“We Demand to Speak to the Manager of Canada!!!”

Reflections on the “Freedom” Convoy

“We Demand to Speak to the Manager of Canada!!!”

One of the best memes that was circulating during the Truckers’ “Freedom” Convoy went like this: “I’m gonna go block the McDonalds drive-thru until they bring back Pizza! That’s how we do things in Canada now, right?”

To be clear, peaceful protest is a constitutionally protected right under the Charter and guarantees the right to participate in peaceful demonstrations, protests, parades, meetings, and picketing. But it does not protect riots and gatherings that seriously disturb the peace nor the right to physically impede or blockade lawful activities. Otherwise, the rest of us should have the right to block all the truckers’ driveways with our cars, bicycles, and bouncy castles and honk our horns through the night because we don’t like the choice of their music; all in the name of “freedom.”

And although everyone is tired of COVID and the mandates, what started as lawful protest, quickly morphed into a would-be insurrection. The crisis showed what an angry group of anti-vaxxers and blatant Trudeau-haters can do when they don’t like the results of a federal election and the laws that a democratically elected government can enact to protect the health of its citizens. Armed with their big rigs, truck horns, foreign donors, blatherskite, and quackadoodle conspiracy theories, they showed how easy it was to hold the Canadian government and its economy hostage. It didn’t help that the police were caught unprepared and flat footed.

Someone said that the truckers’ insurrection was an existential proxy battle between “85% of Canadians who were fully vaccinated and 15% who were fully dewormed.” From what I saw, the demonstrators had an unshakable belief that mandates based on science and meant to prevent illness and death were at odds with their freedom to enter a bar without being vaccinated or wearing a mask. I’m not sure why they thought the federal government had the constitutional power to end all COVID mandates in Canada when the majority of mandates were provincial. But rather than getting vaccinated so that they could cross the US border and easily return to Canada like the other 90% of Canadian truckers, they had a temper tantrum and held the country hostage — all in the name of “freedom.”

Some of them didn’t help their cause by appealing to the (unelected) Governor General and the (unelected) Senate to overthrow the (elected) government (which was apparently guilty of treason). Nor did it help win over public opinion when others in their ranks called for the death of the Prime Minister, yelled racist slurs at Ottawa residents, or proudly displayed swastikas and confederate flags while screaming “Freedumb!” (no irony there). At least one organizer stated that the insurrection would only “end in bullets.” I’m sure a few MP’s now regret posing for selfies with the insurrectionists and championing their cause.

The siege in Ottawa, the barricade of the Ambassador Bridge, the assassination rhetoric, and the discovery of a cache of arms at the Coombs border crossing made the declaration of the Emergencies Act inevitable. And it’s yet to be seen whether some of the donors on GoFundMe and GiveSendGo were attempting to bankroll the kind of nut-bar/ QAnon/ white supremacist/Trumpist revolt that occurred in the US in 2021. This begs the question as to whether the truckers became “useful idiots” to more dangerous, extreme, and undemocratic political actors.

There was a lot of “clutching of pearls” during the six days the Emergencies Act was declared but not in force. Claims that Canadians lived in an undemocratic “Trudictatorship,” and that Trudeau was a disgrace, a toddler, and a tyrant were, frankly, infantile. Even Elon Musk compared Trudeau to Hitler. Two weeks later, Vladimir Putin and his Russian Thugocracy showed all of them what a real tyrant looked like and how a real dictatorship operated.

I expect the horrible events in Ukraine will have a sobering effect on those who claim that Canada is not a free and democratic country, and remind them what a loss of freedom really looks like.

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