I listened to Canada’s National Anthem when our Women’s hockey team won gold last week, with their glowing full teeth smile. We were all so proud of them, playing all out for 60 minutes of every game of the tournament. They were doing it as a team, riveted to their system of play, supporting each other in corners, protecting their goalie, playing two-way hockey like I have not seen some NHL teams perform this season.
And then my attention focused on the Anthem, as the women stood proudly displaying gold around their neck. “True patriot love in all of us command” jarred me to reality. It suddenly sounded empty. I sometimes sing the anthem out loud to celebrate ‘the thrill of victory’, winning gold, being the best in the world. Not this time. I could not bring myself to sing because like most of us, I also had an eye on the scenes from the Ottawa occupation. A news junky, hungry for coverage from different sources, live where possible, lap tops, the desk top, and the phone close by, I perhaps saw too much of what Canada has become. And I did not like it.
How has it come to this? It should come as no surprise that an anti science, anti government movement has been growing for years, brought to the surface and becoming more evident by the pandemic and its accompanying vaccines, and ever changing and often conflicting restrictions. Alienated and frustrated for not having a voice nor a choice, we are seeing open aggression and death threats towards health care workers, journalists, politicians, grocery, restaurant and store employees. Reporters and private health care providers remove corporate logos from their cars for their own safety.
This may be a sign of the times. The Ottawa protests could have been avoided with political leadership in Canada, and not one that is consistently divisive. And because of our proximity to the Americans, the importation of their alt right extremism and violence seems inevitable.
There was debate in the House of Commons, something we have not seen with the Trudeau liberals since the pandemic began two years ago. It was not pretty. The fangs were out on both sides but at least democracy is functioning.
As the protest morphed into occupation (trucks blocking main streets for weeks, and a base camp set up is not a protest) we quickly realized the police force was initially understaffed (so much for ‘defund the police’ movement). They were unprepared and led by an overwhelmed police chief who was eventually forced to resign. So, enraged citizens took it upon themselves to step up. They formed their own counter blockades, and one obtained an injunction that would stop the tormenting horn honking, thanks to a 21-year-old civil servant Zexi Li. And eventually the “freezing of digital assets and bank accounts of convoy leaders,” that fueled the Ottawa chaos.
Perhaps it has been building for some time but it seems in just the last few years there has been “political instability, a changing economy, racism in our schools and communities,” and most significantly, a loss of importance and significance of Canada among world nations.
We also realized our current laws are apparently not sufficient to deal with this unprecedented protest, unprecedented occupation, a potential insurgency. The arrested leaders wanted to have an un-elected seat in government. The frustration and alienation are understandable, and so is a peaceful protest, but the aggression promoted by the growth of extremists and foreign interference is not. Our governments and police forces were not prepared, until the 22nd day.
There was a plethora of surveys available detailing Canadians’ opinions during the occupation. “Three Quarters of Canadians Want Protestors to go Home.” Another headline read “Large majority in Ottawa Oppose Freedom Convoy,” and, “Are you in Favour of Invoking the Emergencies Act?”.
But there were no surveys asking how the convoy became “a melting pot for individuals with a wide variety of grievances,” and misinformation. No surveys asking Canadians how do we fix this? How do we change, and, what new direction do we take? How do we become “strong and free” again?
The point is, this is not the country I knew. Sweet, peaceful Canada has come to an abrupt halt.
This is not the first time we have faced such polarization. Canadian history is full of well-known events that have led to changes, usually but not always for the better.
In the end, declaring the Emergencies Act may just be a pause in the next display of populist anger.
$15 million per day is the loss to retailers because of the “Freedom Convoy.” That does not include the cost of the tri level police forces from across Canada. Perhaps more important than monetary, the emotional cost of keeping a city hostage, with noise, belching diesel fumes, insults, and intimidation of masked pedestrians, even menacing children in school yards.
That’s What I’m Thinking