*The following column appeared in the February 20 – 26, 2022 issue
What is my question to the members of the so-called “Freedom Convoy” that held Ottawa and some other places hostage recently.
You said you were a trucker convoy, but you became something else and that was a very dark entity. It started honestly enough when a group wanted government to end restrictions imposed in the middle of the COVID epidemic. That is fair.
The right of people to petition government on various matters is CENTRAL to our democracy. It started out as a group representing truckers, but most major trucking organizations were not part of it. As so often happens in protests the idea morphed into something else. That happens a lot.
A ticket to govern?
In the end the group was overtaken by a radical fringe. One faction wanted the government to resign and have the group from the convoy run the country. Like that was going to happen. The expertise the group had was blowing horns and blocking streets. That isn’t much of a calling card or a ticket to govern.
What the group did ultimately was to alienate people. The uprising lost support almost from day one. Nobody ever won over a population to a way of thinking by blowing horns and keeping people up all night or by blocking streets and disrupting the way of life of those people. That’s not how successful revolutions work.
The Ottawa protest in particular had no “command and control” and that “command and control” is a virtue in any uprising, getting people on the same page. Instead, some people were out of control as in elements that went urinating on the grave of Canada’s Unknown Soldier; someone else flew a Nazi flag; and another group wanted free food from one of Ottawa’s homeless shelters.
The Smell of Trump
Now to me one of the most disturbing images was that of a Donald Trump supporter on horseback waving a flag. That was disturbing because in the end this wasn’t a protest of truckers. It was a group of people that believed government to be the root of all their troubles. It was a group that included right-wing extremists and in the air was the unmistakable smell of Donald Trump and that which he stands for.
I think the protesters by and large were manipulated. They were a destabilizing force funded in part at least from afar.
The good news is that Canada is a great nation. It was discovered early on that this wasn’t a trucker’s protest, it was something else. Their high-water mark was getting coffee and sandwiches for their group. They will go home now and will not have learned anything. Meanwhile we ordinary law-abiding citizens did. We who know that there’s more to defeating a pandemic that blowing your horn all night will carry on.