Let’s start by addressing what this convoy is not - it is not a peaceful protest. It is not peaceful to throw rocks at an ambulance and hurl racist insults at a paramedic, as the Ottawa Citizen has reported. It is not peaceful to harass outreach workers in an attempt to take food meant for homeless people. It is not peaceful to enter businesses without masks, and intimidate retail and hotel workers, forcing their workplaces to close. It is not peaceful to brandish swastikas, Confederate flags and other symbols of hate.
It’s not about promoting rights and freedoms either. Frontline workers have a right to be free from harassment. The residents of downtown Ottawa should be free to live their lives and not feel like prisoners in their own homes. People with compromised immune systems who are most at risk from Omicron have a right to be protected from illness or death, protection that vaccine mandates help provide.
Nor is it an expression of real working class grievances. Wage theft is rife in the trucking industry, with more than 4,800 complaints regarding unpaid wages filed by long-haul truckers to Employment and Social Development Canada in the past three years. What does the convoy have to say about this exploitation of truckers? Nothing.
Despite all of this, they have been rewarded with wall-to-wall national media coverage, and a police response that won’t even tow or ticket their vehicles for fear of “confrontation.” Meanwhile, they are coddled by the same right wing politicians who are the first to demand aggressive police responses to Indigenous protests against resource extraction without free, prior and informed consent on traditional territory. The double standard where Black Lives Matter protesters are surveilled by Canadian military intelligence and land defenders are criminalized is clear for all to see.
This convoy is a wake up call for us to take the threat of far-right, and conspiratorial movements much more seriously, particularly given the involvement of organizers with ties to white nationalism and racist groups. It’s not just an American problem, it’s our problem and will remain one long after the last truck leaves Ottawa.
We can’t be complacent and we can’t be silent. Every elected official at every level of government must call out what we are seeing, and commit to addressing the root causes of this radicalization. If there is any silver lining to this convoy, let it be that it was a catalyst for us to take the actions that are required to end organized hate and extremism in this country.