In the 1960s, engineer Walter Leja was deployed by the Canadian army to defuse bombs planted by the radical Front de Libération du Québec.
On May 17th, 1963, he defused three bombs planted in Westmount mailboxes. Leja dismantled the first two without incident, but the third bomb cost him his arm and paralyzed him for the rest of his life.
Leja survived the explosion, but lived the rest of his life with severe disabilities. He died in a hospital more than 20 years ago.
Ted Leja, Walter’s son, says many have forgotten the events of 1963.
“I think that most people have an inaccurate idea — most Canadians — of what the October Crisis is. They sort of believe it started in 1970 [with] someone named Paul Rose and James Cross,” Ted said.
The engineer was recently honoured by Quebec's national assembly after an online petition fought to have him officially commemorated.
Westmount resident Dawn Trudel remembers the day Leja defused the bombs.
“We didn't know what to think, because we never experienced anything like that in our lives."
Trudel was only a child when the bomb that left Leja paralyzed went off.
“We went to school the next day, we were told stay away from mailboxes,” she recalled.
On Friday, Leja's friends and loved ones gathered near the Roslyn Elementary school to remember the man and his work.
But Leja’s family says it would like all Canadians to learn what he did.
Maj. Dan Doran, with the 34 Combat Engineer Regiment, said members of the Canadian military don’t normally brag about their accomplishements.
“I think Canadian soldiers are just very humble about what they do,” Doran said. “They go about doing the job they do and [don't] really parade themselves around.”Suggest a correction