Showing the Flag?

CBRPS officer with flags

Source: Facebook

I mentioned in last week’s edition that I’d seen a video of Cape Breton Regional Police Services (CBRPS) officer distributing Canadian flags to a group of local “Freedom” protesters in front of MP Mike Kelloway’s office in Dominion.

I asked CBRPS spokesperson Desiree Magnus about the incident last Wednesday morning and she sent me a response which was later posted to the CBRPS’ social media accounts:

The officer’s actions were brought to our attention after the event, and we have since met with him to address it. He explains that on his departure from the CBRPS building directly behind the demonstration [The CBRPS has a “Community Office” next to Kelloway’s] the participants asked for flags they observed in his parked police vehicle, which he distributed as officers do to community citizens on various occasions. While the officer did not distribute the flags with intent to support the activity or position of those participating, he unfortunately did not consider that his actions could be perceived this way.

We respect the rights and safety of all citizens, and the role of police during any lawful assembly is as a neutral party to ensure public safety and keep the peace; the CBRPS does not, and will not, support or oppose any particular cause in the execution of these duties. We sincerely apologize for any misperception and upset this officer’s actions have caused and assure you the CBRPS understands and values the importance of remaining impartial in our commitment to maintain peace and public safety.

The owner of the video, one of 413 (as of this morning) members of the Cape Bretoners for Freedom 2022 Facebook group, has since removed both it and some still pictures — one of which I’d already downloaded — “out of respect for the officer” and the group has been made private.

She also posted the CBRPS statement and people’s reactions to it were in line with my own impression of what I’d seen, namely, that the cop was completely sympathetic to the protestors. (Sample comment: “I was also there, I know no one ask[ed] him [for the flags], he took it upon himself to give them.”) And the distance between his “parked vehicle” and the protesters makes me wonder just how they “observed” the flags in the back.

(Interestingly, prior to the protest one of the organizers had advised people to send him a personal message because they are “trying to keep everything off social media as the police and government officials are monitoring these pages regularly,” suggesting they didn’t feel they had the cops on their side. Mind you, the same organizer also posted, “Hey everyone come on down to Mike Kelloways Liberal MP office peaceful protest 10am until ??”)


Son of Castro

I went to the group’s Facebook page (created on February 20) and found they have some concerns I can at least understand — I get why the federal vaccine mandate would anger you if it had cost you your job, even if I don’t actually sympathize with you, and I also have concerns about the use of the Emergencies Act to end the protests in Ottawa.

But after that, things got really weird really quickly.

About four posts down from the account of the protest in front of Kelloway’s office, I found myself watching a video claiming Justin Trudeau is Fidel Castro’s son — giving the “newscaster” an opportunity to a) display his lack of understanding of the word “communist” and b) say some ugly, misogynist things about Trudeau’s mother. He then brings on a guest — a “personal transformation coach” who looks like her own personal transformation involved a lot of late nights and an indiscriminate application of mascara — who explains that Trudeau (who, like Stephen Harper, is gay) is intent upon “ushering in an agenda of pedophilia” and “queering all of society” in Canada.

When I viewed the group’s Facebook page last week, there wasn’t much in the way of commenting on or sharing of these more Q-Anonish posts, but they’re clearly tolerated.

Before I got locked out of the group, I had thought about reaching out to some of the members to try to have one of those rational conversations that are supposed to allow people with differing views to better understand one another, but how do you have a rational conversation about Justin Trudeau’s (let alone Stephen Harper’s) efforts to “queer” society?

You don’t, that’s how.

That said, I have been interrogating my own response to the cop, because if I’m honest, when I hear stories about cops showing sympathy for protestors whose causes I agree with, I feel quite warmly toward the cops. So isn’t it hypocritical to demand complete cop neutrality only in relation to protesters whose causes I don’t support?

Yes, I think it is.

But I would also say that how I will ultimately feel about the cop in this story depends a lot on which of the protesters’ smorgasbord of causes he’s sympathetic to. Once again, it comes down to whether or not I can at least understand where he’s coming from. I could understand, for example, a cop being tired of having to enforce COVID measures. I could understand a cop who didn’t like being forced to get a vaccine (although, again I wouldn’t be particularly sympathetic to him). But what if this cop believes Trudeau is Castro’s son and he’s trying to queer Canadian society?

Support for the convoy from active and retired cops and military personnel makes me nervous and the CBRPS version of what happened in Dominion last week doesn’t satisfy me which, oddly enough, gives me something in common with the protesters.