of my father. Never worry about the important stuff, just make sure he cuts his hair. It certainly would be a travesty if people talked about it. It was all around town anyways that Arthur Knight had trouble with his oldest daughter.

He also did not like the fact that his daughter was not dating a nice Anglican boy, and he told me to “kiss him goodbye”. In Quebec, the age of consent to marry was 21 and he would not allow me to marry Yves until I reached that age. Maybe he had the right idea as the marriage only lasted a year and a half, but I knew the only reason was because he had long hair and worked at Vilas in Cowansville. Not good enough for his daughter.

On October 15, 1970, more than 3,000 students attended a protest rally in favor of the FLQ. The FLQ then kidnapped James Cross, the British High Trade Commissioner, and when their demands were not met they kidnapped the Minister of Labour and Vice Premier of Quebec, Pierre Laporte.

When a CBC reporter asked Prime Minister Trudeau how far he was going to go to stop the FLQ he said,

“Just watch me!”

On October 16th, at 8 am I stepped out of my apartment building on Pine Ave. in Montreal what I saw was unbelievable. Prime Minister Trudeau had invoked the War Measures Act at 4 am, and military forces lined my street like there was a war going on. That’s when all hell broke loose.

The next day, October 17th, 1970, Pierre Laporte was found dead in the trunk of a car, strangled to death.

Living in Montreal during the time of the War Measures act was like living in a war zone. Soldiers halted anyone they felt was suspicious, and I was even stopped at the Greyhound Bus Terminal and asked for my passport. All they said was that I looked like someone who was on a list.

Of course I have been on lists all my life. For years, I was considered a threat to the Canadian population because of “those” Viet Nam War protests and I sold subversive literature in my store. Subversive literature would be the alternative music and radical fashion magazines that I sold in my store Flash Cadilac in the 70’s and 80’s. Thankfully, things have changed.

In the end of all this chaos: 453 people were rounded up, and some were given asylum in Cuba. The five flown to Cuba were jailed when they returned to Canada years later. Yves and I split up, and I have not seen him in 47 years. Most of my generation moved out of Quebec and went to Ontario after they graduated. They sadly left because of too many rules and regulations about language and cultural issues. I often wonder what could have been, I really do. I will always miss ‘Ma Belle Province’ –language issues or not.


Troops march in the streets of Montreal Oct. 20, 1970. Bob Olsen Toronto Star-

Dedicated to my Weekend Protesting Hippie Generation — Nothing Changes Does it?

Dedicated to my Weekend Protesting Hippie Generation — Nothing Changes Does it?


All Photos by Linda Seccaspina and dedicated to Kevin Army. In memory of when we covered the OCCUPY protests in 2011 in San Francisco and Oakland.:(


For some strange reason one morning I had instant memories of my teenage years as a weekend hippie. No one in my family was allowed to become a full time one, according to my father; so the weekend had to do.


It began one day in 1966 sitting at the Riviera Cafe with my friends after school, and listening to The Buffalo Springfield’s new song, “For What It’s Worth”. Everybody in that café instantly came together and sang the song at full volume until each note was over. It was a huge turning point in my life about standing up for what I believed in.


I respect everyone’s opinion, as this world would be pretty boring if we all thought the same thing but I have always proudly beaten my own drum. The Byrds were a huge influence on me, and I still remember my father complaining that if he ever saw me wear the same style glasses Roger McGuinn wore that there would be trouble.

Throughout my life, if people said go left, I always went right – and go right I did the next day – to the store to buy those glasses. Of course I was wearing them as soon as I left the store, and who drove down the street but my father, beeping his horn and shaking his fist at me because I had defied him.


He got over it though, just like he got over the bell bottoms as I don’t think he really had a choice. He was horrified when he saw a few people wear the flared pants and told our neighbor that his daughters would only wear those things over his dead body. Of course, that weekend I hauled my 10 year old sister with me on the bus to Montreal, where we each got a pair at Eaton’s department store. I figured if she got a pair he would be only half as mad.


They were made from a heavy backed acrylic fabric and such a gaudy Kelly green that we both looked like Gumby. I have no idea what the backing was but every time I got warm and removed the pants some of the backing became part of my skin.

During the summer, my friends and I took the bus to Montreal and would hand out flowers for peace at the Place Ville Marie plaza every weekend. People would come up to the girl with the flowers in her hair and ask if I was from San Francisco. I would just smile from ear to ear as that was the highest compliment anyone could give me.


Of course more protests came my way, or I somehow fell into them by accident. In 1969 Sir George Williams University (Concordia University) in Montreal was the home of the largest student riot in Canadian history.

Beginning on January 29, over 400 students occupied the university’s computer lab. The occupation was sparked by the university’s mishandling of racism allegations against a professor at the school. Fed up with the administration, the students left the meeting and occupied the university computer lab on the ninth floor of the Henry F. Hall Building.


Most of the occupation was quite peaceful without the involvement of the police, while negotiations with the administration were going on. The lab was not damaged, except for the several million computer punch cards that were sent fluttering to the street below, like confetti.

The occupation continued until February 11 th when negotiations broke down and riot police were called in. Then a fire broke out in the computer lab, forcing the occupiers out of the building. Ninety-seven of them were arrested and my father sighed with relief that I was not one of them.


The computer lab was destroyed, resulting in over $2 million dollars in damage. I was outside the building a good deal of the time with a sign, and when the smoke started pouring out of the windows I started to cheer. Cheer? Oh my!

I told my son this week, that if I was younger I still would be protesting something wherever they needed me. But his mother is old now, and if she gets up in the morning and something doesn’t ache or sound broken, it’s a good day. I can’t remember what happened two hours ago but ask me to sing “For What It’s Worth,” by The Buffalo Springfield from 1966, and I can still remember every word. Nothing really changes does it?

Peace out!


All Photos by Linda Seccaspina
A video by my BFF Kevin Army from Oakland Ca.. Im memory of when we covered the OCCUPY protests in 2011 in San Francisco and Oakland.:(

Buy Linda Secaspina’s Books— Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac– Tilting the Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place and 4 others on Amazon or Amazon Canada or Wisteria at 62 Bridge Street in Carleton Place