The Public Order Emergencies Commission was convened to determine whether the federal government erred by invoking the Emergencies Act. It will be months before we have a decision, but it only took a week of testimony for many Canadians to decide the organizers of the trucker convoy are a bunch of arrogant, ignorant, sometimes delusional, cry babies.
To understand why the occupation of Ottawa was something other than a fight for freedom let’s compare it with a real freedom protest, the Birmingham campaign.
From Apr 3, 1963 to May 10, 1963, Martin Luther King led a “nonviolent direct action” to protest segregation in the city of Birmingham. The protest was timed to put pressure on Birmingham’s merchants during Easter, the second biggest shopping season after Christmas.
King was imprisoned and wrote a letter from the Birmingham jail which sets out the principles of nonviolent, direct action. Had the convoy’s organizers thought to look it up, they may have avoided giving themselves a black eye and earning the scorn of two-thirds of the nation.
The Birmingham Campaign vs the Ottawa Occupation
King says there are four basic steps in any nonviolent campaign: the collection of facts to determine whether injustices exist, negotiation to resolve these injustices, self purification, and direct action.
Facts: Birmingham had no black police officers, firefighters, sales clerks, bus drivers, bank tellers, or store cashiers. Jobs for black workers were limited to manual labour, work in household services, yard maintenance or in black neighbourhoods. Public and commercial establishments were racially segregated by law. One Black neighbourhood was bombed so frequently it was known as “Dynamite Hill.” Birmingham was rife with injustice.
Where was the injustice in Ottawa? Or the rest of Canada for that matter?
Unlike the Blacks of Birmingham who were barred by law from everything designated “Whites only”, the anti-vaxxers could choose to take a simple safe vaccine and observe some public health restrictions to protect themselves and their communities from the pandemic.
They chose not to do so, then cried foul when public health restrictions impacted their lives. There was no injustice here as the restrictions applied to everyone and were supported by an overwhelming majority of Canadians.
Negotiation: For years Black leaders tried to negotiate with municipal leaders to repeal segregation laws. Promises were made and promises were broken, again and again. The municipal leaders refused to negotiate in good faith and the time for negotiation was over.
The situation was different with the trucker convoy.
Duly elected provincial and federal governments enacted vaccine mandates to slow the spread of covid and protect our collapsing healthcare system. Their decision was based on scientific evidence and expert advice and applied to everyone, not a subset of the population.
There was no injustice and nothing to negotiate.
The convoy organizers didn’t see it that way.
They declared some, all, who knows which, public health measures were unlawful, violated their Charter rights, and must be eliminated immediately.
That was an ultimatum based on ignorance, not a negotiation strategy.
Having said that, it appears the convoy organizers successfully negotiated a comfy reception from local law enforcement. Over time this fell apart and organizers like Jeremy MacKenzie, the creator of Diagolon, called for his members to travel to Ottawa and “hold the line.”
Self-purification: King describes this step as a a series of workshops on nonviolence, of asking oneself whether one is able “to accept blows without retaliating” and to “endure the ordeal of jail”.
King’s workshops were intended to stop the protesters from reacting violently when attacked by cops armed with clubs and fire hoses, who set vicious dogs on protesters, including children.
There would be no room in King’s self-purification workshops for protesters who harassed and intimidated innocent people, blasted air horns all night, set fires in the streets, shot fireworks into windows and stored flammable liquids next to residential apartment buildings.
Not only were the convoy organizers unprepared for the “ordeal of jail” some like veteran Chris Deering were outraged at being taken into custody (ie standing around outside the paddy wagon, driven 10 kilometers away, then released) because it was cold outside, he had no money, and his cell phone died.
Direct action: King says the purpose of direct action (sit-ins at lunch counters, public buildings and libraries, kneel-ins at churches, and marches on City Hall) is to create “a crisis and foster such a tension that the community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.”
After a 40% drop in sales Birmingham merchants were ready to negotiate. The politicians waited until national and global pressure forced them back to the negotiation table.
The negotiation process achieved the campaign’s goals of desegregating stores, imposing fair hiring practices in shops and municipal employment, reopening public parks, and creating a bi-racial committee to oversee the desegregation of public schools.
King’s direct action improved the lives of Blacks in Birmingham.
Who did the convoy organizers think they were going to negotiate with?
The municipal government and the provincial government could do nothing to lift federally imposed travel mandates.
Occupying Ottawa did nothing to lift public health restrictions imposed by the other provinces and territories.
The convoy did nothing but horrify the entire country.
Martin Luther King used direct action to fight injustice. The trucker convoy occupied Ottawa in a pique of self-indulgent stupidity.
We’ll learn in due course whether the federal government erred in invoking the Emergencies Act, but based on their testimony, we’re able to render judgment on the convoy organizers today.
We’ve seen Tamara Lich say she supported truckers going home. When confronted with videos where she urged truckers to “hold the line” she said she meant they should hold true to their values in the face of diversity (adversity?). (Funny; when the head of Diagolon said it he meant brace for battle).
Pat King said the occupation was a loving, caring event…oh and his racist rants were taken out of context. In what possible context can you rail against “depopulation” without it being racist?
James Bauder testified he was “directed by God” to bring unity to Canada when ‘Naughty Notley’ and ‘Justine Trudeau’ ganged up on ‘us.’ He talked about his futile search for the one Quebecer who cast the deciding ballot in the Sovereignty Referendum which saved Canadian unity. The jury is still out on whether he misspoke or truly believes a single person carried the No vote (which won by a margin of 54,288 votes).
When asked why he referred to the prime minister as’“Justine’ Bauder said it’s because he’s an alpha male trucker, oil patch, farm boy kind of guy. Yeah, that explains it.
For a whole week we watched them scuttle away from taking responsibility for what they said and what they did with slippery language, coy revisionism, and just plain ignorance.
The occupation of Ottawa was not an act of nonviolent direct action, but the immature tantrum of a selfish minority of anti-vaxxers who didn’t care who they hurt to make their point.
Calling it a fight for freedom won’t change that.