by Lee Friday
Canadian truck drivers are continuing their protest against the government’s covid/vaccine mandates. The protest was triggered by the federal government’s November mandate that truck drivers must be fully vaccinated by January 15 or they would be subject to mandatory testing and quarantine requirements when entering Canada.
It is worth noting that on January 12, various government officials announced that truck drivers would be exempt from the mandate. So, naturally, many unvaccinated American truckers quickly began their journey to the Canadian border, while many unvaccinated Canadian truckers were quickly dispatched across the border, because both groups expected to enter/reenter Canada without difficulty. However, on January 13, the government announced that the previous day’s communications were in error, and that the January 15 deadline remained in effect.
These mixed messages likely intensified the resolve of truckers (some jabbed, some not) who are opposed to the mandates, and grassroots plans for a truckers’ freedom convoy quickly took shape. Thousands of people—truckers and their supporters—from coast to coast drove to the nation’s capital to peacefully protest the mandates. Arriving over the January 29 weekend, their efforts inspired similar protests around the world. Moreover, Canada’s Freedom Convoy is not limited to Ottawa, with other protests happening at the Detroit-Windsor border, the border crossing at Coutts, Alberta, as well as in Toronto, Winnipeg, and elsewhere.
The City of Ottawa wants to remove the trucks from the downtown area, but many truckers have removed their wheels, and towing companies are refusing requests from the city to haul away the big rigs.
Government Tries to Cut Off the Convoy’s Funding
To finance their protest, the Freedom Convoy quickly raised money through the crowdfunding platform GoFundMe. However, GoFundMe caved to political pressure and cancelled the fundraiser after ten million US dollars had been raised. One million dollars have already been released to the Convoy’s organizers, but $9 million will be returned to donors.
The Freedom Convoy responded with a new fundraiser at GiveSendGo, which started slowly on February 1, with a single donation of $100. By the evening of February 4, donations totaled only $25,000, but as news of the new campaign spread, donations started pouring in. By the evening of February 9, $8 million had been raised.
The Freedom Convoy is a well-funded, well-organized protest. Their security consultant is Danny Bulford, a corporal with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) who resigned because of the force’s requirement that members be vaccinated. Bulford worked on the personal protection detail for Justin Trudeau for many years. “The irony is not lost on me—and probably not lost on him either,” Bulford said at a speech in November.
Politicians and the mainstream media are tripping over themselves to demonize the protesters.
Jagmeet Singh, leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP), says that the Freedom Convoy’s goal is to “overthrow the government” and that those involved are “harassing citizens, threatening people [and] assaulting people.” He also said that the convoy is “led by those that claim the superiority of the white bloodline and equate Islam to a disease.”
Ottawa city councilor Diane Deans, who is also chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board, refers to the protest as an “insurrection,” and she refers to the protesters as terrorists who are torturing local residents.
Many people, including Ontario premier Doug Ford, are calling the protest an “occupation.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau frequently refers to protesters who are opposed to his covid policies as a small fringe group of people holding unacceptable views. So, predictably, he slammed the Ottawa protesters for “trying to blockade our economy, our democracy and our fellow citizens’ daily lives.”
Mark Carney, former governor of the Bank of Canada and the Bank of England, wrote, “In our capital city, many people have been terrorized for more than a week…. This is sedition.”
On February 6, the City of Ottawa declared a state of emergency, with Mayor Jim Watson describing the protest as the “the most serious emergency our city has ever faced.” Snipers have been deployed, and Ottawa police said that “60 criminal investigations were underway, mostly for mischief, theft, hate crimes and property damage.”
What’s Really Happening
All of these allegations are unsubstantiated. The authorities have not submitted any compelling evidence to support their claims. Moreover, closed-circuit television cameras (CCTV) are offline in Ottawa. If there were a problem with CCTV, you would think the government would quickly repair it in order to produce video evidence to support their allegations, yet the cameras have remained offline for many days.
How hard can it be for the techies to resolve a CCTV issue, if it actually exists? Perhaps CCTV was intentionally taken offline because the video footage would contradict the government’s narrative. After all, the protest has been peaceful, as evidenced by lots of video footage supplied by various individuals livestreaming from Ottawa (e.g., Viva Frei; Travel Fun 69; Ottawalks; Adam Nucci). In the National Post, Rex Murphy criticized the mainstream coverage:
Plain, straight reportage uninflected by the personal dispositions or ideological pre-sets of the reporters or the corporations they work for was hard to come by. They leaped at trivial individual mischiefs and tried to brand the entire protest as negative and even hateful.
[Mayor Watson] has not divulged publicly what facts he might rely on to justify his assessment of truckers as posing “a danger of major proportions,” in light of their law-abiding behaviour since arriving in Ottawa more than one week ago.
In fact, the JCCF says:
According to affidavit evidence filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, the Freedom Convoy has been working closely with the Ottawa Police Service, the RCMP, and the Parliamentary Protective Service. It was one of the Freedom Convoy truckers who reported to police a property damage offence and an assault, committed by individuals not affiliated with the truckers.
Preliminary data shows that street crime has actually fallen since the Freedom Convoy arrived at the Parliament in Ottawa. And contrary to politicians’ claims that protesters are stealing food from the homeless, the JCCF states that
[o]ne of the witnesses in the court action has stated under oath that truckers and their supporters “are feeding the homeless on Wellington Street and filling their backpacks with food. Truckers have taken a whole trailer full of food to the homeless shelter.
The JCCF continues:
Truckers are maintaining the cleanliness of city streets, including picking up discarded masks on the ground, centralized garbage collection, shoveling snow at the War Memorial and the Terry Fox statue, and decorating and providing security for the War Memorial and Terry Fox statue.
Another witness, an Ottawa resident, swears that “the truckers I have interacted with have, at all times, been friendly, courteous, humble, considerate and peaceful. I have not observed any aggressive or inappropriate behaviours.” He says the truckers are diverse, including Sikhs, blacks, aboriginals and others. He has “observed truckers decorating the tomb of the unknown soldier with flowers and guarding it” and has “not seen any violent or threatening behaviour.” He notes that “the truckers do not honk their horns at night. My everyday life has not been disrupted by any noise related to the Freedom Convoy during the day.” He asserts: “My ability to park and to travel in downtown Ottawa, or to and from Parliament Hill has not been impeded by the presence of the truckers.”
Another Ottawa resident, who works for Statistics Canada, describes reality on the ground as follows:
The protesters were peaceful and respectful, I saw no violence or harassment. I was not impeded in any way, and could walk about freely and safely. I did not see any hateful symbols, in fact, I saw an abundance of Canada flags and Quebec flags as well as countless signs calling for freedom and the end of Covid related mandates. I did see some anti-Trudeau flags using harsh language. However, I would describe the scene as a peaceful, pro-freedom demonstration. My everyday life has not been disrupted by any noise related to the downtown demonstrations.
All of this is supported by daily livestreams from Ottawa, showing protesters pleasantly interacting with locals; local residents donating food and coffee and offering shower facilities for protesters; singing in the streets, including the national anthem; protesters installing bouncy castles for kids; and hockey games (you don’t get more Canadian than that).
Rex Murphy summed it up nicely: “I’ve seen more threatening picnics thrown by a few nuns.”
Protesters have been peaceful, but the same cannot be said of the Ottawa police officer who arrested and roughed up a small seventy-eight-year-old man.
Trouble in the Liberal Party?
On February 8, a member of Parliament from Trudeau’s own Liberal Party, Joël Lightbound, said that
he’s uncomfortable with the federal government’s handling of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, saying its pandemic response has become “politicized” and “divisive.”
The Quebec MP said the government’s hard line on the vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers is not based on science. Lightbound said the government has produced no research to suggest this sort of mandate—which could sideline twelve to sixteen thousand commercial drivers—will have a meaningful impact on the pandemic’s trajectory.
Lightbound said the vaccine mandate has become a “wedge” issue designed to score political points off the government’s opponents.
It remains to be seen whether this is the beginning of a revolt within Trudeau’s Liberal Party. For his part, Trudeau refuses to budge, remaining steadfast in his belief that Canadians are united behind his covid policies, despite a new poll where
44 percent of those polled agreed with the statement: “I am vaccinated against COVID-19 but I do sympathize with the concerns and frustrations being voiced by people involved in the trucker protest in Ottawa.” The same proportion agreed that the prime minister and premiers “share the blame for the protest in Ottawa because of their condescending attitude toward Canadians who disagree with vaccine mandates and lockdowns.”
Canada’s reputation for niceness has been validated by the protesters, but not by the political class. Maybe the two groups should switch roles. The infusion of a few hundred respectful adults into the government would be a refreshing change.
Following a 23-year career in the Canadian financial industry, Lee Friday has spent many years studying economics, politics, and social issues. He operates a news site at www.LondonNews1.com