A recent headline in the The New York Times read “Long After Blockade, Canada’s Truckers Have a Political Champion.” The champion it was referring to was the Conservative Party of Canada. The article went on to explain how “Many in the party are busy rewriting what happened on those chaotic days in February, glossing over the blockades’ illegality and an arms cache found at a protest in Alberta.”
The article mentioned Pierre Poilievre presenting himself “as the true inheritor of the truckers’ movement,” but added that “several would-be Conservative leaders are fighting each other to be seen as the true defender.” The article also pointed out that the one leadership contender that spoke out against the protests was jeered.
This airing of our dirty laundry in perhaps America’s most prestigious newspaper isn’t something one is pleased to see. And how dirty is this laundry? Pretty dirty. First, consider the truckers’ harassment of Ottawa’s citizens with, for example, the 24-hour blaring of air horns in residential areas, ensuring that people who have to go to work or school the next day could not sleep or even hold a normal conversation.
Protests routinely inconvenience innocent bystanders—that’s the nature of the beast—and most Canadians have no problem with that, but I have never before seen a protest where ordinary people were systematically targeted for abuse. Ottawa’s harassed citizens, led by the gutsy young lady Zexi Li, had to go to court to get an injunction to end the horn honking.
And then there was the flaunting of “Fuck Trudeau” signs of all shapes and sizes. Only a few months previous, the Canadian people had elected Justin Trudeau to lead his Liberals in a minority government. Surely our democratically-elected prime minister, to say nothing of Canadian voters, deserves respect, regardless of your political preference. But, politics aside, is this not acontemptible way to treat any fellow human being? What kind of people do this?
One wonders, did just one of the Conservative friends of the protesters, Poilievre perhaps or former party leader Andrew Scheer or interim party leader Candice Bergen, say to these people “I support your cause, just take down those signs.” Simple decency would demand no less. Or is this, in Conservative minds, the new level of political dialogue?
And what of the protesters cause. Opposition to being vaccinated or wearing a mask during a pandemic? That’s not a cause, that’s contrariness. Or was it, according to a mandate written by the protest leaders, a demand that the governor general overthrow the federal government, a demand not only hare-brained but, considering the violence on display, smacking of insurrection. A sort of mini-January 6th.
And what were these Conservatives thinking when they wallowed in all this? According to The Times article: “Conservatives like Mr. Poilievre are trying to follow the same kind of strategy as Republicans in the United States, catering to a loosely organized movement that claims to speak truth to power, but whose supporters’ concerns over what they see as a changing world are often fueled by conspiracy theories and nationalism.”
Putting it another way, we now have our own Trump movement. I sincerely hope there are enough Conservatives who still believe in human decency and respectful dialogue to overcome their colleagues’ descent into the political sewer. We shall see in September.