The Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ) and the Efficacy of Terrorism

Term Paper, 2013
13 Pages, Grade: A




During the 1960‟s and early 1970‟s, a rise in Quebec nationalism led to an independence movement through violent means. Although violence was characteristic of a relatively small group of individuals compared with the moderately supportive general public, the Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ) was successful in eliciting public support for its cause. However, due to a series of responses by the Quebec provincial government and Canadian federal government, public support quickly declined following the implementation of the War Measures Act in October 1970. Although a risky decision on the part of the federal government, the War Measures Act successfully halted violent terrorist tactics in the name of Quebec sovereignty. This furthermore produced a foundation for Quebec separatists, moderates and FLQ members alike, to vote on independence through legitimate means.

The growth and effectiveness of domestic political terrorism can be analyzed through theoretical frameworks. Furthermore, the actions of target groups to combat terrorist objectives are also important in understanding the ability of whether a terrorist organization will succeed or not. The need to understand the cause of terrorism also aids in understanding whether it can be successfully eliminated. Through the lens of Nicholas O. Berry‟s (1987) Theories on the efficacy of terrorism, this paper examines the Quebec separatist movement and the rise and fall of the Front de Libération du Québec terrorist group.


Before examining the efficacy of terrorism during the years of FLQ attacks, it is important to define terrorism and identify the options political authorities have in allowing terrorist acts to result in their intended outcome. Berry (1987) argues that terrorism must be effective in accomplishing its goals or else it would cease to be a viable tool of political influence. Terrorism defined by Berry is the “threat of or use of illegal violence to weaken a hated political authority”. Furthermore, a political authority can be defined as any combination of a government, party, minority, class, race, or religion. As argued, a terrorist organization does not have the capacity to directly weaken the hated political authority due to its own political weakness and lack of resources. To be effective, a terrorist organization must resort to indirect methods by crafting events that either create a loss of public support for the political authority or lessens that authority‟s political capabilities. As Berry claims, the behaviour of the target‟s actions, and not the actions of the terrorists themselves, will determine whether political persuasion through terrorism will be successful or not.

As outlined by Berry, there are five responses that targets have when presented with terrorist activities that either weaken their political capabilities or create a loss of public support of the intended target. These are as follows: 1) overreaction; 2) power deflation; 3) failed repression of moderates; 4) appeasement of moderates; and, 5) massive intimidation. The overreaction of a political authority describes the use of force that it may use in the wake of terrorism. If a target overreacts, the public may view the target‟s overreaction as breaking the legitimate rules of politics. For example, the use of force or military and the denial of civil liberties could contribute to the public‟s loss of support for the target. Furthermore, the use of expensive anti-terrorism operations, such as using the military, may lessen the target‟s political capabilities.

Power deflation refers to the loss of public support and confidence to prevent future terrorist attacks by a target‟s incapacity to respond to terrorism. As Berry argues, if a target - assuming the target is a government - is not able to protect its people, then the target‟s legitimacy weakens. This is also the case in circumstances that allow terrorists to successfully collect ransom, have prisoners released, have manifestos broadcasted in media, or injure or kill victims. Therefore, although it is weak groups that wield little power who may resort to terrorism, deflation of the target‟s power may lead to the terrorist group maintaining control of the situation. This is an example of the target‟s political capabilities lessening, especially if the target was unable to punish the terrorist activity.

The failed repression of moderates can be described as somewhat of a knee-jerk reaction by the target group on moderate supporters of a terrorist group‟s ideology. This may include sympathizers of the cause that are drawn toward aligning with a terrorist group as the target group clamps down on these moderates. This differs from overreaction as an overreaction is rooted in a target wielding its power of militaristic confidence while the failed repression of moderates is rooted in irrational desperation for compliance. This is also in contrast to Berry‟s theory of appeasing moderates.


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The Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ) and the Efficacy of Terrorism
Webster University
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front, libération, québec, efficacy, terrorism
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Michael Kennedy (Author), 2013, The Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ) and the Efficacy of Terrorism, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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