Friday, September 24, 1971. Felquist Pierre-Louis Bourret is lying in the front seat of an abandoned car in a residential area of Laval. The 20-year-old was shot in the head and surrounded by banknotes stolen from the caisse populaire in Mascouche. His death is noted the day after this failed “financing operation” which was to relaunch the Front de liberation du Québec (FLQ).
The death of Pierre-Louis Bourret is fatal for the Quebec revolutionary movement, which was preparing to mark the first anniversary of the October 1970 crisis. “It was the nail in the coffin”, explains the historian and former felquiste Robert Comeau by evoking the hold-up from Mascouche. “The resources were no longer there, people no longer believed in them. “
The retired professor from UQAM remembers young Bourret well, whom he had as a student at Collège Sainte-Marie. “He was the ideal revolutionary, a pure one, the one who didn’t drink alcohol when everything else took beer. “
Bourret’s activism dates back to “May 68 Quebec”, marked by the occupation of the first CEGEPs. His engagement took a more radical turn the following year, when he was injured by a cluster of pellets while taking part in the demonstration against the Murray Hill company, in solidarity with the taxi drivers of the metropolis.
Bourret joins the Felquist nebula which emerges in the spring of 1970. He is notably involved in the operation Westmount of May 31, known for the explosion of half a dozen bombs near the residences of the English-speaking bourgeoisie of Montreal, including those of the Bronfman family. The young man leaves his fingerprints on the dial of a “superbomb” whose mechanism has jammed.
From one October to another
Pierre-Louis Bourret remained in retreat in the fall of 1970, unable to be reached by his comrades who were preparing to kidnap the British diplomat James Richard Cross. He was nevertheless arrested at the end of October in the wake of the War Measures Act.
Bourret’s clandestine activities resumed at the beginning of 1971, after a two-month stay behind bars. He then joined an FLQ decimated by the exile in Cuba of the kidnappers of Cross and the arrest of those responsible for the kidnapping and death of Minister Pierre Laporte. The most active members of the movement gathered in a chalet in the Laurentians, in Bellefeuille, in June 1971.
“It was at the end of a row, in a small shack, explains Robert Comeau. There are some who fired rifles for fun, but don’t think it was a Palestinian training camp: it was a chalet for quiet chatting. “
Comeau visited the site at the end of the summer of 1971, on his return from a stay in Paris where he met Raymond Villeneuve, one of the members of the “Foreign Delegation of the FLQ”, based in Algiers. “Villeneuve wanted the people of Bellefeuille to do a big blow in October to remind people that the FLQ will continue… I didn’t agree, but I went to see them anyway. “
The historian’s lack of enthusiasm annoys Bourret, who attacks the messenger: “He said to me: ‘You are made bourgeois and defeatist, you better not come here to discourage us.’ “
The relaunch of the FLQ goes through its refinancing. It is in this context that a hold-up is planned on the model of the Uruguayan revolutionaries, the Tupamaros. We are targeting the credit union of the municipality of Mascouche, which at the time had less than 10,000 inhabitants.
The Felquist commando was divided into three groups on the morning of September 24, 1971. The first overpowered the radio operator of the police station, who was tied up with adhesive tape, while the second held up the credit union armed with guns. hunting and revolvers. The Mascouche telephone lines were previously cut by the third group in order to delay the arrival of the police.
Coming out of the cash register, laden with banknotes, the Felquistes of the second group discover their car stuck in the back of other vehicles. They fled at full speed to the Oldsmobile of their accomplices, who landed them near a green Renault parked at the exit of Mascouche.
In the absence of the police, it is a simple citizen armed with a rifle who sets off in pursuit of them in a scene worthy of a western. The hunt stretches to Terrebonne, at the intersection of Théberge and Langlois streets, where the Renault turns around. An exchange of gunfire ensues.
It was obviously while regaining the Renault that Bourret was hit by a projectile. His accomplices drive another fifteen kilometers before abandoning their car in front of a small single-family house, rue Hardy, in Laval. Bourret is found there unconscious, holding his revolver loaded with five bullets in his right hand. The police recovered $ 4000 there, a quarter of which consisted of rolls of coins.
Bourret’s uncle, Alfred Dubuc, joined by The duty, remembers with pain that his nephew “had been shot right in the back of the head”. Dubuc sees him still lying in his hospital bed “between two policemen”. Bourret will be the third and last Felquist to die in the active phase of the movement, after Jean Corbo, struck down by his own bomb in 1966, and Mario Bachand, assassinated in Paris as part of a settling of scores at the beginning of 1971.
A trap ?
According to Robert Comeau, the police authorities knew what was going on in the Bellefeuille chalet in the summer of 1971: “Mascouche is an operation, I would not say, organized by the police, but controlled, in the sense that ‘she knew about it and let it be. “
The thesis of an “ambush” is shared behind the scenes by several former Felquists. However, it was dismissed by the Keable commission, responsible for investigating police operations in Quebec. His report filed 10 years after the Mascouche tragedy paradoxically fueled this thesis by revealing that Bourret was being tracked.
“There was the spinning, not necessarily on him, but he was in it”, explains the former Montreal police lieutenant Julien Giguère in an interview with The duty. The lifting of police coverage is nonetheless surprising, considering Bourret’s involvement in the operation. Westmount, which was revealed in June 1971 by an RCMP report sent to the Montreal police. “We’ve been on this for two or three weeks,” Giguère defends himself half a century later. If your men are working and they are bored because there is nothing moving, we give up. “
The history of the FLQ is littered with classified documents that artificially fuel the mysteries. The duty was thus denied access to the full report of the coroner who looked into Bourret’s death. The document kept at BAnQ is under seal in accordance with an order, the lifting of which would require the written authorization of a judge of the Superior Court. As for the Sûreté du Québec, it proved unable to trace Bourret’s operational file.
The end of the golden age of burglaries