About Those Protests…

I spent the bulk of my time this week thinking about property taxes, but as this short month draws to an end, it’s time to address a subject I’ve been actively avoiding: the so-called “Truckers’ Convoy.”

Not having been in Ottawa or on the Coutts, Alberta border in person, I’ve tried to read the views of a broad spectrum of observers to understand these protests, and I have to tell you, it’s been making my head hurt.

Freedom Convoy protest Sydney NS, 19 Feb 2022

Protestors on Charlotte Street in Sydney, Saturday, 19 February 2022

They’re protesters but they’re insurrectionists. They’re peaceful, but they’re violent. They’re truckers but they’re not. They’re heroes but they’re jackasses. They’re white supremacists but they’re average Canadians. They want an end to vaccine mandates but they also want to overthrow the government. They represent a legitimate, working-class uprising but they’re funded by a lot of businesspeople. They’re a grassroots Canadian movement but they carry Trump flags. Their demands are reasonable. Their demands are outlandish. It’s time to end COVID restrictions anyway. Now is not the time to lift all COVID restrictions. The federal government did the right thing invoking the Emergencies Act. The federal government did not have the grounds to invoke the Emergencies Act. Canadians support the protestors. Canadians want the protestors to go home. The cops are sympathetic to the protestors. The cops are doing an excellent job shutting them down. The protestors are victims of misinformation. The official line on things like masks and vaccines has changed repeatedly.

My immediate, kneejerk reaction to adults sitting in a hot tub on a city street in February yelling about their freedom is to mock them but I’m fighting the urge because it’s not constructive– and it’s not a good look, either. I watched a video of a Daily Show correspondent trolling Ottawa protestors and he just made himself look mean.

So, instead, I’m forcing myself to figure out if I’ve come to any conclusions about the protests and this is the best I can offer so far.


First, respect. I think climate change poses a serious threat to life as we know it and that our country has unconscionable levels of inequality and that workers deserve a better shake but would I spend three weeks in the frozen streets of Ottawa protesting these things? I seriously doubt it. Whatever you think about their cause or their tactics, you have to respect their grit. Although I also agree with those who say a climate-change or actual workers’ protest, let alone a First Nations’ protest, wouldn’t have been permitted to continue for three weeks, no matter how gritty the participants.

Second, I found the participation of former law enforcement and military people in these protests, the initial reluctance of Ottawa cops to break them up, the chummy scenes of protesters and cops hugging at the Coutts border and a video of what appears to be a Cape Breton Regional Police officer handing out flags to protestors (I’ve asked the police about this and hope to have more on Friday) honestly disturbing.

Third, I don’t believe this is over, although I don’t know what form the protests will take next. Will the protestors become a force in Canadian politics, like the Tea Party did in the United States? On the one hand, some Conservatives (like Pierre Poilievre) seem ready to join forces with them. On the other, Canadians largely opposed both their demands and their actions. So…yeah, that’s all I’ve got. This doesn’t really count as a conclusion.

Fourth, I don’t think this protest was any sort of working-class uprising. As Linda McQuaig points out, most Canadian workers are vaccinated. And it seems to me that if it were a workers’ protest, you’d be hearing more about wages and sick days and general precarity than about the Queen of Canada declaring martial law.

Fifth, I worry about what our next government will do with the Emergencies Act now that the seal has been broken.

Sixth, I know a lot of what the protestors believe is nuts and that we have a problem with disinformation, but when I read Andrew Coyne in the Globe and Mail  marveling at how “a certain section of the population can be made to believe the most outrageous lies,” the first thing I thought was, “Like trickle-down economics.”

Seventh (and last): I clearly have some more thinking to do.