Image Courtesy of Zetong Li at unsplash.com
Maddie Hunt, Queen’s University
Edited by Sefanit Zeray
In such a short period of time, the truckers’ freedom convoy has become headline news, and a polarizing discourse throughout Ontario. The convoy is in opposition to the Federal government’s vaccine mandate which states that “all Canadian cross-border essential workers — including truckers — must show proof of vaccination at a port of entry to avoid stringent testing requirements and quarantine”, which took effect on January 15th, as well as other COVID-19 related regulations. Various government ministers – including the transport minister, labor minister, employment minister, and Canadian Trucking Alliance President – weighed in favor of the mandate as it is the “most effective tool to reduce the risk of COVID-19 and protect public health”, as well as actively try and protect our economy and supply chains.
I support peaceful protest to the highest extent; fighting for something that you disagree with, something that directly affects you, is one of the most important things you can do. The Convoy truckers are doing just that and I support their choice to exercise their freedom of peaceful protest. However, while I do show support for their activity, my problem lies with the organizers and promoters behind the movement. Their affiliations are tied to histories upon histories of hate groups, bigotted commentary, sentiments of white nationalism. One of the leading affiliates of this movement is Pat King, someone with “histories of Islamophobia, antisemitism, racism, and incitements to violence”. At an anti-racism rally in Red Deer, King encouraged and threatened violence against demonstrators. On another occasion, through a facebook livestream, King stated that the Holocaust was “not the 6 million that it was said to be”, he “invoked the antisemitic conspiracy that Jews secretly control politics”, and argued that the only way COVID-19 precautions “is going to be solved is with bullets”.
Therefore, I find it difficult to understand how someone can be aware of this information and still be so supportive of the movement. This is not to say that the truckers convoy is inherently racist, it is simply to acknowledge that the organizers of it have ties to hate groups’ beliefs and ideologies. Thus, to contribute to the movement being aware of this affiliation makes supporters a part of the problem. It strikes the question – if you knew that this movement mobilized hate groups, and had a history of racist beliefs, wouldn’t you step away? Wouldn’t you find another way to support the message behind the convoy without supporting the organizers of the convoy? **NOTE: You can support anti-vaccine mandates without supporting racist, bigotted, hate groups! In showing support for the movement, you are supporting the organizers and promoters, thus contributing to the mobilization of hate groups. To be aware of this history, yet not see an issue with the continued support of this specific group, is a direct reflection of the convoy demonstrators’ own beliefs and values.
Now, of course there are those involved in the movement who may be unaware of this hate-driven background of the organizers, or of the extremists who have gathered within the movement – that is understandable. But again, once they find out, I question why the support still remains? Personally, I actively try to be anti-racist; and to be anti-racist is to not support groups who show racist ideals – such as this one. Thus, their lack of alignment with my own beliefs are the reasons for my lack of support.
As the protests continued, confederate flags, swastika symbolled flags, the vandalization of both the National War Memorial and Terry Fox Statue, along with the harassment of local businesses and the homeless population in Ottawa also ensued. These actions only confirm my original thoughts about the affiliations being directly correlated to the beliefs and values of the demonstrators. This is a clear representation of the real motivation behind this protest. This is not a fight for freedom, it is a vehicle for hate speech; one that is driven by an extremist and supported by those that share the same hateful beliefs and values.
Not to mention, they are fighting for an anti-mandate regarding COVID-19 regulations – a mandate that is set in place by the government in an effort to protect public health, and to guide us back to normalcy. This is a mandate so enforced and agreed upon, that the Federal Government of Canada approved of it, the Biden-Harris Administration imposed a similar mandate, adding that “unvaccinated truckers [have] to quarantine as well when entering the country”, and the large majority of truckers (85%-90%) have complied with it and are fully vaccinated. To protest a mandate that benefits the collective good, is proven to work, is enforced by so many people, and aims to bring us back to normalcy, seems counterproductive. Then again, maybe protesting COVID-19 regulations isn’t the only motive for the protest.
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Covid-19 Restrictions ‘with Bullets.’” PressProgress, 28 Jan. 2022, https://pressprogress.ca/conservative-mp-pictured-with-ex-wexit-campaigner-who-said-covid-19-restrictions-should-be-fought-with-bullets/.