In October 1970, members of the Front de libération du Québec kidnapped provincial government minister Pierre Laporte—unleashing an unprecedented crisis in the province. Fifty years later, Félix Rose tries to understand what led his father and his uncle to commit these acts. Through intimate conversations with his uncle Jacques, speaking on the subject for the first time, and the legacy of his father Paul, he relives the rich heritage of a working-class Québécois family and emphasizes the social dimensions of the October Crisis. The result of 10 years of research, The Rose Family allows us to experience moments and figures now known only through a few cliché images, giving us glimpses of the social barriers experienced by an outraged young generation and the upheavals that would follow.
In October 1970, members of the Front de libération du Québec kidnapped minister Pierre Laporte, unleashing an unprecedented crisis in Quebec. Fifty years later, Félix Rose tries to understand what led his father and uncle to commit these acts.
A man in his sixties recalls his youth: “The raids on those famous workers’ committees. […] Everyone’s membership card was taken, then the police took all the files, and tossed them outside. This kind of ridiculous repression… opened our eyes.” The man is Paul Rose. A few years later, in a village on the banks of the St. Lawrence, his brother Jacques, who has since passed away, talks to Paul’s son: “We thought, the rules of democracy… when we call the shots, maybe we’ll believe in them. But right now, they’re made by cheaters. So, we’ll play by the same rules.”
In October 1970, members of the Front de libération du Québec kidnapped provincial government minister Pierre Laporte. The events that followed would mark Quebec forever: the Canadian army being called in, the declaration of the War Measures Act, the imprisonment of some 500 people, and Laporte’s death.
While decrying this tragic turn of events, the kidnappers never repented nor showed remorse, preferring instead to accept full responsibility for their actions. Fifty years later, Félix Rose tries to understand what could bring his father Paul and his uncle Jacques to commit these acts, and in searching for answers, draws us into his family’s history.
The Roses were a working-class family from Ville Jacques-Cartier, on the South Shore of Montreal. They would find themselves at the centre of Quebec’s stormy social and political scene for 10 years—especially mother Rose and her sons. Through intimate memories shared for the first time by his uncle Jacques, the legacy of his father, and his grandmother’s powerful bond with her children, Félix Rose brings to life the rich, complex ties of a family whose lives bear witness to Quebec society prior to the Quiet Revolution.
The Rose Family puts the October Crisis and the FLQ’s actions in their proper social context by retracing the family’s history, starting with a grandfather working at Redpath Sugar, then moving from Saint-Henri to the shacks of Ville Jacques-Cartier, from the Canadian National shop floor to the citizens’ committees of the late 1960s. In restoring the workers’ struggle to its central place in the FLQ narrative, the film highlights the magnitude of the social problems of the day, as experienced by a younger generation who were more educated, more aware of the issues, and, as a result, more outraged by the injustices their parents and friends faced.
Later generations have come to see violence and terrorism as political dead ends. Without excusing the violence, Félix Rose allows us to glimpse the spirit of the times that made these means seem attractive and appropriate to some in the 1960s. It was an era in which, according to the FLQ, “democratic avenues were blocked” and when rights, in particular the rights of “the little guy,” were regularly flouted.
Thanks to an extraordinary trove of archival footage, The Rose Family allows us to experience moments and people we know only through a few oft-repeated cliché images. Now, the living and the dead come together in dialogue. While the film presents an intimate view of the Roses by focusing closely on them through archival family materials, it also shows how far we’ve come in the intervening decades. Many of the battles of the day are now nearly forgotten: the fight for improved prison conditions, equality for women in the justice system, and so on. And we get to rediscover the powerful figure of Rose Rose—a poorly educated woman of the people who has a lively intelligence, is keenly aware of social injustices, and who would have remained anonymous like countless other women during this pivotal era if it wasn’t for her sons’ dramatic fates.
To make this film, a project that’s both intensely personal and socially relevant, director Félix Rose (Yes, Avec la gauche) surrounded himself with a team of acclaimed creative collaborators. Director of photography Eric Piccoli’s discreet camera work captures intensely intimate conversations. Editor Michel Giroux (The Memories of Angels, The Devil’s Share) once again deftly blends archival and contemporary images, adding a poetic dimension to the film. Striking music by Philippe Brach and La Controverse is the perfect accompaniment to the story of the Roses over the course of a half century. Rosalie Rose, Félix’s sister, served as sound recordist, and co-production duties were taken care of by teams from Babel Films (Philippe Allard, Marco Frascarelli, Eric Piccoli, Félix Rose) and the National Film Board of Canada (Colette Loumède).
The result of thousands of hours of research and interviews carried out over nearly eight years, this documentary sheds new light on the social and political battles of an era in the not-so-distant past, through the story of one family with a controversial history.
In 1970, Paul Rose was a 27-year-old teacher involved in a number of social justice causes. He joined the FLQ and became part of the Chénier cell, which kidnapped and murdered provincial government minister Pierre Laporte. Sentenced to life in prison in March 1971, he spent 11 years behind bars, waging a battle to improve the conditions of his incarceration. After his conditional release in 1982, he became a union organizer and devoted his energy to promoting Quebec sovereignty and leftist ideas. Although he was forbidden from running for office, he was one of the founders of the Parti de la démocratie socialiste du Québec, one of the forerunners of Québec solidaire. He died in 2013.
Paul Rose’s younger brother, Jacques, was 23 during the October Crisis. He fought alongside his brother for years, and was part of the group involved with the Maison du pêcheur in Percé. While he was responsible, along with the other members of the FLQ’s Chénier cell, for the kidnapping and killing of Pierre Laporte, he was found not guilty of murder. Nevertheless, he spent eight years in prison, convicted of confinement and being an accessory after the fact. After being released, he joined the Comité d’information sur les prisonniers politiques, alongside his mother, and worked as a carpenter.
Rose Doré, originally from Ferme-Neuve, married Jean-Paul Rose in 1942. After settling in the Saint-Henri district of Montreal, the family moved to Ville Jacques-Cartier and fixed up their modest home so their five children could grow up comfortably. Deeply troubled by the social injustices she witnessed, Rose encouraged her children to pursue their education and try to escape a hard life of factory work. After the 1970 October Crisis, she devoted herself to defending her incarcerated sons, but also to the cause of other political prisoners, through the Comité d’information sur les prisonniers politiques. She died of cancer at age 66, just a few months before the release of Paul, her last imprisoned son.
Written, Researched and Directed by
Producers Babel Films
NFB Line Producer
Direction of Photography
Philippe Brach X La Controverse
Sound Design and Re-recording