I will admit at the outset, that anything that tends to shake up the political minions of Ottawa, usually makes me feel a little better. Don’t get me wrong, I like Ottawa, went to University there, strolled the Sparks Street mall with the polyester suited crowd of government workers on lunch. Enjoyed the tax funded parkways and museums.
Ottawa is the leading “government town” in this country where roughly 40% of the employees work for the Federal government. It is therefore a town that caters and kneels at the feet of the Liberals. This week they are shaken, scared by the coming to town of the dishevelled, those unwashed “anti-vaxxers”.
The government mandarins are usually safely ensconced in their Ikea designed home offices, family dog at their feet, who are in no hurray to actually go back to work –are now feeling “threatened”. Those damn incessant horns disturbing their Apple watch controlled sleep patterns.
They are our 21st century landed gentry, while the honking truckers represent the medieval farmers storming the barricades. During this Covid shutdown, their productivity sliding, this Federal government work force has actually grown in size. Some of them have actually obtained pay raises; unimpaired by the pandemic restraint on others, their economic well-being never being threatened, their safety guaranteed by being able to live in their new bubbles.
It was ok to make a vaccine exemption for the truckers, for two years, when the initial threats against the food chain delivering your loaf of bread and the steady same day delivery of Amazon packages were being threatened. But now, the political thinkers surrounding Mr Trudeau and Mr Biden in the U.S., now they feel the time is right, now is the time to impose further restrictions. All while the rest of the world is going in the opposite direction.
How dare a group of outsiders (meaning middle income mostly rural working class people and farmers) challenge this current and righteous aristocracy. After all, they are the enlightened, they are the believers in science, a science only which they can properly interpret. They who are now demanding vaccines for children less than five; they who are open to the idea of fining anyone who dares to show up at a hospital having not been vaccinated; and they who want to limit those that don’t vaccinate from the ability to function in daily life. No restaurants, movies, no ability to travel, or special events for you. And if you are working for the Federal government you will be fired unless you agree to let the government inject you with a vaccine. How dare anyone question the logic of restrictions and their haphazard and diverse application.
The overall justification for three years of lockdown is to protect us, but the justification for the vaccine is vacillating. It now protects you from getting really sick from Covid. It doesn’t stop you from getting Covid.
Ignore the mental health concerns, the increasing rate of suicide, the losses of years of education, the thousands of cancelled “elective” surgeries. Ignore it all.
Make no mistake about it, this convoy of largely blue collar workers has touched a nerve. They are pressing on the accepted and acceptable narrative nerve. How dare they challenge these enlightened that form a minority government in Canada. How dare they confront the social democratic changes which Canada is now undergoing and the massive growth in government oversight and regulation. The government now tinkering with control of the message and forms of communication and ones ability to speak freely. Think of Bill C-51.
“Public safety” is our new God. A risk free society the ultimate goal.
So to the barricades the Liberals march, the dutiful media close behind, relaying their portrayals of the ignorant protesters, seeking those afraid of the bellowing air horns, believing it plays well to their albeit quickly disappearing audiences. The Liberals don’t want to fight as they are really not good at confrontation, they are after all appeasers by heart and by trade.
The media on the other hand welcome a fight, they raise the January 6th storming of the Capitol as a comparison, after all nothing draws viewers like violence led by clearly evil minded people.
Ironically and a point often missed is that the “anti-vaxxers” who are being portrayed as right wing radicals, uneducated, ignorant, fringe members of society, daring to drive their big rigs into the heart of woke society in Ottawa. They are not actually anti-vaccine. The vast majority of the people involved have been vaccinated. This misstatement of the issue on a continual news loop is disheartening and dishonest.
The convoy is about “restrictions” and the imposition of those restrictions which is having an adverse affect on their ability to work and to feed their families. It seems to be a legitimate gripe, at the very least it seems to be a discussion worth having.
But the Liberals and their supporters have made a call to arms, there is no turning back, they have already determined that these protestors are not worthy. They have established their position and they are not going to sway from it. After all, they are not Indigenous, they are not members of Black Lives Matter, they are not protesting members of the LGBTQ community. They have no standing like these other groups. Clearly, they are also not likely Liberal supporters, so they are patently irrelevant.
So how do the the Liberals and their followers do battle? Through innuendo, false narratives of impending violence, searching out the fringes of the movement for the ill-advised comment, the inappropriate flag carrier.
They are searching out the outliers knowing that the fringe of any group is always off-side, ill-tempered and wanting to foment upheaval. That is why they are called “the fringe”. The larger group tolerates them, but ignores them for the most part.
The police reaction to all of this?
First and foremost one must understand that if you want to find a “woke” police department, you probably came to the right city in Ottawa. You could have picked Toronto, or Vancouver as well, but Ottawa has to be the most firmly entrenched group of the politically like-minded. The police chief and those surrounding him immediately took the side of what they surely believed was the side of the righteous.
The language of those in government went straight to inflammatory, and the Ottawa Police Chief followed suit with Chief Peter Sloly espousing his “surge and contain strategy” to stop this “very dangerous protest”.
“This is putting our city and our residents at great risk”.
He intimated that there was “reason to believe that money from the U.S. is helping the anti-vaccine mandate”. The Ottawa Deputy-Chief Trish Ferguson, before the convoy even arrived in the city, said that they were “preparing for a range of risks” from “counter demonstrations” and “interfering with critical infrastructure” to “criminal activity”.
As of this writing the Chief clearly languishing in his 15 minutes of fame is saying that he may call in the Army to dispel the protestors. He is continually calling on an increasing police presence, more Provincial police, city police, RCMP and the RCMP Emergency Response Team. There is constant oblique references to domestic terrorism, funding from the outside, social media disguised as intelligence. No evidence is ever presented.
The Prime Minister of our country was not “going to be intimidated” by the protestors. This after having being “moved to a safer location” for security reasons. Trudeau continues to refuse to meet with the protestors saying that they are “an insult to truth”. They are a “fringe minority” although no explanation as to how this fringe raised $10 million GoFundMe dollars in a couple of weeks.
For two days the media searched out the radicals, the violent among the protestors, there big discoveries the unfurling of a single Confederate flag and the fact that someone had put a ball cap on the statute of Terry Fox. They hit the jackpot when someone raised a Nazi flag.
As it turned out though the protestors were using it as an illustration of the Nazi’s mistreatment of the Jews as similar to their rights being removed( not a good comparison for sure) but the media outlined it as Nazi’s being involved in the protest. The baseball hat on the statute of Terry Fox was a desecration according to the apoplectic media commentators equal to the burning of a cross on a front lawn.
There was a story that some people danced on the Tomb of the unknown soldier. Not a good image, but there was little coverage of the the fact that convoy members then formed a ring around it to keep out some of their “fringe” players.
So Trudeau marched to the podium, armed with the latest media evidence. Trudeau grasped and gasped at the “…Nazi symbolism, racist imagery, and desecration of war memorials… “.
Let us compare this to other protests.
When 2,000 aboriginal protestors marched on Ottawa on December 12, 2021 making demands under the “truth and reconciliation commitment” as part of the “Idle no More” movement; saying that “we are not going to back down” to the gathered media, what did the government do. They agreed to meet with the protestors, saying they “are constitutionally entitled to” meet with the government. The media reported that the march “remained peaceful” even though it too had “shut down a major downtown street”.
When Black Lives Protest hit Ottawa, Mr. Trudeau waded into the crowd, and then took the opportune photo moment to take a knee with the protestors who had as a rallying cry the defunding of the police.
When more recently the Mohawks in Ontario and Quebec stopped and burned rail lines there was nothing but talks of conciliation.
As this becomes a week long protest, as sympathetic demonstrations are happening throughout the country, the media breathlessly awaits the confrontation. In Vancouver today, the media is warning people of the threat of violence, before a supportive convoy from Langley to Vancouver had begun; saying that the convoy would be driving by three hospitals. The hospital unions began warning their staff, not to wear their scrubs in case they be singled out for violence. The absurd inferences almost laughable.
This is first and foremost a convoy of ordinary people. An ordinary people who are completely frustrated, alienated and trying to struggle with the proper words when faced with a barrage of microphones and cameras. They go to work, go to the local Tim Hortons for the “double double”, and maybe even the local bar at the end of the day. Their lives are not glamorous, their social calendar was once filled with taking kids to soccer fields or hockey games and for the last two years we have robbed them of their ability to lead those lives, and even more importantly their chance to financially survive. At times they can be rough around the edges but they are also what keeps this country going, even during Covid. They don’t like Trudeau though, but then again he doesn’t like them.
Mr. Singh for his part is for the working man, just not these workers.
Mr. O’Toole flip flopped on the convoy issue, part of the reason he lost his job this past week. There is no other voice for the protestors.
This is not a fringe element. The GoFundMe page, which the government and the police pressured to shut down was the 2nd largest raising of money in Canada since the tragic Humboldt bus crash in Saskatchewan.
So we have a government and their supporters; in favour of censure; in favour of restricting individual and collective liberties; in favour of a controlled media message (bill C-51); and in favour of police actions which reflect their wishes. Does it sound vaguely similar to other countries.
Could it be any clearer that we are at a dangerous place right now and the police are in a even more dangerous place?
The police management in this country are now fully politicized. No longer the neutral upholder of laws, now the perpetrators of selective enforcement. The target of that enforcement fully determined by political winds and and the social media that drives it. Police normally survive on good faith and a sense of fairness and being a neutral arbitrator. Under this generation of police leaders they have badly strayed.
All this could have been averted, de-escalated at the very least by Mr. Trudeau. The protestors are Canadians and the very least he could do is listen to what they are trying to say. Meet with them. Don’t be scared. They also have a constitutional right to be heard.
The decried polarization of the U.S.-between the right and the left, urban versus rural, disadvantaged versus advantaged, the educated versus the uneducated is now being grown in the little petrie dish of Canada. I am not so sure Canadians in general have thought this through.
And for the citizens of Ottawa, when night falls, put your Ipods on and listen to some soothing water sounds of the Rideau canal, it will help you sleep and awake fully refreshed for another day of Team calls and committee meetings.
Photo courtesy of Zarina Petrova via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved