News

FIRST READING: So, the truckers didn’t convince Trudeau to lift the mandates


Why Freedom Convoy was either an awe-inspiring scene of peaceful unity, or a shambolic national embarassment

Article content

First Reading is a daily newsletter keeping you posted on the travails of Canadian politicos, all curated by the National Post’s own Tristin Hopper. To get an early version sent direct to your inbox every Monday to Thursday at 6 p.m. ET (and 9 a.m. on Sundays), sign up here.

Advertisement

Article content

The weekend saw Freedom Convoy 2022 finally converge on Parliament Hill.

The stated goal of Freedom Convoy 2022 was the immediate lifting of all Canadian strictures relating to COVID-19 (in a best-case scenario, organizers also wanted to suspend Canadian democracy for a while ). None of those things happened, but the truckers did utterly seize traffic in Downtown Ottawa and turn Parliament Hill into a kind of anti-mandate Canada Day.

If you’re a Freedom Convoy supporter, here’s why Saturday was an awe-inspiring display of peaceful patriotism …

  • In only a matter of days, a protest movement cobbled together on social media was able to marshal hundreds of heavy-duty vehicles and draw the attention of the world’s media. By Saturday evening, Freedom Convoy 2022’s GoFundMe had raised $8.5 millionmore than the entire amount raised by the Liberal Party of Canada during the last federal election.

Peace Love Unity Freedom 🇨🇦❤️🇨🇦❤️🇨🇦 Our hearts are full…. The sound of Unity not Divisiveness Canada is a beautiful land and it is ours From sea to shining sea…..

Posted by Freedom Convoy 2022 on Saturday, January 29, 2022

Advertisement

Article content

  • Thousands of angry truckers descended on the nation’s capital, and there were “no incidents of violence or injuries,” according to Ottawa Police. After any number of recent Canadian protests that concluded with rocks being thrown or a statue being pulled down, that’s a feather in the cap for Freedom Convoy 2022 (particularly given all the media reports claiming they were filled with violent extremists).
  • Quebecers and Western Canadian resource workers – two groups that have clashed in recent years  over oil and gas issues – became united in fraternal opposition to COVID mandates.

Advertisement

Article content

  • The protests “broke the spell” of COVID and forced scenes of unmasked mirth onto the capital. “One thing to note is that the mask mandate in Ottawa is basically dead this weekend,” observed broadcaster Andrew Lawton. “Virtually no masks worn in hotels, food places and stores, and staff have either given up trying to enforce or don’t actually care.” And after two years of authorities strenuously forbidding any public gathering or celebration, fireworks once again flew over the nation’s capital.

Advertisement

Article content

  • Among many in the political and media establishment, there was a knee-jerk reaction that Freedom Convoy 2022 was the work of white supremacists. Most notably, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh wrote in a Friday tweet that the convoy was led by people who “claim the superiority of the white bloodline.” So it was notable how many non-white people turned up in support. The Parliament Hill demonstrations featured Indigenous drummers, shows of support from Sikh truckers and an overall crowd composition one attendee described as “First Nations, black, white, French, English.” National Post columnist Rupa Subramanya made a point of documenting the many non-Caucasian Freedom Convoy supporters she encountered. “I saw people of all colours and ethnicities. It felt like a winter carnival,” Subramanya reported on Twitter.

Advertisement

Article content

  • A man dressed only in a bathrobe and a Canadian flag thong resisted temperatures colder than -20 degrees Celsius in order to brandish a sign reading “TREASON TRUDEAU GOT 2 GO.”

Advertisement

Article content

If you’re not a Freedom Convoy supporter, here is why it was a shambolic national embarrassment …

  • One protester was recorded standing and shouting atop the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. As the name suggests, the monument is the literal grave of an unidentified Canadian soldier killed in the First World War. The video quickly invited condemnation from Chief of the Defence Staff Wayne Eyre. “Generations of Canadians have fought and died for our rights, including free speech, but not this. Those involved should hang their heads in shame,” he said in a statement. By Sunday, protesters had organized their own cordon around the memorial to ensure it remained unmolested.

Advertisement

Article content

  • There were swastikas. While Conservative MP Michael Cooper was conducting an interview with CBC, a protester walked by in the background carrying a Canadian flag marked with a swastika. The most charitable interpretation of the flag was that it was a ham-handed criticism on the severity of COVID strictures, rather than an endorsement of national socialism (and it wouldn’t be the first time a convoy supporter has compared themselves to victims of Nazism). In a statement, Cooper said “whoever flew this flag is personally responsible for that reprehensible decision and should be eternally ashamed of him or herself.

Advertisement

Article content

  • Some protesters brought along Confederate battle flags. There weren’t many, but it was indeed possible to spot the banner once wielded by secessionist armies attempting to preserve U.S. slavery.

Advertisement

Article content

  • The Parliament Hill Terry Fox statue was draped with anti-mandate signage. At various points during the day, the statue was made to hold an upside-down Canadian flag or a protest sign endorsing the anti-mandate cause. This was slammed by Brad West, the mayor of Fox’s hometown of Port Coquitlam, B.C. “Whatever your cause, you don’t get to appropriate his legacy and you don’t touch his statue. Ever,” wrote West.
  • Someone chucked a full beer at CTV’s Evan Solomon. Just before Solomon did a live hit for CTV, he reported having a full can of Michelob Ultra “drilled” at him from the crowd. “So things are getting more angry,” he reported.

Advertisement

Article content

  • An Ottawa homeless shelter, Shepherds of Good Hope, say they were harassed for food by convoy protesters who were reportedly unable to get a meal from one of Ottawa’s overwhelmed downtown restaurants. “The individuals were given meals to diffuse (sic) the conflict,” the shelter said in a statement.
  • There were yet more swastikas. A photo circulated widely among convoy opponents purported to show a protester hoisting the full-sized flag of Nazi Germany. Convoy participants were more skeptical about the provenance of this one, particularly given that only one photo of the flag ever made the rounds. The conservative outlet True North has a standing reward of $1000 for anyone who can “identify the person flying the Nazi flag.” For good measure, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs issued a statement reminding Canadians that Nazi flags are bad. “Those who fly it and the small minority who walk under it and tolerate it in their presence are aligning themselves with the worst of humanity,” they wrote.

Advertisement

Article content

  • Everyone peed everywhere. There was lots of drinking and minimal bathroom facilities. So according to Postmedia’s on-the-ground reporters, this resulted in a fair amount of haphazard urination.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was namechecked at the protest by countless “f— Trudeau” flags, signs and decals (as well as some more visceral statements directed his way). But Trudeau would remain silent throughout the demonstrations . The prime minister entered COVID isolation just before the first trucks began to arrive in the capital, and according to CBC he was moved from his usual residence at Rideau Cottage for safety reasons.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, meanwhile, welcomed the truckers as they entered Ottawa with the message that they were a “symbol of the fatigue and the division we’re seeing in this country.” By Saturday afternoon, this has transformed into O’Toole’s outright condemnation of the protester s seen disrespecting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Terry Fox statue.

Advertisement

Article content

Demonstrations were not confined to Ottawa. Downtowns across Canada were similarly seized by convoys of honking, flag-waving trucks protesting COVID mandates . Several hundred vehicles showed up in the Saskatchewan capital of Regina. Victoria, B.C. would see a particularly large demonstration at the B.C. Parliament Buildings, complete with a speech by former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Brian Peckford, one of the last surviving framers of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Advertisement

Article content

The one thing that Saturday didn’t yield was any kind of material victory . Trudeau didn’t offer to parley with the truckers, and there’s no sign that the Liberal government has any intention of backing off on its many COVID strictures. But Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe did direct a letter specifically at the truckers endorsing their cause and announcing his intention to end vaccine passports “in the not-too-distant” future.

Advertisement

Article content

Read the National Post’s full coverage of Saturday’s Freedom Convoy demonstrations here. National Post reporters also profiled some of the truckers and why they decided to join the convoy.

Get all of these insights and more into your inbox every weekday at 6 p.m. ET by signing up for the First Reading newsletter here. 

Advertisement

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.





Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

close