FLQ de­fender was jailed for con­spir­acy

National Post (Latest Edition) - - Remembering - Alan Hustak, Canwest News Ser­vice

Robert Lemieux, the rad­i­cal Mon­treal lawyer who made his rep­u­ta­tion de­fend­ing FLQ ter­ror­ists in the 1960s and ’70s, was found dead at his house in Sept-Îles, Que., on Jan. 21. He was 66.

Lemieux was a hand­some, highly emo­tional, volatile show­man who was him­self jailed for four months dur­ing the 1970 FLQ cri­sis un­der the War Mea­sures Act on charges of sedi­tious con­spir­acy.

Dur­ing his ca­reer as a lawyer for the Front de libéra­tion du Québec, he de­fended more than 30 ter­ror­ists, and rep­re­sented the mem­bers of the so-called Chénier cell, who kid­napped Que­bec cabi­net min­is­ter Pierre La­porte, who was stran­gled.

Lemieux was the eldest of six chil­dren in a Ra­dio-Canada tech­ni­cian’s fam­ily. He was ed­u­cated at Col­lège Mont St. Louis in Mon­treal, and in 1965 ob­tained his law de­gree from McGill Univer­sity, where he was in­flu­enced by civil lib­er­tar­ian Frank Scott.

Af­ter pass­ing his bar ex­ams, he went to work for O’Brien, Home, Hall, Nolan, Saun­ders O’Brien and Smyth. In 1966 he was asked to rep­re­sent Robert Lévesque, an early FLQ mem­ber who faced six charges of rob­bing and bomb­ing an ar­moury. While le­gal wran­gling over the case con­tin­ued, Lévesque spent two years in jail with­out trial. Though Lévesque was even­tu­ally sen­tenced to seven years in prison, Lemieux was an­gered by the de­lays.

He was fired from the law firm and started tak­ing other po­lit­i­cally charged cases, de­fend­ing FLQ ter­ror­ists Pierre Val­lières and Charles Gagnon, who were charged in 1966 with plac­ing bombs in the LaGre­nade shoe fac­tory that killed a wo­man.

In 1968, Lemieux moved his law prac­tice into a room in the Nelson Ho­tel in Old Mon­treal. Dur­ing the 1970 Oc­to­ber cri­sis, Lemieux was ar­rested as an FLQ sym­pa­thizer.

Lemieux ar­gued in court that La­porte’s death was ac­ci­den­tal and sug­gested prime min­is­ter Pierre Trudeau was partly re­spon­si­ble.

“If Trudeau had not de­clared the War Mea­sures Act, Pierre La­porte would never have died,” Lemieux said. Ar­rests un­der the War Mea­sures Act, he raged, were “a shame­ful game, name­less buf­foon­ery and ex­tra­or­di­nary farce.”

He de­fended many of those ar­rested un­der the act, as well as La­porte’s kid­nap­pers, Jac­ques and Paul Rose, Francis Si­mard and Bernard Lor­tie.

He later ne­go­ti­ated their ex­ile to Cuba.

By the late 1970s, Lemieux was a pariah in Mon­treal le­gal cir­cles, and took his law prac­tice to Que­bec’s North Shore, where he con­tin­ued to be, in his words, “a fe­ro­cious Que­bec sep­a­ratist.”

Lemieux sup­ported him­self tak­ing on union griev­ances and abo­rig­i­nal claims, and seven years ago he was ac­tive in de­fend­ing the rights of mem­bers of the Hell’s An­gels mo­tor­cy­cle gang, whom he de­scribed as be­ing “more or less po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers.”


Robert Lemieux sug­gested Pierre Trudeau was re­spon­si­ble for the stran­gling death of cabi­net min­is­ter Pierre La­porte.

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