An interview with Ted Leja
The Day Canada Changed, May 17, 1963.
One of the turning points, seemingly unnoticed, of Our Canada, took place in front of the cameras and a live audience. It was May 17, 1963. A new relatively unknown group, known as the FLQ had started terrorizing Quebec. Bombs exploded in many areas; some died. The Army had been called and on that day, Regimental Sergeant Walter Leja, a WWII veteran, started to disarm bombs that were found in Mail Boxes in Westmount, Montreal. He capably eliminated two but in front of the news cameras, and a live audience, the third exploded in his face. Somehow he managed to survive, but was severely disabled.
In terms of “macro” history Canada had always had a political problem with Quebec, and in the early 60s, with minority governments, not upsetting Quebec was critical for victory. Not knowing how to handle the new problem of Quebec Separatism the Government totally mishandled it. This is something still going on today. So they white-washed these events seeking political succor, and with that they also disregarded the heroism of Sergeant Leja.
This interview is with Ted Leja, the only child of Walter. Ted was 16 in 1963. He gives the “micro” side of the story, the personal tragic results of the FLQ bomb. For the Government this was a political problem. For Ted and his Mother this was everything. This was life itself. After all these years we can now all see that Walter Leja was a hero.