Vandals deface family crypt of Pierre Elliott Trudeau

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Pierre Eliott Trudeau in 1977

A woman in the tiny farming community of Saint-Rémi, Quebec, south of Montreal visited the local cemetery Saturday and received a rude shock. Graffitied on former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Eliott Trudeau's family crypt were "FLQ", the initials of the Front de libération du Québec and the French words for "traitor" and "bastard" in black spray-paint.

“It's very sad,” said Pierre Sauriol, whose organization maintains the graveyard. “He made errors and good decisions like everyone, but he was one of the prime ministers of Canada, and he should rest in peace.”

Trudeau, who served as Canada's prime minister from 1968-79 and again in 1980-84, was a controversial figure in the history of Quebec.

During the FLQ crisis in October 1970, Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act after a British diplomat, James Cross and a provincial cabinet minister, Pierre Laporte were kidnapped, leading to arrests of any individuals the police thought to be separatists, and to their detentions without bail. Laporte was later strangled to death by the FLQ.

Trudeau, who died in September 2000, is entombed in the grey-stone mausoleum with his parents and 11 other family members.

Mr. Sauriol said this was the first time vandals have left their mark on the crypt.

Police believe the tomb was vandalized sometime on Friday night or early Saturday morning.

The Trudeau crypt, which stands taller than any monument in the cemetery, was cordened off Saturday using orange police tape tied to tombstones.

Provincial police are searching the area in the hope of finding any clues. They have also measured and taken photos of the graffiti, which was applied to every wall of the structure. The letters “FLQ” on the front of the crypt covered a pair of names on a plaque posted by the door. As of now, there have been no arrests or suspects.

The crypt is located a few metres from a major road and many residents from the town of 6,000 slowed to see the damage as they passed by in their vehicles.

Trudeau's family could not be reached for comment but the head of a prominent nationalist group gave his opinion on the matter, calling the vandalism “extremely deplorable.”

“It isn't acceptable,” said Jean Dorion of the Societe Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montreal. “Of course we disagree with the Constitution that has been imposed forcibly on Quebec – this is not acceptable. But it's not a reason to desecrate a burial place.”

Environment Minister John Baird, who is responsible for Parks Canada, said in a statement that his department would remove the offensive graffiti.

“It is important to protect the historic resting places of former prime ministers, and these places should at all times be given the respect and honour they deserve,” Baird said.