Sunday, February 20, 2022

Truck Around And Find Out

 First they compared their "suffering and segregation" with the Holocaust...while standing next to actual neo-Nazis. 

They demanded to meet with the Prime Minister, and jeered him when he didn't follow their orders...all while wearing "FUCK TRUDEAU" hats and shirts. 

Then they called the police action against them "Tiananmen Square"...while sneering about the "Chinese flu". 

Then they placed their children between themselves and the cops, which only makes sense when you remember the whole ostensible reason for their protest is that society should stop protecting children along with everyone else. 

Given the level of antipathy I feel about the forces that have invaded my country and especially its capital, this is going to be a very difficult blog to write. Given my throughly mixmastered feelings about the police (mixed, not mastered as yet)...the degree of difficulty means I might splat on my face. 


Ross Douthat, writing in the New York Times, divides society into "the Virtuals" and "the Practicals". The Virtuals are people who have spent the majority of the pandemic safe in a home office;  the Practicals are people in the trades, people in blue and pink collar jobs, those with a "strong connection to the physical portion of the economy, the part that relies on brawn and savvy, not just the manipulation of words and symbols on a screen."

There is class resentment both ways here. The Virtuals, who tend to be liberal on account of their academic backgrounds, look down their noses with snooty arrogance at the Practicals; the Practicals accuse the Virtuals of being abstract fools far out of touch with reality. This division in society has provoked strife as long as it has existed (we've looked down on labourers forever; all they do is hold our society together)...but covid put it on steroids.

Justin Trudeau is the embodiment of the Virtual elite, and Practicals throughout the country despise him. I don't think people insulated in their Toronto and Montréal bubbles can truly grasp the depth of the hatred. Conservatives even managed to "defeat" him in the last election and yet he's still PM.  (The Conservative Party of Canada got more of the popular vote than Justin's Liberals). The fact Stephen Harper, the last PM and a Conservative, also  won elections with far less than a majority of votes cast is, of course, irrelevant). Our first-past-the-post system (which Trudeau promised to abolish and then immediately reneged) makes it very difficult for any one party to capture more than fifty percent of the electorate. It's only happened once, federally, in my lifetime. 

So you try to look at this from the Practicals' point of view. They have their own media, which "trump"ets their values and their visions of a world in which arrogant Liberals are taken down a bunch of pegs. They come, largely, from small town and rural Western Canada, and friends and neighbours, their world is different from ours.

Take covid. We all started this from the same place, but very quickly our perceptions diverged. Living in a small town, or out in the country, your guidance comes from your self and your friendly neighbours, and you're resistant to outside forces -- especially those elitist assholes out East headed by Turdeau, that Liberal literal  son of a bastard who embodies everything you distrust. You see that smarmy twat on television every day, telling you to wear a mask and get your shots. You hang back because it's your body, goddamnit, and sure enough you were right: the vaccines are a total scam. You can still catch and spread covid even with the fuckin' shots! So then they move the goalposts and say the vaccines keep you from getting really sick and dying and what total BULLSHIT. 

It's been two years and like ten people from your town have died. You don't know their vaccination statuses and you don't give a  shit. You tell yourself most of them would have died anyway so why the fuck are you being restricted from living a normal life? 

You don't have to go out west to see the difference in attitude. Small town and rural Ontario never took the pandemic as seriously. Masks, ubiquitous in urban centres, are a sometimes to maybe thing in many places where cityfolk wouldn't last a month. While most of Canada is vaxed and boosted, there are pockets where less than half the population got any kind of jab at all. They're the people who trust themselves, who trust the neighbours they see every day, over some useless academic who would shrivel up if he got his hands dirty. Fuck Trudeau.

As the scamdemic enters its THIRD YEAR (!!!) you've had enough and so have many of your friends. Trudope is too chickenshit to ever come where you are (besides, he hates everything west of Ontario), so you've got to go to him. And you do. You set out for Ottawa. Maybe you even know this is a Canadian tradition. You're not going to overthrow the shithead, though you wouldn't mind one bit if somebody did: you just want to make him see sense. You've got allies in the cities, fellow Practicals who have also had enough. You've even got some cops on your side, but then, of course they would be. Every interaction you've ever had with a police officer went swimmingly. That time you got pulled over for speeding, you exchanged pleasantries and the cop let you go with barely a warning. Cops are fellow Practicals -- how many of them fellas ever went to fuckin' university? -- and  your friends. Your cause is that much more righteous and you know it. 

Your numbers swell as you move eastward. You're joined by fellow travellers who hate Justine even more than you do. They tell you they've got big plans. And that you're part of them. 

You've never had so many friends in your life. You're sharing food, fuel is getting donated to keep you going, you've got somewhere to sleep besides your car, you have a COMMUNITY. They love you, they laugh with you, they're your kinda people. After two years of pandemic, this is a hurricane of fresh air.

In Ontario, fellow protestors have blockaded the border in Windsor, protesting the rules about vaccination governing cross-border travel for truckers. The police just let them be for the longest time, lending them (and you!) even more legitimacy.  You begin to sense a larger purpose here. Organizers are openly calling for the ouster of the elected Trudeau government and its replacement by a coalition of the opposition and...themselves, of course. The backlash to this is predictable, and your new friends decide they should maybe stop saying the quiet part out loud, and retract the document. Yours is a peaceful protest. 


The Ottawa cops knew what was coming. How could they not?  The media'd been yammering non-stop 24/7 about it. But really, would it even get to Ottawa? Kinda doubtful. Canada Is Really Big, and it costs a lot of money to traverse even half of it. Nobody tells you that donations are pouring in by the millions, more than half of them from outside the country. So you get ready for a run-of-the-mill protest. You've seen lots of them before. 


418 trucks, with or without trailers. Somewhere just south of 1,000 passenger vehicles. Most of them blaring on their horns nonstop, making sleep impossible. Diesel fumes choke the air. The crowd is "peaceful" in the sense that they're not rioting, but you in Ottawa haven't had any peace for three weeks. This is not a protest. This is an occupation, a city under siege.

As can be expected with ANY event nowadays, there are competing narratives spreading worldwide on social media. The media has an annoying tendency of focussing on "a few bad apples".  (That link is...quite the read). Attempted arson, theft, widespread vandalism, assault...a few bad apples.  That saying, as you might know, is incomplete, although you never seem to hear the full proverb anymore. It dates to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales -- specifically, The Cook's Tale, written in the year 1387.

Wel bet is roten appul out of hoord

Than that it rotie al the remenaunt.

 … It is ful lasse harm to lete hym pace,

Than he shende alle the servantz in the place.

“Well better is a rotten apple out of the store

Than that it rot all the remnant."

It is much less harm to let him go away,

Than that he should ruin all the servants in the place.”

In Modern Twitterspeak: a few bad apples SPOIL THE BUNCH. 

The convoy, of course, has a different story, heavy on the bouncy castles, the sauna, the live entertainment, the free food for anyone who wanted it. Hell, they even collected garbage like good citizens. It was a city within a city. The convoy even "swore in" its own "peace officers" (which is, of course, illegal). It's that story that circulated on friendly social media sites, and it accounts for a lot of what seems utterly nonsensical and alarming to people outside. (If you are reading this and you still think the convoy is peaceful, I IMPLORE you to go read the link accessed by clicking "a few bad apples" above. 

The cops, for instance. For all the world saw, the police were complicit as fuck. Frontline officers were videoed carrying fuel to convoy members; posing for selfies; standing idly by while laws were broken in plain sight; one of them even allowed his cruiser to be used as a convoy photo op. "Don't let them think I'm arresting you", he said. 

What the world didn't see was the reaction of the "protestors" if a police officer made even a token effort to do her job. That officer would be quickly mobbed by dozens of people. Orders had come down from on high not to use force unless you had absolutely no other recourse, including simply walking away. Why were those orders given? Think about it. Imagine the havoc eight thousand people -- and their vehicles --  could wreak against a vastly outmanned group of law enforcement officers. Think of the political blowback. Think of your future career: the odds of you running into an ally of the person you just tasered or god forbid shot are roughly one hundred percent. Is it worth it? Is it really?

My readers are doubtless thinking of the G20 protests in Toronto, and how that city's police force kettled people and didn't even pretend to hesitate to use violence. Or, of course, the long history of police-Indigenous protests where police acted despicably. 

I'm not excusing any of that. I know full well the American police forces were originally formed to hunt escaped slaves and the RCMP was formed to pacify 'the savage Indian'; I also know that for the most part police officers don't even prevent crime, and if you're poor they tend not to follow up afterwards, either. We can go back and forth all day on this and there is a real and serious discussion to be had about police reform -- just don't call it 'defunding'. But that's for the future and we're in the present. Let's please deal with the reality we have.

You can't use force, not because these are white men, but because these white men are backed by shadowy organizations that seem to have political clout. There's also the bloodbath that would very likely ensue: that'll be called your fault. You'll likely have a target on your back for the rest of your career and beyond. In other words, you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't. As a cop, that's your every day, but this is a bit much. 

Still think the police had a chance? What if I told you their every move may have been leaked to the occupiers?

"A few bad apples..." doesn't apply only to the protestors, it seems. 

Adding to the confusion, there is a lot of internal dissent within OPS on how to handle this. Your chief, Peter Sloly (the media felt the surname couldn't be more apt) calls for help, requesting 1800 additional officers, and muses that might not even be enough: the military might have to get involved. He's jeered and mocked because "I've tried nothing and I'm out of ideas". 

He was also...right. He resigned in disgrace, but that didn't make him any less right. 

The Ottawa police service, on its own, 1480 officers. They can be augmented by limited RCMP units. By contrast, the Toronto Police Service has 5500 officers. You have to remember in addition to 8000 people, the convoy had its own retired or former cops, along with (and this is truly frightening) a couple of Joint Task Force 2 counterterrorism experts. Just try setting up nearly 100 checkpoints with that level of staffing. You can scoff all you want: I've talked to police officers who do NOT side with the convoy and all three of them have told me the situation was hopeless if the police were not able to use force. Especially when, as has happened twice now, hundreds of people swamped 911 in an attempt to scatter the police throughout the city. Readers of the ACAB persuasion would do well to put themselves in a police officer's shoes, if they can. 

The perception, inside and outside Ottawa, was that the police had gone rogue. And so Doug Ford, the Premier of our province and a man I deeply dislike, called a state of emergency. He called a state of emergency and then did...nothing. Zilch. Zero. Nada. He even refused FOUR separate attempts to join the Feds once Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act for the first time ever. (His father famously invoked its antecedent, the War Measures Act, during the FLQ crisis in 1970 when a minister and a British diplomat were kidnapped; the minister was murdered). It's very clear to me that the only reason Ford even declared a state of emergency at all was to play hot potato with Trudeau, who is from an opposing political party. Remember when politicians of all stripes stood for the good of the country? Pepperidge Farms remembers. 

Trudeau's invocation of the Emergencies Act gives the government virtually unlimited power for a limited, strictly defined  period of time. Once a national emergency is declared, a motion for confirmation of a declaration of emergency must be tabled in the Senate and House of Commons within seven days after a declaration of emergency is made. That motion was tabled on Thursday with the intent to debate through the weekend; Friday's debate was cancelled because of the long-awaited clampdown on the 'protestors' adjacent to Parliament. Votes will be held on Monday at 8:00 PM  If both chambers adopt the motion, the declared emergency remains in place for its original duration, subject to renewal (also subject to parliamentary scrutiny). Either chamber may end the emergency declaration by voting against it.

In other words, Fox News and its ilk screaming about dictatorships can kiss my left butt cheek. This is a reasoned and reasonable response to the situation, and two thirds of the country agrees with me. 

 Nobody will confirm or deny that the hours-long outage affecting mobile banking for all of Canada's Big Five banks was connected to the Emergencies Act which took effect the day before, but it's a pretty solid theory. We do know that protestors' personal and business bank accounts have been frozen. Crowdfunding platforms were required to register with the Financial Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) and to report any large or suspicious transactions, including in cryptocurrency. 

This is an elegant virtual solution to a practical predicament....but it isn't seen that way to the convoy and its allies, of course. If you donated to the convoy, you may be sued in court: there is a class action lawsuit against the convoy's organizers and participants--currently for $306 million in damages -- adding defendants at a hell of a clip. 

Once the convoy's deep, deep pockets -- again, more than half the funding came from out of country, which I'm sure will be investigated thoroughly -- acquired holes, and once the Emergencies Act permitted the police force around Ottawa to be vastly augmented, the resources were finally in place to evict the squatters and their trucks. 

Under the Emergencies Act, the government can compel tow truck companies to act on its behalf. The resistance to that has been fierce, and if you read that article and put yourself in a tower's mind, you can perhaps understand why. "Career suicide" is the LEAST of your concerns. 


I fully expected someone or someones to be killed. 

That only one person, as of this writing, has been seriously injured (contrary to the admitted fake news tweet of a Fox"News" contributor) is a remarkable testament to the professionalism of police at their best. Seriously, this needs to be pointed out. Regrettably, anti-police elements will only view it as more white privilege -- damned if you do, damned if you don't -- but consider: the goal isn't for police to use disproportionate force against everyone, it's for police not to use disproportionate force at all. 

I would have excused a tad more rough stuff, myself. But the police used nothing more lethal than pepper spray, and that only when protestors attempted to disarm them. 

Let's hold them to that standard in future. 


The immediate emergency seems to be over. With apologies to James Howard Kunstler, the "Long Emergency" has just begun. We have a lot to grapple with in this country.

1) Per Angus Reid, 57% of Conservative voters in Canada support the convoy's demands and 47% support their actions. Big, BIG caveat I only spotted because Eva used to be director of West Coast operations for a market research firm: the questions in this poll begin with "Given what you know about the protestors..." This is problematic because in this fractured reality we no longer seem to share, "what you know" can be very different from "what is true". Angus Reid is a respected polling agency: they fucked up here. 

Regardless, the level of support among Conservatives can be EASILY exploited when that party regains power. 

2) Related: The people in the background of this this movement are a toxic mix of accelerationistswhite supremacists and others dedicated to the destabilization of Western democracy. We must be concerned with them as well as with the thousands of people they duped.

Perrin Beaty, who drafted the Emergencies Act 34 years ago, says: "The issues facing Canadian politics are not simply going to vanish when the trucks leave Ottawa. How do we ensure this never happens again?"

How, indeed?

Do we have any credible alternative to invoking the Emergencies Act every other month -- or every other weekend?  I have some thoughts. 

The first thing I would do is pass a law--details to be decided--making it a serious offence to bring a vehicle to a protest. I don't think this would violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms: people have the right to freedom of assembly, not vehicles; people have the right to freedom of movement, but walking is movement. 

Protests require permits -- the most trivial of the laws the convoy broke -- and I would slap a curfew condition on those permits. Or, if that seems like too much overreach, enforce existing noise bylaws to the letter of the law. 

3) Foreign funding. This is a thorny, thorny issue I have no easy answer to. But something has to be done to curtail the effects of millions of dollars in dark money flooding into the country. 

4) Everyone and his horse will be crying out for police reform. We will need to have a long and substantive, REASONABLE discussion here about what went wrong. We also need to screen police officers just a wee bit better, in my opinion. I've explained above why I largely forgive police inaction in Ottawa. I do not and can not forgive complicity. 

There are other issues, some of which have yet to reveal themselves. One thing you'll notice is that I have NOT listed anything to do with covid-19 as an issue. That's because our actions with regard to the pandemic should be decided by those most affected by it: health care workers. Most of our restrictions are going away very shortly. Time will tell if that was a catastrophic error or not. But we must not allow the convoy to think it won.

I hope I have given you a perspective you haven't considered. Fellow Canadians, I will again repeat what is becoming a kind of mantra for me in the year 2022. We must stand together or we will fall apart. 

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