• reconciliactionyeg

What a week.

Tansi Nîtôtemtik,


What a week.


Last week, we watched the “freedom convoy” move towards Ottawa protesting public health mandates. At the time, we didn’t really know what to expect – how many trucks would make the trip, or how many people would attend the protest. We also didn’t know if it would be violent or peaceful. The specter of last year’s riot at the Capitol Building in Washington, DC loomed large.



photo credit: Annie Bergeron-Oliver, CTV News, Twitter

Over the last week, we have learned more about how the convoy came to be and who is behind it. We have also seen donations to the group spike to over $10 million. [1] We have witnessed a monument to Terry Fox desecrated by an upside down Canadian flag, swastikas on Parliament Hill, and a protester dancing on the tomb of the unknown soldier. [2] Unfortunately, Ottawa is still overrun by protesters (many fewer, but just as obstructive to people living and working in the area) with more expected to return this weekend. [3]


In Alberta, similarly motivated protesters have blockaded the Canadian-American border near Coutts.[4] Now in its sixth day, some traffic is getting through the original blockade, but a secondary blockade is making it difficult for US bound truckers and Coutts citizens to navigate the area. [5]


From the beginning, we anticipated that these protests would be treated differently than, say, what we saw on Wet’suwet’en territory in 2020, or in Mi’kma’ki later that year, or in Fairy Creek, or again, in recent days back on Wet’suwe’ten territory.


But as the protests drag on and law enforcement does little about it, it is becoming more and more painful to be confronted with the reality that there are two sets of laws in this country – one for settlers and one for Indigenous peoples.


To add insult to the injury, over the course of the week in Ottawa, Indigenous peoples have been tokenized, their cultures appropriated, and their issues co-opted by organizers with strong ties to white supremacists. [6] It is beyond disgusting that these terrorists are trying to cloak themselves in indigeneity to invite a more sympathetic view of their actions.


This is Canada. The reality of Canada, not the one we imagine when we talk about Olympics and peacekeeping. And yes, these agitators are, by and large, a “fringe minority”. [7] But they’ve been given space and opportunity to express their opinions despite putting the rest of us at risk. They seek an end to pandemic restrictions that continue because they, unlike the other 88.59% of eligible Canadians, won’t be vaccinated.[8] They claim their concern is about the economy and the supply chain, but they have blockaded the busiest international border crossing between British Columbia and Ontario. In Alberta, the Coutts border blockade is costing the area more than $3 million each day. [9]


Up to this point, the protesters have been allowed to disrupt supply chains and block off roadways. They don’t speak for the majority, and the majority does not support them, but it does seem willing to tolerate them. [10] Although actions have not yet been taken, seeking a court injunction or military involvement to stop the blockade are apparently being considered. [11] It’s worth noting here that injunctions are granted against First Nations 81% and denied to Indigenous applicants at the same rate. [12] When Indigenous activists started blockading railroads to protest the Coastal Gas Link pipeline, the RCMP were sent in en mass and the Government of Alberta responded by passing the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act (a problematic topic for another day). [13]


But this week, the response was markedly different.


Wednesday, the Ottawa police chief said “there may not be a policing solution” to the convoy’s invasion of the city. [14] Alberta’s government is promising an end to the vaccine passport (Restrictions Exemption Program) as early as Monday (despite hospitalizations being at a record high) in an effort to quell tensions at the Coutts border crossing, and in the government caucus. [15]


There is a legitimate concern that these protests could turn violent. Big rigs, giant jerry cans of gasoline, stockpiles of propane and some less than reasonable people in the driver's seat, don’t set the stage for a peaceful end. While this may justify a degree of caution on the part of law enforcement, it will never justify negotiating with people justifiably called terrorists [16]

let alone giving into their demands.


Watching these views on display at our nation’s capital, watching Albertans held hostage by their neighbours, has left me scared and angry. The fact that these ‘protests’ have been tolerated, that protesters’ demands are being acquiesced, leaves me lost and wondering where we go from here.


Until next time,


Amy and Team ReconciliACTION



 

[1] The group’s online fundraiser has, once again, been frozen by gofundme and is under review. See Tamara Lich and B.J. Dichter, “Freedom Convoy 2022” (14 January 2022), online: gofundme <www.gofundme.com/f/taking-back-our-freedom-convoy-2022?qid=88f7ce4b7dbb0eb4fe232299d7e185d0&fbclid=IwAR2c-56WUU3eOVwvaDsbSxjheE5VewZaIDfk8iDKj1dXxza3sE6hlTJPECc>.


Further, Ottawa Police has reported that a “significant element from the United States” has been involved in organizing and fundraising for the campaign. See Amanda Coletta and Annabelle Timsit, “‘Significant element’ from U.S. involved in self-described ‘Freedom Convoy’ in Canada, official says”, The Washington Post (2 Febraury 2022), online:

<www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/02/02/freedom-convoy-alberta-blockade-vaccine-mandate-protests/>.


[2] Thomas Klassen, “Canada’s ‘freedom convoy’ exposes political missteps — and Donald Trump’s ominous legacy”, The Conversation (31 January 2022), online: <theconversation.com/canadas-freedom-convoy-exposes-political-missteps-and-donald-trumps-ominous-legacy-175898>.


[3] Michael Woods and Josh Pringle, “Ottawa police launch 'surge and contain' strategy at 'Freedom Convoy' protest”, CTV News (4 February 2022), online: <ottawa.ctvnews.ca/ottawa-police-launch-surge-and-contain-strategy-at-freedom-convoy-protest-1.5767296>.


[4] Bill Graveland, “RCMP unsure when Alberta border protest will end”, CTV News (4 Febraury 2022), online: <www.ctvnews.ca/canada/rcmp-unsure-when-alberta-border-protest-will-end-1.5767605>.


[5] Ibid.


[6] See, for e.g.: a suggestion on the convoy’s facebook page that it would be “biblical” to have Indigneous peoples lead the protest into Ottawa (referenced in this tiktok video); “Algonquin Nation issues statement saying it ‘does not support’ ceremony, and truckers convoy actions on traditional territory”, APTN National News (2 February 2022), online: </www.aptnnews.ca/national-news/algonquin-nation-truckers-convoy-traditional-territory-ottawa/>; this statement from the Orange Shirt Society.


[7] Global News, “Trudeau says ‘fringe minority’ in trucker convoy with ‘unacceptable views’ don’t represent Canadians” (27 January 2022) at 00h:01m:02s, online (video): Global News </globalnews.ca/video/8542159/trudeau-says-fringe-minority-in-trucker-convoy-with-unacceptable-views-dont-represent-canadians>.


[8] “COVID-19 vaccine and booster tracker: How many Canadians are vaccinated?” (last updated 3 February 2022), online: Global News <

globalnews.ca/news/8492863/covid-19-vaccine-and-booster-tracker-coronavirus-canada/>.


[9] “Coutts blockade costing Southern Alberta $3M/day: Economic Development Lethbridge”, Lethbridge News Now (3 February 2022), online: <lethbridgenewsnow.com/2022/02/03/coutts-blockade-costing-southern-alberta-3m-day-economic-development-lethbridge/#:~:text=LETHBRIDGE%2C%20AB%20%E2%80%93%20For%20Trevor%20Lewington,this%20is%20an%20economic%20issue.%E2%80%9D>.


[10] Bruce Anderson and David Coletto, “Pandemic frustration may be running high, but more don’t side with the so-called ‘Freedom Convoy’” (3 Febraury 2022), online: Abacus Data <abacusdata.ca/freedom-convoy-public-reaction-february-2022/>.


[11] Christy Somos and Ben Cousins, “Ottawa police, city lawyers considering court order to end convoy protests”, CTV News (2 February 2022), online: <www.ctvnews.ca/canada/ottawa-police-city-lawyers-considering-court-order-to-end-convoy-protests-1.5764263>.


[12] Yellowhead Institute, “A review of over 100 injunction cases involving First Nations across Canada found the following:” (October 2019), online (pdf): Yellowhead Institute <redpaper.yellowheadinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/injunction-infographics.pdf>.


[13] Terri Trembath, “Alberta Indigenous leaders speak up against approach to Coutts border crossing protest and blockade”, CBC News (4 February 2022), online: <www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/linda-manyguns-coutts-alberta-protest-michelle-robinson-1.6338929>.


[14] Paul Vieria, “Ottawa police chief Sloly: "There may not be a policing solution to this demonstration."” (2 February 2022 at 12:37), online: Twitter </twitter.com/paulvieira/status/1488959713521905664>.


[15] Don Braid, “Vaccine passports on the way out next week as UCP caucus hits boiling point”, Calgary Herald (3 February 2022), online: <calgaryherald.com/opinion/columnists/braid-vaccine-passports-on-the-way-out-next-week-as-ucp-caucus-hits-boiling-point>.


[16] Criminal Code, RSC 1985, c C-46, s 83.01 (1)(b). Terrorist activity is defined as (emphasis added):


(b) an act or omission, in or outside Canada,

(i) that is committed

(A) in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause, and

(B) in whole or in part with the intention of intimidating the public, or a segment of the public, with regard to its security, including its economic security, or compelling a person, a government or a domestic or an international organization to do or to refrain from doing any act, whether the public or the person, government or organization is inside or outside Canada, and


(ii) that intentionally

(A) causes death or serious bodily harm to a person by the use of violence,

(B) endangers a person’s life,

(C) causes a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or any segment of the public,

(D) causes substantial property damage, whether to public or private property, if causing such damage is likely to result in the conduct or harm referred to in any of clauses (A) to (C), or

(E) causes serious interference with or serious disruption of an essential service, facility or system, whether public or private, other than as a result of advocacy, protest, dissent or stoppage of work that is not intended to result in the conduct or harm referred to in any of clauses (A) to (C),


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