This Opinion article is part of a Narcity Media series. The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.
Last weekend, a so-called “Freedom Convoy” of truckers flooded the streets of Ottawa with a mandate of fighting for all Canadians' freedoms. Claiming to be 50,000-strong, the truckers and their supporters have been adamant in proclaiming they are not a “fringe minority,” as characterized by Prime Minister Trudeau.
Was it a political misstep on the part of the PM to antagonize them? Maybe. Regardless, they did show up in numbers large enough to make a disruptive impact on the city.
The convoy claims to protest public health measures
Their main gripe against the government has to do with COVID vaccine mandates and public health measures, which also include lockdowns, social distancing measures and the wearing of masks indoors.
According to the “Memorandum of Understanding” created by the organizers of the protest, Canada Unity, what they want is:
- "All levels of the Federal, Provincial, Territorial and Municipal governments to not only stop, but furthermore waive all SARS-CoV-2 (and not limited to SARS-CoV-2 subsequent variations) fines that have been issued and imposed upon its citizens, institutions, and private enterprises"
- The reinstatement of all employees, in all branches, of all levels of governments, and private industry and institutional sectors employees, with full lawful employment rights before wrongful and unlawful dismissals stemming from vaccine passport mandates
- For the use of a vaccine passport to cease and desist immediately.
The convoy isn't fighting for all Canadians
If you look at everything this “Freedom Convoy” has brought to Ottawa, you will find a tower of contradictions, straw man arguments, and false equivalencies. Pulling out any to expose their weak arguments topples the whole thing like pieces in a game of Jenga.
First off, let’s start with facts. Whether there actually were 50,000 pissed-off truckers with an axe to grind over vaccine mandates or not, the population of Canada stands at just over 38 million people according to StatCan’s 2021 estimates. Considering the nation’s vaccination rate currently sits at 78.8%, the PM wasn’t wrong when he called them a "fringe minority." This is less than 1% of the population "fighting for freedoms" the other over 99% never asked them to fight for. In fact, neither did the 90% of Canadian truckers who are vaccinated.
It's a fact that the Government of Canada cannot arbitrarily dictate to the U.S. government who they choose to let into their country. On January 20, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security reiterated that as of January 22, all non-citizens travelling across the border for essential or non-essential purposes must have evidence of being fully vaccinated.
Are the unvaccinated participants of the convoy suggesting that we go to war with the neighbouring country they are upset about not being allowed to drive into unvaccinated? I don’t often use the word "dumb" to describe the opinions of people I don’t agree with, but sometimes, it just applies.
Their actions show no support for marginalized communities
Over the weekend, photos of protesters with Confederate and Nazi flags were captured and shared online. The Confederate flag harkens back to the Southern Confederacy, the side in the American Civil War that fought for the right to continue enslaving Black folks in the U.S. The Nazi flag bearing the swastika harkens back to, well, the Nazis.
In case you missed it, the Nazis murdered millions of Jewish people, Roma people, members of LGBTQ2S+ communities, people with disabilities, artists, intellectuals, and more, over a pseudo-scientific theory of racial and genetic Aryan purity.
The anti-vaxx protesters made a mockery of the tomb of the unknown soldier today.\nThey defaced the Terry Fox statute and his legacy.\nAnd now there is a swastika being flown at our parliament. \nA fucking swastika.pic.twitter.com/hUKXHydO6n— Charlie Angus (@Charlie Angus) 1643493499
Hate crime much? The contradictory nature of touting freedom for all, under banners that literally refer to a time of state-sanctioned enslavement for one group of people and the genocide of another, is impossible to ignore. Unless of course, you happened to be a member of the "Freedom Convoy," who apparently went the extra mile to ignore it, as pointed out by local brewery Shillow Beer Co.
In another attempt to put Canadian "freedoms" front and centre, protesters defaced the monument of a Canadian icon, Terry Fox. Fox was a charitable humanitarian who ran across the country to raise money for cancer research and died trying to give others hope. He was not the architect of residential schooling, nor did he preside over the intentional starvation of First Nations people in Canada.
That said, it’s been suggested by supporters of the protest, including Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen, that there’s no difference between the defacement of monuments to Queen Victoria or Sir John A. MacDonald during previous BLM or Indigenous rights protests. However, Bergen’s support for the convoy remained unwavering.
Freedom should start with the least of us, no? The marginalized in our society struggle a little more for equity than the rest of us. Would the hungry, poor, or homeless not qualify as Canadians worthy of freedom? If so, does raiding soup kitchens and taking food out of the mouths of people living on the margins of our society amount to fighting for Canadian freedoms? Members of the Freedom Convoy, who represent a sliver of a fraction of our country, seem to think their freedoms rise above everyone else’s.
Friends, it's been a difficult 24 hours. Staff harassed for meals. A service user and security guard assaulted. Through it all, you have donated and filled our hearts with gratitude. Every cent will support people experiencing homelessness. Thank you. See our statement pic.twitter.com/TYHD8r8aLo— Shepherds of Good Hope (@Shepherds of Good Hope) 1643567112
Aside from requesting an end to COVID-19 mandates in their manifesto, the protesters also advocate for the replacement of government with a citizens council, effectively bringing down any idea of democracy as we know it. When paired with fascist Nazi symbolism, relics of slavery and a general mob mentality of "what’s yours is mine," this becomes the most chilling aspect of the protest for me.
We're all tired of COVID, but this isn't the answer
If this was truly just about a group of citizens being sick of vaccine mandates, I might have more empathy toward them. The truth is, we’re all tired of COVID and all want to go back to life before the Black Mirror episode we all ended up living through.
However, you cannot argue on the side of freedom for all while advocating for the overthrow of a democratically elected government. You cannot tell me you represent the will of a majority when you aren’t even close to a majority.
It’s impossible to infringe on the lives and liberties of Ottawa’s citizens, including its most at-risk members, while flying the flags of the most reprehensible movements and regimes in human history.
For that, I call bullshit on the “Freedom Convoy” and its organizers. It was never about fighting for the freedoms of all Canadians. Just the freedoms of those who they deem worthy.
And who do they deem worthy?