The Rise of the Progressive Totalitarian

Unable to put an end to two weeks of anti-vaccine mandate protests by truckers, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday invoked the “Emergency Measures Act of 1988.”  The first time this ever has been done, Trudeau in effect put Canada under some semblance of martial law.

The Emergency Measures Act is the successor to the War Measures Act of 1914 enacted at the outset of World War I. The War Measures Act had been used only during wartime and once when Quebec separatists were kidnapping and murdering Canadian politicians. In invoking this law, Trudeau authorized the Canadian Federal government to “take special temporary measures that may not be appropriate in normal times.” It can be used only in “an urgent and critical situation” that “seriously endangers the lives, health or safety of Canadians” or requires the government to use its power to protect Canada’s “sovereignty, security and territorial integrity.”

Many Canadians are outraged. The truckers have expanded their protest beyond the country’s capital, Ottawa, and blockaded international ports of entry such as the Ambassador Bridge from Canada to the United States, but Ontario Provincial Police were able to get at least one lane cleared without use of extreme tactics. Parliament is still meeting, and the government has been functioning. No bombs are falling in Canada and Canadian young men and women are not facing conscription, yet the country now is on a war footing.

In the Canadian House of Commons the debates have been illuminating.  Opposition Leader Candice Bergen (not the actor) keeps pressing Trudeau on whether he will meet with the truckers? Trudeau and his ministers respond by ignoring the question and stating that the way for Canadians to end the mandates is not to blockade or to demonstrate but to get vaccinated. Bergen and the Conservatives then note that over 90% of Canadians ARE vaccinated, and ask what number will it take to remove the restrictions? Trudeau and the Liberals refuse to answer.

By expanding the demonstration and blockading key economic installations, I think the truckers have gone too far. I’m also not sure I agree with their original stated goal, removal of the vaccine requirement for truckers entering from the United States. Still, I find Trudeau’s response appalling, and indeed frightening. Instead of at least meeting with the truckers and explaining to Canadians the way forward to return to their old lives, he reverted to martial law. Now the Liberal Party has the right to freeze and seize bank accounts, regulate the right to assembly, require insurance companies to drop policies of individual truckers and regulate certain financial transactions. This of course is all in the name of “protecting” Canadians.

Historically, Canadians have been able to protect themselves. They take great pride in what tough fighters they were during World Wars I and II.  Their national sport, ice hockey, is a reflection of the hardiness it takes to make a life in the far North.  Despite being linked so closely to the United States, they cling zealously to their own identity. Justin Trudeau, however, seems to believe that in order to continue doing so Canadians need the Federal government to permit the unilateral confiscation of certain individual Canadians’ assets.  This week in Parliament he called his invoking of the Emergency Measures Act “responsible leadership.”

Trudeau, of course, is not alone. He has many compatriots worldwide, including in the Western democracies. No matter what the science says, or what just good common sense dictates, they seem determined to create and then maintain obtrusive restrictions on the citizenry. Public reaction against those restrictions, and the politicians who enacted and maintained them, is growing. After two years of restrictions, Great Britain, Denmark and Norway have announced they will soon abandon them. Even in New Zealand, where for two years Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who has been hailed as a hero in much of the Western press, for taking an extremely hard line on lockdowns, now sees anti-lockdown demonstrations in the capital, Auckland.

In the United States, politicians similar to Trudeau, who consider themselves “Progressives,” have reacted in the most Draconian fashion. Almost all states with the most severe COVID restrictions have been run by Progressives, and have been cheered on by the mainstream press. Ignoring any science they disagreed with, these leaders shut down their economies, closed their schools, banned people from beaches and parks and claimed the right to decide which public gatherings were or were not acceptable, such as church or synagogue services (bad – banned) or Antifa demonstrations (good – allowed). One city, Seattle, even let part of its city be completely taken over by protestors who prevented any police presence in the “Autonomous Zone.” This remained until people began being killed in the Autonomous Zone. All of this autonomy and freedom was allowed by Seattle’s Progressive Mayor Jenny Durkan when the rest of the city was under severe COVID- related restrictions!

These Progressive leaders, of course, enacted such authoritarian policies in the name of public health and safety. If our children now show a 300% rise in speech-related issues, much more anxiety than before and dramatically decreased academic performance, how dare we question our leaders’ overriding goodness?

The Canadian truckers dared, and Justin Trudeau responded. He would breach no dissent, accept no dialogue and attempt no move at bringing the nation together. One swastika and one Confederate flag flying in a sea of Canadian Maple Leaves proved to Trudeau that all the truckers were racists – and would be treated as such. The normal buzzwords were used. The truckers were racist, homophobic xenophobes who cared little for real Canadians. They must be publicly shamed, their assets confiscated and their viewpoints not tolerated.

In the United States we hear constantly about how “at risk” our democracy now is. Most of that comes from the left who cite the Donald Trump-inspired riots/insurrection of January 6, 2020 as proof that a coup is in the offing unless we take bold steps to preserve voting rights (including curiously like forbidding people from having to show proof of identification in order to vote). Less discussed in the mainstream media, yet perhaps more disturbing, is the time honored totalitarian playbook the Justin Trudeau is following. According to that tradition, the leader declares a national emergency, seizes extraordinary power then refuses to relinquish it or even discuss when it will end. The leader tolerates no dissent, accepts no criticism and uses those who dare question him as justification for his extreme action.

Demagogues have used this method throughout history. Trudeau and his ilk are only the latest. What is most concerning however, is during this pandemic how many of the most authoritarian leaders have come from the Progressive side and how unwilling our “watchdog” free press has been willing to confront them. These leaders’ intentions may be as noble as they claim, but our entire Western systems of government has been developed to guard against such people. Pandemics and other types of unexpected shocks have often been turning points in history. Two years ago who could have imagined that the governments in most Western democracies would declare for themselves the right to decide when people should be allowed to meet, how many, where and for what purpose?

If the pandemic years have taught us anything, it is that liberty is very fragile. Restrictions may be necessary in the face of future health shocks, but each must be narrowly tailored and constantly reevaluated. Our press must dig into each official claim and demand answers as to why each restriction is being placed, as well as when each will be lifted.

In order to maintain our liberty, it is all of our responsibility to recite the last line of the Canadian national anthem and to put it into practice.  We must be eternally vigilant against those who, in the name of public safety, are so willing to limit public liberty, and then refuse to discuss when liberty will return. To retain that liberty, we all must “stand on guard for thee.”

About the Author
Daniel B, Markind is an attorney based in Philadelphia specializing in real estate, commercial, energy and aviation law. He is the former Chair of the National Legal Committee of the Jewish National Fund of America as well as being a former member of the National Executive Board and the National Chair of the JNF National Future Leadership. He writes frequently on Middle Eastern and energy issues. Mr. Markind lives in the Philadelphia area with his wife and children.
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