OTTAWA - Whether or not the fatal shooting outside the Parti Quebecois victory party turns out to be related to politics, it serves as a pointed reminder that politically motivated violence in Canada is real — if rare.

Orderly transitions to power after peaceful elections are the norm in this country. But there have been moments in the past when extremists turned to guns and bombs to make their points.

The 19th century saw rebellions in Lower Canada (Quebec) and Upper Canada (Ontario) in 1837 and 1838 and the Red River Rebellion and the Northwest Rebellion in Manitoba in 1870 and 1885.

In 1868, Thomas D'Arcy McGee was notoriously gunned down on an Ottawa street while returning to his rooming house just two blocks from the Commons chamber.

There was bloody labour strife in many cities in the early decades of the 20th century, with the Winnipeg general strike a standout. But that dust eventually cleared and political and labour struggles focused on ballots, not bullets.

Compared with the United States, where political violence seems ever ready to surge to the surface, Canada is a tranquil pond. But extremism has never disappeared.

Peter Graefe, a political science professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, said political violence faded from the western world in the last 100 years or so.

"You had this kind of grand compromise, where the working classes of the 19th century got a share of the pie," he said in an interview. "The political radicalism of the left, which fed some of the earlier political violence, died out."

The ruin of fascism in the Second World War made violence on the right wing untenable, he said. Generally, violence was seen as unacceptable.

"Our political system, for a long time, had a wide degree of political legitimacy so there wasn't much space for these expressions of violence."

Not that they died off completely. The FLQ mailbox bombings of the 1960s gave way to the 1970 October Crisis and the murder of Quebec cabinet minister Pierre Laporte. That anger was tamed into the Parti Quebecois, which fought its battles on the hustings.

There were lone nuts in Canada, as well.

Much like Tuesday night, the spectre of Quebec separatism was very much in play in 1995, too, when a knife-wielding intruder managed to get inside the prime ministerial residence while Jean Chretien and wife Aline were in their bedroom.

The intruder — reportedly dismayed by the result of the 1995 referendum, which the No side won by a whisker — was kept at bay by the couple's locked bedroom door, behind which Chretien later said he had armed himself with a soapstone carving.

In 1966, a man killed a security guard and blew up three American air force jets undergoing repairs at an Edmonton aerospace firm in what was supposed to be an anti-war protest.

In 1965, a disgruntled Paul Joseph Chartier walked into the Parliament Building in Ottawa carrying a bundle of dynamite which he apparently planned to toss into the Commons. But his bomb exploded in a washroom off the chamber, killing him and his plan to become prime minister.

Other stresses and strains erupted in over the years.

In the early 1980s, the so-called Squamish Five staged a series of bombings, including a blast at a Litton Industries plant in Toronto.

In 1990, the Oka crisis left a policeman dead and produced a 78-day standoff with natives.

Some violence was an echo of overseas. In 1982, a Turkish diplomat was shot and injured in Ottawa in April and a second was shot and killed in August. No one has ever been apprehended in the death of Col. Atilla Altikat.

So the possibility of violence is there.

Graefe, however, said he believes that the Montreal shooting is more akin to the Norway massacre of 2011, fuelled by some angry electoral rhetoric blown out of proportion.

"It's a situation where you do begin to have some of these ideologies which really begin saying there's certain enemies of the state within or the state itself cannot be trusted," he said. "It provides a kind of basic justification for people in that situation to act in that way."

Graefe cited the Tea Party movement in the United States as an example of the sort of frustrated, opposition-oriented grassroots movement where some individuals might interpret angry rhetoric the wrong way and act out violently.

The Tea Party "feeds in its own right off some white extremist movements where you've got people who are openly putting into question whether the state is some sort of representative of the collective interest — in fact, they see it as some kind of oppressor," he said.

Loading Slideshow...
  • Richard Henry Bain

    Richard Henry Bain arrives at court in Montreal on Thursday, Sept.6, 2012. Bain, 61, the suspect in a deadly shooting at a rally following the election of Quebec’s new separatist premier was arraigned Thursday on 16 charges, including murder, attempted murder and possession of explosives. (AP Photo/Le Devoir via The Canadian Press, Jacques Nadeau) MONTREAL OUT

  • A gate blocks the entrance to Richard Henry Bain's fishing camp in La Conception, near Mont-Tremblant, Que. on Wednesday Sept. 5, 2012. Police sources confirmed they arrested a suspect by that name in the Montreal shooting that left one person dead and made headlines around the world.

  • A three-axle military truck sits near the entrance to Richard Henry Bain's fishing camp in La Conception, near Mont-Tremblant, Que. on Wednesday Sept. 5, 2012. Police sources confirmed they arrested a suspect by that name in the Montreal shooting that left one person dead and made headlines around the world.

  • Denis Blanchette, Pauline Marois, Ginette Jean

    Ginette Jean, mother of Denis Blanchette, reacts as she touches her son's casket during funeral services Monday, Sept. 10, 2012 in Montreal. Blanchette was killed outside the Parti Quebecois election night rally last week. Richard Bain was arraigned Thursday, Sept. 6 on 16 charges, including murder, attempted murder and possession of explosives. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jocelyn Malette, Pool)

  • A man is arrested by police outside the Parti Quebecois victory rally in Montreal on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012. A masked gunman wearing a blue bathrobe opened fire during a midnight victory rally for Quebec's new premier, killing one person and wounding another. The new premier, Pauline Marois of the separatist Parti Quebecois, was whisked off the stage by guards while giving her speech and uninjured. Police identified the gunman only as a 62-year-old man, and were still questioning him Wednesday morning. (AP Photo/Montreal La Presse via The Canadian Press, Olivier Pontbriand)

  • A weapon is recovered at the scene of the shooting outside the Parti Quebecois' election victory party (RDI screen shot)

  • Fire burns outside Montreal's Métropolis concert hall shortly after the shooting. (QMI)

  • A man is arrested outside Montreal's Métropolis concert hall soon after shots were fired during PQ Leader Pauline Marois' victory speech. (QMI)

  • A police officer looks towards a black SUV that has had its contents removed on a crime scene outside the Metropolis in Montreal on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick)

  • Police and fireman work at the rear of an auditorium where a gunman shot and killed at least one person during the PQ victory rally Wednesday, September 5, 2012 in Montreal. Guards whisked PQ leader Pauline Marois off the stage as handlers informed the partisan crowd there had been an explosive noise and they needed to clear the auditorium. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

  • Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois takes the stage after winnnig the provincial election in Tuesday, Que. September 4, 2012. With the win, Marois becomes the first female premier in Quebec history. Moments later, she was rushed off the stage.

  • Parti Quebecois leader Pauline Marois is removed from the stage by SQ officers as she speaks to supporters in Montreal, Tuesday, September 4, 2012 following her election win. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes

  • Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois is whisked off stage as she delivered her victory speech in Montreal, Que., Tuesday, September 4, 2012. With the win, Marois becomes the first female premier in Quebec history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

  • (RDI screenshot)

  • (RDI screenshot)

  • Police detail a person behind the Métropolis concert hall where Pauline Marois was making her victory speech (RDI screen shot)

  • Fire burns outside Montreal's Métropolis concert hall shortly after the shooting. (QMI)

  • Parti Quebecois Leader Pauline Marois returns to complete her speech after being whisked off the stage by security as she delivered her victory speech in Montreal, Que., Tuesday, September 4, 2012. With the win, Marois becomes the first female premier in Quebec history.

  • Police cordon off the rear outside an auditorium where a gunman shot and killed at least one person during the PQ victory rally Wednesday, September 5, 2012 in Montreal. Guards whisked PQ leader Pauline Marois off the stage as handlers informed the partisan crowd there had been an explosive noise and they needed to clear the auditorium. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

  • Police and fireman work at the rear of an auditorium where a gunman shot and killed at least one person during the PQ victory rally Wednesday, September 5, 2012 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

  • Police cordon off the rear outside an auditorium where a gunman shot and killed at least one person during the PQ victory rally Wednesday, September 5, 2012 in Montreal. Guards whisked PQ leader Pauline Marois off the stage as handlers informed the partisan crowd there had been an explosive noise and they needed to clear the auditorium. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

  • Police work on a crime scene outside the Metropolis in Montreal on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick)

  • A police officer looks towards a black SUV that has had its contents removed at a crime scene outside the Metropolis in Montreal on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012.(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick)


Loading Slideshow...
  • Bob Rae

  • Rathika Sitsabaiesan

  • Steve Paikin

  • Patrick Morrell

  • Leslie Stojsic

  • Steve Paikin

  • Evan Solomon

  • Roberto Rocha

  • John Wintermeyer

  • danielle scremin

  • Elizabeth May MP

  • Addy Musuku

  • Pam Gilroy-Rajotte

  • Christopher DeWolf

  • Patrick Beatty

  • Adam Goldenberg

  • Adam Goldenberg

  • Don Martin

  • Michael Ivey

  • Stefan Oliver Keyes

  • Steffani Cameron

  • Nathan Cullen