This article was turned down by my regular publications when submitted in late February, for there was uncertainty about its reception. Then other geopolitical events of larger import got in the way and the article was “drowned in the feed.” But when bikers resuscitated this battered horse last weekend in Ottawa, I decided to publish the piece on my blog, the last bastion of free speech available to me.

Occupy Ottawa – 22 Feb 2022

So, we had our own “occupy” event in the end: a convoy of disenchanted truckers who drove into the nation’s capital, parked their metal monsters across arterial roads, set up barbecues, stages, saunas, swastikas, “Trump 2024” flags (what the heck was he doing here?), and maple leaf flags, and demanded the duly elected government resign and return control of their lives to them. How more sci-fi can this pandemic become?

The images were bizarre—depending through whose camera you were watching. On the national television news networks—now vilified and called propaganda by the rebels—you saw orderly police lines drawn from across Canada, thanks to the declared national emergency, steadily advancing on freewheeling protesters, pushing them back, arresting the stubborn ones, and securing the red zone around the parliament buildings. In typical Canadian fashion, there was no Gunfight at the OK Corral, no one was seriously hurt, no one died, and there was no mass panic. It was a day of entertainment for the masses crowded around their television sets across the country, and an outing for the gawkers who went to Ottawa to take part in history.

On the Freedom Convoy’s smartphone cameras—now called fake news by the authorities—there were pictures of the police using mustard gas, nudging horses into protestors and knocking them to the ground, and the threatening presence of the Men in Black, with truncheons, guns, and gas masks, steadily advancing upon the poor, freedom-loving Citizens of a Free Canada who have difficulty with getting a vaccination.

Which side do you believe? Ah, but that is no longer required, for everyone is right in this age of misinformation where images can be photoshopped, sliced and diced, and created to support one’s intended agenda.

Magically, within a couple of days, the three-week impasse was over – Ottawa was liberated. Hundreds were arrested and processed like fast food, and dozens of vehicles that didn’t suddenly start up and hightail it were impounded. And the acting police chief stood like George Bush and promised all those who participated in this illegal protest, that he would “hunt ’em down.”

As a concerned Canadian, I tried to understand how and why we had got to this pass. Let me put my thoughts in numerical order to help my addled mind:

  1. This demonstration was about more than mask mandates, for when those mandates started coming down across the country last week, the demonstrators (at least, the inner circle) continued to be a public nuisance. Were they under orders of another power looking to destabilize Canada, now that similar sized nations like Ukraine and Taiwan are targets of bigger fish?
  2. Funding for this occupation was well orchestrated (I prefer to use “occupation” instead of “demonstration,” for demonstrations end after a couple of days and the demonstrators pursue political means afterwards). Funding sources leaked to the press show almost an even split between Canada and the USA as the major donor countries, followed by a sprinkling from many parts of the developed world. Canada was obviously chosen as a test site for opposition, given that the US had already blown its chances after the Jan 6th 2021 uprising that saw security walls go up around Washington DC. 
  3. We are all pandemic-weary. Behind the Freedom Convoy, adding to its background numbers and funding coffers, were regular Canadians who have never endured such a long period of denied freedom and who were beginning to doubt the government’s sincerity. During periods like this, it is easier to deny the hand that fed you CERB cheques and a plentiful supply of vaccines, and look to where the grass is greener—perhaps at China’s meteoric rise symbolized by its Olympic non-event in Beijing, or at Putin flexing his aging muscles by amassing weapons of mass disruption on the Ukrainian border.  
  4. There is major dissatisfaction with the elites in power, with the supposedly biased mainstream media, with Big Business (in particular Tech and Pharma), and with the gross distortion in the redistribution of wealth within our ostensibly rich nations. The pandemic exacerbated the disturbing post-1980s trend within these countries of the rich getting richer and the poor poorer. And the middle class, which gives these nations the definition of “developed country,” is shrinking alarmingly and going insane during this pandemic with lockdowns and losses of occupations, with children stuck at home and the elderly out of reach in shuttered nursing homes. 
  5. Our showbiz prime minister, who spends more time on cultivating his sartorial image than getting his hands dirty in the trenches, shot his wad by calling the demonstrators names on a talk show. The freedom fighters want to talk to our PM, they say, but he refuses their invitation. Might I suggest that the freedom guys take down flags such as “F… Trudeau” if they want this wary guest to show up at their street party? And Mr. Trudeau, please tone down the talk-show rhetoric, for you are the prime minister of ALL Canada, these protestors included.

So, where do we go from here? Oh, Ottawa will return to normal in a week, other blockades elsewhere in the country will also fail, now that law enforcement has shown us what they can do when they co-ordinate their efforts—a hidden Canadian sign of excellence, perhaps worthy of a gold medal if kettling becomes a future Olympic sport. The mandates will also be soon over, but Covid and its many derivatives will remain, like the faithful family dog and its puppies, for generations with us. And as we have always done before, we will muddle along, a middling country on the middle path, hedging our bets and being polite to everyone.

If there is any lasting learning we can take from this occupation in Ottawa, it is that the demands of science and the vulnerability of humans should be balanced, so that one does not tip over the other. And “greed for greed’s sake” needs to be combatted by governments, not enabled. If by May 2022, fully-boosted old me is asked to get my fourth vaccine shot or else be denied access to the outdoors, I will be getting into my car (unfortunately, I don’t own a massive truck) and driving to Ottawa for the sequel. And I hope there will be tulips, at least, to cheer me up.

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