Police in riot gear are belatedly clearing the streets of Ottawa of Freedom Convoy protesters who have grossly abused their democratic right to stage peaceful demonstrations.
The police are proceeding with extraordinary caution and deliberation despite the protestors’ stubborn refusal to comply with the law and disperse peacefully. Incredibly enough, several have assaulted policemen and even tried to grab their weapons.
Scores of protesters have been arrested and 53 vehicles have been seized and towed away, giving law-abiding citizens reason to believe the city will return to a semblance of normalcy in the days to come. The protestors caused nothing less than gridlock and chaos in the nation’s capital, clogging major streets, forcing shops to close, and interrupting the lives of its residents.
In Windsor, the Freedom Convoy succeeded in temporarily closing the Ambassador Bridge to Detroit. And in Alberta and British Columbia, it briefly blocked border crossings into the United States. These illegal blockades resulted in enormous losses to the economy of both countries.
The minuscule minority of truck drivers who launched the Freedom Convoy three weeks ago took the road to express their grievance with vaccine mandates, which were necessarily imposed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. It apparently did not occur to the protesting drivers that 90 percent of Canadian truckers already had been vaccinated.
Within a short period of time, the truckers were summarily pushed aside, their cause hijacked by an opportunistic cabal of anti-vaxxers, opponents of COVID-19 health measures, and ideologues linked to far-right movements and a separatist political party in the province of Alberta.
Pat King, one of the Freedom Convoy organizers arrested in Ottawa, is an extremist by any conventional standard. He reportedly said that the standoff between protesters and police could only be solved “with bullets.” And lest it be forgotten, he is a proponent of the white supremacist “great replacement” theory, which holds that white Anglo-Saxon Americans are being replaced demographically by non-whites and Jews.
King and his ilk should have been arrested long before Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act, justifying it on the grounds that the protests threatened public safety, the national economy and Canada’s relations with the United States. As he correctly said, “Blockades and occupations are not peaceful protests.”
At the very least, the federal government should have acted with much greater resolve after the premier of Ontario, Rob Ford, declared a province-wide state of emergency. Much to his discredit, Trudeau allowed the protests to grow exponentially, underscoring his abysmal lack of leadership in the face of a ballooning crisis.
The protesters, having made their point, should have been forced to leave Ottawa before their campaign of disobedience spun completely out of control.
The Conservative Party cynically accused Trudeau of inflaming a tense situation, with interim leader Candice Bergen denouncing the use of the Emergencies Act as an “unprecedented sledgehammer.”
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association said it would take the federal government to court over its “extreme measure.”
Their claims are exaggerations.
The Emergencies Act, a spinoff of the War Measures Act, was enacted only as a last resort to curtail domestic and foreign funding to protesters and to end the unlawful and disruptive occupation of downtown Ottawa. It is targeted, time-limited and even proportionate. It is not overreach. Nor does it contravene the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as supporters of the Freedom Convoy erroneously claim.
After three weeks of inexplicable inaction and amateurish fumbling, the federal government is finally dealing concretely with the anarchic circus in Ottawa. Let it be a lesson to future Canadian governments. The rule of law is a sacrosanct principle that no one has a right to violate.
Canada is not a banana republic where the law of the jungle prevails.