Canadian Protests against Covid #
The current protests in Ottawa, and across Canada could be just another indicator of people losing faith, confidence and trust in the social legitimacy and trust of public institutions — including courts, fuelled by a culture of impunity. We have every right and duty to hold all power to account. Liberty demands eternal vigilance.
Pandemics can have dire implications for our civil liberties unless safeguards are put in place. Measures, “capable of infringing our human rights” often “last longer than the actual crisis”.
Insurgency has been, and is, a present threat to Canadian democracy because ignoring legitimate concerns of citizens risks the rise of extremists, already manifest in Ontario, France’s Yellow Vest Movement and now across Canada.
What’s indefensible is a political class that believes nothing better is possible — a class that benefits from enmity without realizing that the damage from it is corrosive, and possibly irreversible. Michael Ignatieff, a former leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.
Liberalism in the modern era has thus become a kind of strange pantomime act in which elite politicians deploy the rhetoric of imminent threats and national emergency only to behave like hapless passengers trapped aboard a sinking ship. Adam Gopnik – New Yorker The only courage some modern leaders display is the ability to do nothing.
Governments, in all democracies, tend to turn a tin ear to legitimate citizen concerns, imperilling our democracy.
Protesters didn’t have a single message; there were a lot of very angry, disaffected people. When normal mechanisms for conflict resolution fail us, we have no alternative but to protest.
However, governments and their institutions control the narratives and if they, and the mainstream media, cynically decide to characterise all protesters as extremists, we need to fight back.
In the 1950’s our compatriot, Marshal McLuhan predicted:
“Ours is the first age in which many thousands of the best trained individual minds have made it a full-time business to get inside the collective public mind. To get inside in order to manipulate, exploit, control is the object now.”
Only through clever perception management - casuistry, will the general public be duped.
How can the universal right to protest, be called anti-democratic? Advocacy, dissent and protest are the very essence of our fragile democracy.
It was through the rebellions of 1837 that Canada was granted Responsible Government by a terrified Britain, fearing the loss of another colony. Is there any evidence of our government acting responsibly, when they refuse to respond to legitimate citizen complaints?
58 French Canadian rebels were deported to Australia. By 1844, all received pardons and, except for two people who died and one (Joseph Marceau) who settled in Dapto all returned to Canada. Canadian convicts proved the last straw for Australia’s convict destination as transportation to the east coast ended in 1840. We survived the Irish political exiles, but the Canadians were just too much.
Their main legacy, part of Sydney Harbour, is still called Canada Bay.
Prejudicial Determinations: #
Ontario court judge Julie Bourgeois presumptuously explains her decision to deny bail to Tamara Lich, one of the key organizers behind Freedom Convoy protests in Ottawa:
“I cannot be reassured that if I release you into the community that you will not reoffend."
Obviously, the court has already decided it was an offence. What happened to the pressumption of innocence? Demonstrating full integrity, she will, no doubt, recuse herself from any further prejudgments. I very much doubt if any Canadian Court is sufficiently independent to give the alleged protestors a fair trial.
It is encouraging that Tamara Lich was finally granted bail on March 7 th, 2022.
Any indictments will be further evidence of a Judicial system not fit for a democracy.
Protests are intregal to the consent of the governed in every country, whenever we feel the governments overstep their limited power we have a solemn duty to hold them to account. For two long years populations were compliant; co-operated with restrictions, consented to lock-downs, agreed to vaccinations, promised that we could now live with Covid, but petty tyrants found it difficult to relinquish their imperious power. Striving for freedom is instinctive.
For The Toronto Globe and Mail, to feature a smug complacent opinion from the former Chief Justice of Canada, expressing her negative opinion of the protestors, appears contemptuous of public expression, further endangering the chance of objective court cases.
The entire court system of Canada is under trial by the public and if found wanting here, make no mistake, we are following the American path to a society tearing itself apart. And whose fault is that? May I suggest, inadequate oversight of institutions from our less than responsible political leaders?
What happened to regulatory oversight? Transparency International has down graded Canada again for lack of regulatory rigour. For the non-profit Innocence Canada to have 10 cases of wrongful convictions, in front of federal officials awaiting decisions, and 90 more in the works, some of whom have been waiting for 15 years , is glaring evidence that the Canadian Courts have failed the people of Canada.
For the government of Canada to tell us that they don’t have the money to provide justice for the wrongly convicted, is an insult to all Canadians. Why do upright citizens have to crowd source for justice? What has the CJC got to show for all the money it has squandered in its fifty one years?
By invoking the Emergency Powers Act to freeze all crowd funding appears an egregious and blatant violation of all Canadian citizen’s fundamental right of where to spend their own hard-earned money. The optics indicate a seeking of totalitarian power via systematic tyranny.
If repressive government actions look like fascism, feel like fascism and have all the attributes of fascism; then they likely have fascistic tendencies.
Most great literature poses the question: If the state acts in an unjust way, what is your role as a patriot? Accept or resist? Sophocles in Antigone, Aeschylus in the Oresteia, Shakespeare in Hamlet, Macbeth and others, Miller in The Crucible….
Hamlet contemplates whether to take up arms;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes, …
Some officials display such towering contumely over us ordinary, unworthy, sovereign citizens, acting as if they, like Lady Macbeth feels, none can hold us to account.
Recent liberal politicians reflexive response to citizen’s genuine concerns tend to be: “do nothing”. - most problems will resolve themselves “without my stir”. Why the delay in dealing with Covid? That default position of leaders demonstrates a lack of resolve to act promptly. Why were Big Rigs allowed to block streets and roads for so long? The pathetic Western, too little too late, response to Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine is cringe-worthy. No wonder we turn to strong decisive leaders.
In On Liberty Mill argued that “the only purpose for which power can rightfully be exercised over any member of a civilized community against his will is to prevent harm to others.”
Trucks, blocking traffic, did harm to others.
When inaction fails, Deny, Deflect, Denigrate: Find someone else to blame and when that also fails, blackguard the protesters.
Democracy is lauded in lip service, but disavowed in practice.
When Authorities lose their authority, people resort to protest. Not all protesters are right wing rabid ratbags; some harbour legitimate unresolved grievances. We are all drowning in a sea of distrust in our governments' failures to act on obvious injustices and simply impose new restrictions.
I side with Voltaire’s:
“I wholly disapprove of what you say—but will defend to the death your right to say it.”
A vibrant Democracy is not threatened by the actions of a few, but the inactions of the many. As sovereign citizens we not only have a right to dissent; we have a solemn duty to protect and preserve our freedoms and power. Governments of the people, by the people and for the people. There are always leaders or institutions that attempt to extend their power, especially through fear. All power should be defined by its limits.
“We are living in dangerous times. It is important that people recognise that they have to care, and actually apply some effort in democracy, so that it will work. No one else is going to fix it for you. You are the system. Birgetta Jonsdottir – Iceland – Pirate Party
Tyrannical politicians, pusillanimous martinets (as will religious zealots) use fear to control and manipulate the masses, hoping to suspend our rational judgments. They then assure us that they alone can protect us.
The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary. H. L. Mencken
Adam Bandt warns, ”unscrupulous governments use people’s legitimate fears to illegitimately take away their freedoms”.
“Those who are willing to sacrifice an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither”. Benjamin Franklin.
The enlightenment led to a more rational view of how we can only be governed by the consent of the governed. This is misunderstood by power freaks.
The American model justifies open rebellion of tyrants:
“When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty. or:
“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." – Thomas Jefferson
Democracy is an imperfect system. It is easily undermined and debauched.
“The thin and precarious crust of decency is all that separates any civilization, however impressive, from the hell of anarchy or systematic tyranny which lie in wait beneath the surface.” Aldous Huxley
“It is a truth wearily demonstrated by history that acts of tyranny condoned against some will finally become a tyranny visited on all.” Richard Flanagan
The Philosopher, John Gray maintains;
It’s tyranny we often seek – with rather more zeal than we like to imagine. “Tyranny offers relief from the burden of sanity and a licence to enact forbidden impulses of hatred and violence.”
What might help is if Canadian parliamentarians curbed their obsequious deference to the Supreme Court and large trucks and paid more attention to the cries, raw pain and needs of their constituents, delivering on their responsibility to provide Justice - not legalisms or empty platitudes.
Christie Blatchford claimed Canadian deference to authority and excessive respect of judicial mystique must be overcome.
Trudeau promises to hold Institutions of Government to account, however his actions are directed at the symptoms rather than the root causes of the demonstrations. Rather than targetting the Big Rigs, he singles out the many ordinary citizens who contribute hard earned dollars to legitimate protests. 60% of the money came from ordinary Canadians.
Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman appears of the opinion that all protests are unlawful and anti-democratic. How else should citizens get their views across to our leaders when they simply refuse to respond to our submissions? Certain issues demand people rise up in protest. How else can we keep institutions true to their calling?
Most successful protests are unlawful; but that doesn’t mean they are not legitimate. The mass Chicago protests in 1968 were refused permits, so unlawful, but were eventually successful. Most Black Lives Matter protests fail to be granted permits, yet proceed to raise our awareness of this gross injustice.
Hannah Arendt pairs privilege with obliviousness; obliviousness is privilege’s form of deprivation. “When you don’t hear others, you don’t imagine them, they become unreal, and you are left in the wasteland of a world with only yourself in it, and that surely makes you starving”.
Other ironies abound:
Ottawa, failing to listen to complaints, was forced to listen to Truck horns.
The dominant image overseas, of a Big Rig looming over Canada’s Supreme Court suggested two bulls about to lock horns. Not a good look for either side.
Both need restraining.
To avoid this Mexican standoff, the government should never have allowed Trucks to block roads. All freedoms end when they encroach on others. Immediate ultimatums to clear throughways or the army would be deplyed to impound the trucks with heavy fines to compensate those adversely affected could have been imposed.
Prompt, firm, decisive, forceful and resolute actions from our leaders are sometimes required to keep all power in check.
Ignore and deplore! #
Instead, paralysed Authorities hesitated, posturing through political spin. Officials, who have ignored complaints for years, now simply brand all protesters as engaging in “unlawful” and “harmful” activities, and of promoting “hatred” and “violence,” but provide no evidence.
True leaders seek to unite the country rather than divide it.
Many protesters are ordinary citizens, concerned about encroaching authoriatarian edicts. They should not be tarred with the same brush or dismissed as extremists or fringe idealists. They are a disparate group who feel disenfranchised, bound by their losses and all just want to be listened to and treated with respect.
As a redeemed and resurgent John Carpay put it:
desperate politicians demonise protesters for “engaging in vandalism or dishonor the memory of our veterans” and express “hateful rhetoric, violence towards fellow citizens and a disrespect not just of science but of the frontline health workers.”
All the evidence in Australian media points in the opposite direction; scenes of community, feeding the homeless, cleaning up the streets. One Ottawa resident claims under oath that “the truckers I have interacted with have, at all times, been friendly, courteous, humble, considerate and peaceful. I have not observed any aggressive or inappropriate behaviours.” Only after severe provocation, did aggressive reaction occur. He hit me back first!
Just like the courts, for politicians, evidence is irrelevant!
According to the Winnipeg Free Press, more than 1200 Manitobans contributed to the convoy protests, including Professors from from three Universities. I can’t tell whether to characterise them as commies or right wing wing-bats. Maybe they are just concerned citizens wanting to preserve our democracy.
For the government to block these funds does appear anti-democratic.
However, nothing is ever that simple. GiveSendGo’s website was hacked and a dataset containing the private details of those who had donated more than US$8.3 million to the protest was released online. It does indicate much of the seed money does come from right wing extremists sources.
The salient point here is that normal citizens would not get sucked in if the political situations in our democracies were not such fertile soil for all kinds of unresolved grievances. If we felt the governments were listening to our concerns, we would trust them - not organised conspiracy theorists, peddling disinformation - we get enough of that from our own authorities.
We do face a real danger of moving blindly into the future; a lab rat-like submission of the people to inordinate arbitrary power, loss of freedoms to the assertive arrogant authority of unscrupulous officials, protected by the unaccountable power structures of modern government institutions.
Police, established to protect the public, can also be used to crush the voice of the people, just like the Peasant’s revolt following the Black Death was brutally put down. Or Nicholas II’s insouciant response to his supplicants. Or President Hoover’s discrediting tactic of simply labelling legitimate 1st WWI veterans grievances as “communistic”, before sending in the army with tanks and infantry men; 54 injured and 134 veterans arrested.
Today we just label them right wing wing-nuts or QAnon - maybe that’s progress?
According to a federal prosecutor, “The justice system is the means by which the upper class pays the middle class (the Police) a good living wage to keep the lower classes in check”.
Governments around the world, give us someone to respect and trust!
Ukrainian’s Volodymyr Zelensky is an inspiration to a West that’s lost touch with righteousness.
“There can be something a little distasteful about Western onlookers (myself included) cheering on Ukrainians for a cause that our countries are not willing to join, a stance that risks raising the price of a peace that will be paid only with Ukrainian blood,” Tom McTague
All western democratic leaders should be shamed by his example. We have no difficulty attacking Iraq or Afghanistan for selfish objectives, but lack the courage and conviction when our immediate interests are not at stake.