Illustration from the show “Tout the world was talking about it” of September 5, 2006. The cartoon shows the seven FLF activists at the time of their intervention during the trial of Paul Rose on March 1, 1971.
On June 18, 1971, the Quebec government sanctioned the law lifting the ban on Quebec women being members of a jury during a trial. A few weeks earlier, seven activists from the Front de libération des femmes du Québec (FLF) had organized a coup to denounce this ban.
“Also in 1971, the Front de libération des femmes du Québec prepared another coup. This one against the prohibition for women in Quebec to be jurors. »
— André Bernard, 2006
On September 5, 2006, journalist André Bernard presented a report on the program Everyone spoke about it on the struggle of women between 1964 and 1975.
The journalist recalls an event that had a significant impact on the evolution of the justice system in Quebec.
Seven FLF activists intervened in a completely unexpected way during the trial of FLQ member Paul Rose to denounce the impossibility of women being jurors in Quebec.
In 1971, Quebec and Terre- Newfoundland and Labrador were the only two Canadian provinces that prohibited women from serving on a jury in a trial.
Excerpt from a report by journalist André Bernard who interviews Nicole Therien on the action of the Front de libération des femmes du Québec to obtain the right to be jurors for women in Quebec.
In this excerpt, we hear one of these activists, Nicole Therien, recount what happened on March 1, 1971.
We are at the very end of the trial of Paul Rose, a member of the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) who took part in the events of the October 1970 crisis.
During this trial, an attempt was made to force a friend of several FLQ members, Lise Balcer, to testify against Paul Rose.
Lise Balcer refuses, citing the fact that if she does not can sit on a jury as a Quebecer, she cannot testify in a trial.
This refusal earned her contempt of court against which she defended herself in the last session of the Paul Rose trial, March 1, 1971.
Coordinating with Lise Balcer, the seven FLF activists, quietly seated in the courtroom, wait for the latter to utter a word – discrimination – to take action.
When they hear this word, recalls Nicole Therien, the seven activists get up to repeat it.
They also throw in another line: “Justice is bullshit”. It is an act of provocation that infuriates Judge Marcel Nichols who is presiding over the trial.
The seven activists are brutally brought to order by the police present in the room.
The women respond by shouting that their rights are being violated.
Judge Nichols rules that the seven women are guilty of contempt in court.
Marjolaine Péloquin and Francine Aubin are immediately sentenced to two months in prison.
The five other activists, Nicole-Ange Dostie, Arlette Rouleau, Nicole Therien, Louise and Micheline Toupin, are sentenced to one month in prison.
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On March 1, 2008, the host of the radio program Macadam Tribus,Jacques Bertrand, returns to this event by interviewing Marjolaine Péloquin, who has just written a book that tells her story and that of her six colleagues.
Marjolaine Péloquin reminds us that the action of the FLF is part of a context of deep social and political protest in Quebec.
FLF activists are women who subscribe to the ideals of the political left and hope for Quebec independence without however condoning violence.
The FLF is part of what is known as second wave feminism, also known as radical feminism.
Its adherents want to attack the root of the oppression of women provoked by the patriarchal system, or even destroy it.
The ban on women being a member of a jury is in their eyes one of the symbols of what is unjust in the Quebec patriarchal system and which must be abolished.
Their action was also courageous, underlines Marjolaine Péloquin.
It should be remembered that the feat was achieved when, for six months, Quebec had been living under the War Measures Act imposed by the federal government during the October 1970 crisis.
Demonstrating in this context was almost impossible.
The FLF activists also experienced very difficult incarceration.
As a convict, Marjolaine Péloquin had to work in the kitchens for very long hours scouring cauldrons.
She left Tanguay prison completely exhausted.
But it was worth it.
In April 1971, the Minister of Justice of Quebec, Jérôme Choquette, tabled a bill abolishing the ban on women (as well as tenants) from being part of 'a jury.
The Act receives Royal Assent on June 18, 1971.
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