As soon as the WMA act was proclaimed in Canada, on 16 October 1970, at 4 a.m., the arrests in Quebec began.
Before the sun came up 242 Quebecois had been arrested. Fifty of them had run for the Parti Quebecois in the April election. Two were candidates opposed to Mayor Jean Drapeau of Montreal in the coming 25 October Montreal municipal election.
Those arrested included the core leadership of local PQ associations, labour leaders, community organizers, those who expressed separatist views, those known for effective opposition to any of the three levels of government - federal, provincial and municipal. By the end of the WMA 465 people had been arrested in Quebec. Their offices and homes were searched, their families and neighbours terrorized. Most of the imprisoned were not even subjected to any kind of interrogation. Of all the political prisoners, 403 were eventually freed without charge. Half of the remaining 62 were charged, but not prosecuted. Only 18 were convicted of minor offences, like being accessories. Those arrested were victims of state violence.
They were often arrested in the dead of night; not allowed to inform family, friends or employers about what had happened. They were held without charges or bail. Some claimed to have been verbally and physically abused by prison guards. All of them experienced terror, degradation and humiliation.
Not a single FLQ member involved was caught in the WMA arrests. Nor did the War Measures Act and the 5 thousand troops provide any real help in finding the hostages. Later leaders of the police units revealed that the invocation of the WMA provided no help in the investigations that finally solved the case of kidnapping. The case was solved using common police investigative procedures.
In fact, the only reason most of the people were arrested was a settling of political accounts and a warning of the possible costs associated with their political convictions and actions.
The person who paid the highest price was Pierre Laporte, the minister of Labour of Quebec.