Monday, February 05, 2018

Michèle Duclos: Montreal TV host helped try to blow up the Statue of Liberty

   Michele Duclos had just about everything going for herself as a young and attractive young Montreal TV and radio host in the mid-1960s.
   She had, as Oscar Wilde might say, the only two things that matter: youth and beauty.
   But she also had brains and ambition and a solid family, with a father who fought bravely for Canada in Dieppe.
   She had no trouble finding work in some of the most competitive fields of electronic broadcasting.
   She was, however, infected with a reckless dream of helping separate Quebec from Canada at any cost, a notion encouraged - like so many others of that period - by the Algerian revolution.
   The notion would propel Duclos to become a central player in a bizarre plot to blow up the Statue of Liberty, Washington Monument and Liberty Bell in 1965.
    Duclos had a friend Michele Saulnier, 27, who taught psychology at the Ecole Normale near Lafontaine Park. She was from France but had recently become a Canadian citizen, living at 5566 Decelles Apt. 1. 
   Saulnier, 27, visited Cuba with students in 1964 and crossed paths with Robert "Bob" Collier, 28, who had moved from Boston to York City and was involved in the black rights movement.
   Fidel Castro had paid for the trips of a few dozen students to visit Cuba and Collier was one of those who accepted as he was a member of the Fair Play for Cuba movement.
    Saulnier and Collier met and immediately shared a passion for revolutionary political movements, as well as for each other. They  hit it off as lovers.
   She visited him at his place in New York a couple of times after the Cuba time ended.
   Collier was inspired by what Saulnier had told him about Quebec's terrorist-separatist FLQ, which had already conducted a murderous bombing raid in 1963, so he formed the Black Liberation Front.
   At an early reception for the group Collier met recruit Raymond Wood and spent hours telling him  about his dreams of black revolution and his dream of a "large-scale guerrilla-warfare attack within the U.S."
  "If anyone is killed or injured, they would have to be sacrificed for the cause. They would have to go to Canada to learn how to use explosive from the people up there who put the bombs in the mailboxes," Collier told Wood.
Wood, Collier, Duclos and Saulnier meet outside of 5566 Decelles in this photo re-enactment
Collier and Wood met again on Jan 19, 1965 with two other recruits, the Libyan Khaleel Sayyed, 22, and Walter Bowe, 32.
   They discussed bombing the Statue of Liberty, which Collier described as "that damned old bitch."
   Sayyed thought it wiser just to conduct holdups in Harlem but Wood weighed in on the side of bombing the statue.
   The four of them all separately visited the Statue of Liberty to see how easy it would be to blow up the head.
   They concurred that it would only require getting by a door or two, so blowing up the head of the statue would be a cinch.
   Collier and Wood rented a blue Renault and drove up to Montreal to get explosives, with their cover being that the trip aimed to bring books for students in Cuba through the Montreal consulate.
    It was a bad idea. All comings-and-goings at the Cuban embassy were photographed by Canadian government security.
   Wood and Collier arrived at Saulnier's Saturday night at 1:30 a.m on Jan. 30, 1965 and undercover police were already watching from the street.
   The next morning, a Sunday, Saulnier's friend, the CFTM TV presenter Micehle Duclos drove up in her red Simca at 10 a.m
   Duclos, 26, lived nearby and was good friends with Saulnier through the separatist RIN party, where she served as Pierre Bourgault's secretary along with many other tasks.
   Duclos seemed to have her hands full with TV and radio but also had ambitions to work at the United Nations. She failed one test and then sought press accreditation based on her writings for a separatist publication but then failed to hand in a letter from the publisher.
   Duclos and Saulnier agreed that they found it unusual that the black radicals would come to Canada for dynamite while it should have been fairly easy to obtain in the USA.
   The two Micheles agreed to accommodate the dynamite request in order to foster a sort of hideout-pact so they could evade attention at each other's place if required.
   According to Wood's later testimony, Duclos said she would sometimes have sex with various officials at the United Nations in New York City as a means of coercing them into being favourable to Quebec separation.
   She also said that she had an Algerian husband who had fought for the Algerian Revolution.
   The two Americans were disappointed to learn that they would not be leaving with the dynamite
   Duclos promised to bring the explosives to them in New York around February 15.
Duclos seen in the early 60s and 1973
 Three other characters enter the story briefly here, with one coming to a tragic end.
   The two Michelles asked fellow RIN staffer Gilles Legault if he knew a guy who could supply the TNT.
   Legault contacted Raymond Sabourin and Jean Giroux who had stolen dynamite from a construction site the year prior and stashed it at their cottage north of Montreal. They worried that it would go off, so they were anxious to get rid of it cheap.
   Duclos drove to the cabin with the two and returned with the explosives in Montreal at 6 a.m. on Feb 15. Duclos then motored it to the states but was followed by covert law enforcement every step of the way.
   When she reached New York she attempted to shake a car tailing her by driving the wrong way down a street. The car followed her and so she knew that cops were onto her. So she parked the car in a lot on West 239th in the Bronx.
   Collier and Wood went to pick up the TNT, wrapped in a Montreal newspaper and stuffed into a Moores paint box measuring 6 by 6 by 9 inches, and both were arrested on the spot.
    Luckily for Wood, he was an undercover cop who had been dutifully keeping law enforcement abreast of every development.
    Police also arrested Duclos and put out a warrant for Saulnier, who they were unable to immediately extradited.
   Legault was arrested 10 days later for his role in supplying the dynamite. He confessed to everything but was wrought with guilt and hanged himself in prison with a nylon prosthesis he used, as one of his legs was 15 cm longer than the other.  He died April 15.
   Duclos, was sentenced to five years in prison in June 1965 but in the end, was simply deported and ended up in France and Lebabnon. She returned to Quebec in 1973. By now she had a son and could speak Arabic. She renounced revolution but still believed in separation.
   The provincial Liberal government of Robert Bourassa Duc Los gave her work in 1976 and Louise Beaudoin of the Parti Quebecois gave her a plum government position dealing with Algeria in 2001.
    She's presumably now retired. Saulnier's fate remains a mystery.
    The three black revolutionaries were sentenced to 10 years in prison each but spent somewhere around two years in prison, as their lawyer noted that Wood, the undercover cop, encouraged the bombing strategy and therefore influenced the group. Some have claimed that Wood was also present at the assassination of Malcolm X, implying that the police might have had some connection to that killing.
    Collier was later acquitted in another radical affair. He then moved to Poughkeepsie to become a social worker where he died in 2010.
Collier, Bowe, Sayyed, Duclos, Saulnier and Wood


  1. Great story but also tragic that so many were drawn into this ridiculous plot. The Fair Play for Cuba Committee was a known CIA front - joined by Lee Harvey Oswald who used to hand out their leaflets in New Orleans prior to the JFK assassination.

  2. Great story but also tragic that so many were drawn into this ridiculous affair. The Fair Play for Cuba Committee was a known CIA front that Lee Harvey Oswald joined in New Orleans prior to the JFK assassination.

  3. What is unique about Quebec is a certain ingrained and overly defensive siege mentality when it comes to facing up to the ldirty laundry in the closet of modern Quebec nationalism.
    Jean-Francois Nadeau, arts editor of Montreal's Le Devoir, has now produced a full-scale biography of Quebec's infamous Fascist party leader Adrien Arcand with an alluring title, The Canadian Fuhrer ..Twenty years ago, a Quebec scholar named Esther Delisle, had paid a heavy price for exposing the first cracks in the nationalist armour. In her PhD thesis she offended many by identifying Lionel Groulx, Quebec's modern patron saint, as a purveyor of anti-Semitism and a nationalist who was remarkably tolerant of right-wing extremism. Her 1998 book Myths, Memories and Lies went public with a shocking account of how some members of Quebec's elite, nationalist and federalist, supported Nazi collaborator Marshall Philippe Petain and his Vichy government in France during the Second World War and then helped bring war criminals to safety in Quebec after the war ended.
    Delisle was strongly chastised for speaking out and when Montreal writer Mordecai Richler took her side, she became a bête noir. After the Quebec premier's brother Gerard Bouchard attacked her research and rose to defend Groulx against the charges of anti-Semitism, she was essentially blacklisted in French Quebec.


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