The Council of Canadians was formed in 1985 to fight for Canadian democracy and the rights of all Canadians. Canadians from every background understand that public health is a crucial part of our social cohesion and that collective rights are an essential component in upholding the public good.
The so-called “Freedom Convoy” that has occupied parts of Ottawa represents the polar opposite of these values. Like many people in Ottawa, we have been shocked and disgusted with the appearance of swastikas and confederate flags in their city, and deeply shaken by the behaviour of some of the convoy participants.
While many people are exhausted from the impact of the pandemic, and frustrated with the difficult limitations taken to protect public health, the reality is that those measures are necessary to prevent yet more lockdowns. The convoy’s slogan of “freedom” ignores the pain, suffering, and thousands of deaths from the pandemic, and the sacrifice of health care workers. Their slogan should be exposed and opposed across this country.
The protests over the last week have evoked a direct comparison to the events of January 6th in the U.S. capitol in Washington, D.C. With many differences, these events have both been conduits for far-right groups, including white supremacists, to assert their dominance over our democracy. Some of the organizers have ties to racist groups, some have been involved in strikebreaking, and some were part of a previous truck convoy to oppose environmental action. Across the world, these kinds of tactics have been used to grow right-wing populist movements that feed on the politics of division and xenophobia. The impact has been to dramatically erode social benefits and quality of life of all but the wealthiest.
What is remarkable is the double standard in how the police have responded to the actions of this group, compared to a very different use of force and arrests at Indigenous or climate justice protests, or at the Toronto G20 Summit. Those approaches were wrong, and so is the impunity which this group seems to enjoy.
We will continue to challenge the influence of Big Pharma, especially in their opposition to true vaccine justice and universal pharmacare.
Public health experts at every level of society confirm the overwhelming evidence in support of vaccines, back the use of vaccines to fight the global pandemic of COVID-19, and encourage vaccines to be made available across the globe. They urge people from all walks of life to follow preventative measures like wearing masks and social distancing. The organizers of the convoy action are advocating exactly the opposite.
We know that our physical, economic, and social recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic can only be achieved through social solidarity. Building an inclusive, caring Canada – while recognizing both the history and current reality of this country – is the real challenge ahead for Canadians.