By Jonathon Van Maren
On Friday and Saturday, thousands of protestors with the Freedom Convoy 2022 began to enter Canada’s capital—truckers, blue-collar workers, and ordinary citizens of every ideological stripe and ethnic background. It was a protest against vaccine mandates, mandatory vaccination, and government overreach, with the convoy building support across the country.
As of this writing, the protests have remained peaceful, with the handful of bad faith actors thoroughly condemned by both organizers and participants, and alternative media outfits offering rewards for the identification of those attempting to associate evil causes with the mainstream protest. There have also been plenty of unfortunate “F Trudeau” flags, which are very counter-productive. But it’s important to point this out: There have been precisely zero arrests in Ottawa thus far.
Although we don’t yet know how the long the protests will go, at this point the Freedom Convoy has accomplished three very significant things worth noting.
The Freedom Convoy created a catalyst that turned a minority into a visible minority—and perhaps a majority.
The Freedom Convoy may have started in response to vaccine mandates for truckers, but it soon turned into a lightning rod for pent-up frustrations that have been building across Canada for two years. For two years, millions of Canadians who are vaccine-hesitant for a wide range of reasons—conscience, medical concerns, political objections to mandates—have been told by their leaders that they are racist, misogynist, and just plain bad. They have been used as scapegoats by the prime minister to whip up his own base. All of this has been unfolding while people have been barred from the bedsides of dying relatives, kept away from the funerals of loved ones, and had their businesses shut down over and over again while struggling to survive.
I’m not interested in arguing about the efficacy or necessity of each individual restriction. What I’m pointing out is that while politicians from every power-holding party in the country ignored or, in the case of the progressives, overtly demonized those holding views they deemed unacceptable—or those protesting mandates and restrictions that were destroying their livelihoods—the Freedom Convoy turned into the only vehicle that was giving voice to those scorned by the politicians, scoffed at or silenced by the media, and browbeaten by others. Millions of Canadians needed a voice, and the Freedom Convoy became the catalyst for their frustrations.
When the Convoy began, it was true to say—by the numbers—that a minority of Canadians opposed mandates and many restrictions. But that minority had been relentlessly maligned, and so it had remained largely invisible. But with the Freedom Convoy this minority suddenly became a very visible minority, lining highways and packing overpasses and joining the Convoy in their own vehicles. Canadians were suddenly confronted with the fact that this minority was tired of being mischaracterized by the media and demonized by their leaders and were going to go into public and engage in democratic action directly. The first step towards turning a minority into a majority is visibility.
That may already be happening. According to Angus Reid this week, a majority of Canadians—54%–now say that it is time to end COVID restrictions. This, as it happens, is up from 40% earlier in the month. There are likely many reasons for this—the mildness of the Omicron variant certainly being one of them—but the Freedom Convoy’s visibility likely helped many fence-sitters realize just how many Canadians differed from the media-enforced consensus.
The Freedom Convoy exposed the political vacuum in Canada.
Nothing has quite exposed the political vacuum in Canada like the Freedom Convoy. There has been a near iron-clad consensus on everything to do with COVID-19 amongst the power-holding parties, and thus those who disagreed with vaccine mandates (and many other things) have simply been shut out of political discourse. Conservative leader Erin O’Toole, for example, has hastened to agree with Justin Trudeau on nearly everything that matters—the incredibly dangerous Bill C-4, Bill 21, etc.—while only releasing tepid support for the grassroots after a half dozen or so of his own MPs have come out to do so themselves. With no political outlet for frustration, the Freedom Convoy became the de facto pressure valve for the politically homeless. Many Conservative MPs who attended the convoy’s arrival in Ottawa appear to have gotten the message, so perhaps some politicians have realized that the people packing the overpasses and lining roads across the country are a constituency in need of a voice.
The political response of the two progressive parties has been particularly disgusting. Justin Trudeau, the leader of a (checks notes) “minority government” after having received the lowest national vote share for any governing party in the history of Canada, called those supporting the convoy a “fringe minority with unacceptable views,” while the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh skipped straight to calling them white supremacists, apparently blind to the many non-white participants (or, for that matter, the fact that non-white Canadians are generally socially conservative.) Despite their laughable calls for unity, these two men are willing to slander, smear, and scapegoat millions of their fellow citizens for political gain. They are cynical, bad-faith actors, and we should not forget it. As my friend John Jalsevac pointed out recently, what many leaders are doing right now is just plain dangerous.
The Freedom Convoy exposed, once again, the grotesque double standard employed by our media.
Social conservatives (and those paying any attention) have known for years that the Canadian media is heavily biased towards the Left, but throughout the convoy’s progress across Canada, the rest of the country got a good look at this bias, too.
For the past several years, for example, the media has reported sympathetically on statues being toppled or vandalized, churches being burned to the ground by the dozen, and war memorials and cenotaphs similarly spraypainted. Context in these cases, we have been consistently told by the media, is essential—and in the case of many statue topplings, the crimes are essentially justified. The reason is simple: Canada’s commentators, with a few notable exceptions, largely sympathize with the ideological motivations of the vandals, even if they are occasionally nervous about the revolutionary methods employed.
But when thousands of people arrived in Ottawa to protest vaccine mandates and government overreach, the media suddenly morphed into staunch Defenders of Our Heritage. Ottawa police, the Globe and Mail announced, are investigating the “desecration of monuments by trucker convoy protests.” Outraged journalists who also rediscovered concepts like desecration and sacrilege also tweeted their anger at a handful of rowdy protestors who, we were informed, obviously represent every Canadian on every overpass across the entire country. Journalists witnessing the violation of statues suddenly were in need of smelling salts.
We were not, of course, told that these protestors were chastised by others with the convoy, that some came to pay their respects at the War Memorial, and that it was truckers who came to clean up the mess made by a few jackasses. The media—again, with a few notable exceptions—came hunting for jackasses, armed with ready-made shock and outrage to be produced the moment they were found. I’m sorry, but this is just a sick joke. These people do not deserve to be taken seriously.
From the beginning, the media did everything possible to avoid discussing the fact that the Freedom Convoy has become a lightning rod for millions of Canadians who fear the direction their country is heading in because of government bullying and unprecedented restrictions. No, the protest was not about safe driving conditions, or white supremacy, or any other sort of bigotry that allowed progressives to write off their fellow countrymen as people who were not even entitled to a hearing by their leaders. Did any mainstream journalist interview any of the many, many Indigenous people participating in the convoy? Of course not. But they did, however, claim that a joke made to mock their own media hypocrisy was evidence of white supremacy. You cannot make this stuff up.
There were, of course, some unsavoury folks who were part of the convoy. That is always true of any large, grassroots movement that springs up in response to current events. These things cannot be controlled or monitored when they take on a life of their own. But nobody was more eager to give these folks airtime than the media, who desperately wanted such people to materialize in order to discredit those they disagree with. As is so often the case with the media, the demand for white supremacists vastly outstrips the supply.
Now is as good a time as any to remind you all that we, the taxpayers, actually fund much of Canadian “journalism” from the CBC to the bailed-out broadsheets.