Rivers on the Convoy: Let Them Truckers Roll - A Postscript

By Pepper Parr

February 18th, 2023




The report of the Commission of Inquiry into last year’s imposition of Canada’s Emergencies Act was tabled this past Thursday. As most people expected Justin Trudeau was vindicated for invoking the legislation. His government had met the high bar required to trigger the Act.

Demonstrators faced off with police every chance they had – and they had weeks of going toe to toe with police.

Moreover as the Commissioner noted…”I determined that the measures taken by the federal government were, for the most part, appropriate and effective, and contributed to bringing a return to order without loss of life or serious injury to people or property.”

Most Canadians supported the government action so they will be relieved that this chapter is now all over and relegated to history. That is except for the 122 people who had a total of 393 charges laid against them for assault and other criminal offences. And then there are those stuck with the clean-up bill. Still, most of the occupiers escaped without so much as a parking ticket. Most of them who had been blocking traffic and jeopardizing public safety with their illegal gas cans and barbecues, just went home.

The Conservative ‘PM in-waiting’, Pierre Poilievre blamed the occupation in Ottawa on Justin Trudeau. He claimed that Trudeau had inflamed the occupiers by referring to them as a ‘fringe’ group. Trudeau sort of apologized for his undiplomatic use of language, though this was indeed a fringe group. If anything it was Poilievre himself who kept the flames of occupation burning by encouraging the occupiers, taking selfies and defending the occupation.

This was never a peaceful protest, unless blocking streets, terrorizing neighbourhoods, polluting the air with diesel exhaust, blaring their horns, and urinating on people’s lawns and war monuments could be considered peaceful. It was an unruly mob hoping to overthrow a sitting government. It was an insurrection in the making, which failed from lack of leadership and purpose, despite the assistance of some skilled ex-military and police sympathizers.

This was never about vaccine mandates for truckers at border crossings. Even if Canada had dropped its mandate the truckers would have faced the same requirement by the Americans. This was an angry mob taking out their personal frustration with two years of COVID, and for some their unfulfilled dreams of more oil pipelines, on the federal government.

It was the kind of vendetta one might expect of spoilt children being denied their regular playtime. Though they lacked a unified leadership, several occupiers presented themselves as spokespeople. And while the leadership may have included some hard core right-wingers, there were, no doubt, others just along for the ride and the excitement of it all.

Trucks came from across the country – cheered at highway over passes as the headed to the Capitol.

It is unlikely that any of these folks supported the Liberals, judging from the number of elegant ‘Fuck Trudeau’ signs stuck on the side of so many trucks. Clearly these occupiers supported the other team, the other tribe. And their love was reciprocated when Tory House leader Candice Bergen advocated against asking them to leave. Make no mistake, this was a partisan mob with a partisan mission.

The Emergencies Act might not have had to be used, the Inquiry concluded, had Ontario’s Premier done his job. While the truckers were building their barricades opposite the nation’s parliament building, Doug Ford was off snowmobiling somewhere hundreds of kilometres away. It was as if he was in denial, refusing to attend the meetings in Ottawa and even later refusing to testify at the Inquiry.

In Ontario, municipalities are children of the province, Ford had no problem arbitrarily overriding his municipalities whenever he wanted to. He trashed and slashed the size of Toronto’s elected council only days before an election. He barred municipalities from using ranked balloting; banned them adding development charges to new development, and so on.

But when it came to the security of the people of Ottawa, his government hardly raised a finger, leaving the dysfunctional Ottawa police service to fail all on their own, and leaving the job of restoring civil order to the federal government. The Emergencies Act should never have had to be invoked but for inaction by the province.

Was Ford just being partisan, under pressure from his federal party cousins to let the occupation run its course? According to interim Tory leader Bergen that would put the issue on the PM’s plate – and possibly embarrass him as an impotent figure head if he did nothing. Ford did, to his credit, eventually come out to support the federal government and the Emergencies Act. But the question is why, after he had declared a provincial emergency, he didn’t use his powers to get the OPP tactical squad to end the blockade and occupation?

The traffic in the core of downtown Ottawa was frozen – nothing moved and people felt at risk.

This occupation in Ottawa had clearly been inspired by the insurrection in Washington only a few months earlier. And it had been partially funded by some of the same folks involved in that mischief. While the Ottawa mob didn’t actually get into the Parliament buildings, they had come with a manifesto to overthrow the government and set up one under their control.

The parallels to what happened south of the border are too obvious to ignore. It’s a sad comment on our democracy when groups of people who can’t win at the ballot box choose instead the path of violence and terrorism. Partisan politics should never get in the way of overriding respect for our democratic values.

This occupation may have eventually concluded on its own and everyone gone home with just their mess left behind them. Or it may have ended up much worse with scenes like we saw at the US Capitol. We should all take a moment to consider how close we really came.

Ray Rivers, a Gazette Contributing Editor, writes regularly applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers


Background links:

Emergency Act Inquiry

Gazette Article on Ottawa Occupation

Candice Bergen Against Asking Occupiers to Leave

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12 comments to Rivers on the Convoy: Let Them Truckers Roll – A Postscript

  • Susan L

    I was told the Freedom Convoy was a Federal Not-For-Profit Corporation.
    Corporation #1372685-1, BN750745002RC0001.
    If that’s true, people who donated to the cause should not have had their bank accounts seized.

  • Michael Hribljan

    Rouleau reserved criticism for the media’s coverage of the Freedom Convoy protests, claiming journalists succumbed to temptations to pile on and amplify certain aspects of the protest and its participants — at the cost of balance and fairness – just what this article continues to do!

    “I am also satisfied that there was misinformation about the Freedom Convoy, which was used as a basis to unfairly discredit all protesters.,” he wrote.

    This is right out of the report Ray, and you our clearly biased and continue to propagate a biased view with misinformation.

    For example your comment regarding Ford is completely incorrect and fabricated. Rouleau was critical of Ford for his lack of involvement, but there was no mention of “The Emergencies Act might not have had to be used, the Inquiry concluded, had Ontario’s Premier done his job” – What? That is pure hyperbolae and a Judge would never say such a thing in a report, and the same could have been said about many of the actors in the government debacle, namely the PM!

    Rouleau did accuse the prime minister — along with other political leaders and the press — of not acknowledging that most protestors were exercising “fundamental democratic rights” enjoyed by all Canadians.

    “The Freedom Convoy garnered support from many frustrated Canadians who simply wished to protest what they perceived as government overreach,” Rouleau wrote. Again Ray, you have fabricated the motives, contrary to what was written by Judge Rouleau.

    I guess we’ll see your opinion piece next week on Trudy lying to the Canadian public in Parliament regarding Beijing interference in the 2021 election to the benefit of Liberal MP’s, a story broke wide open by the Globe and Mail? Maybe the $7,000 hotel room? Or, $1500/hr consultants. Lots of interesting content.

  • Joe Gaetan

    Nice try Ray, if nothing else you are predictable and consistent. The report also speaks to this could have been avoided with better leadership. Although Rouleau said they met the threshold, he unlike you had doubts and a reluctance to arrive at a conclusion. Rouleau admitted some things were not handled well, i.e. freezing bank accounts.
    It should be difficult for any government to declare a national emergency, to suspend civil liberties, to grant itself sweeping powers as the E.A now permits. This matter should now go the Supreme Court as it is now easier for any government to invoke the E.A.
    The occupation WAS minutes, if not hours, but not weeks away from concluding on its own.

  • Alide Camilleri

    Ray, well said.

  • Carol Victor

    Bravo Mr.Rivers…had the decision gone the other way..the ‘kangaroo court ” would have been highly extolled….
    Most people see this as clearly as an “extreme right” disgrace…I would venture that even reasonable Conservatves would never subscribe to this kind of behaviour on Canadian soil.

    • Bob

      Why is protesting government action always an “extreme right” disgrace? The only violence that transpired a year ago in February was a bunch of left leaning people with axes that overtook the base camp of the Coastal Gaslink in BC
      Where is the howling from the left? Where was our Liberal government and where are they now in regards to stopping this insurrection?
      I hear nothing but crickets

      I agree that reasonable conservatives would not subscribe to this behaviour. It is only Liberals who remain silent about it.

      • David

        I’m far from being a reasonable Conservative, but I did check my tattoo status and checked my closets for nazi flags and angled the mirror to see if my neck was red.
        No all good.
        Maybe you should ask some ‘blue collar’ workers what their mood is regarding Trudeau. P.s.They don’t bite.

  • Philip Waggett

    Ray as usual is very selective in his use of Rouleau’s judgement. Ray seems to have left out:

    “I have concluded that in this case, the very high threshold for invocation was met. I have done so with reluctance,” Rouleau wrote in his report. “The state should generally be able to respond to circumstances of urgency without the use of emergency powers.”

    “I do not come to this conclusion easily, as I do not consider the factual basis for it to be overwhelming and I acknowledge that there is significant strength to the arguments against reaching it.”

    Those quotes hardly point to a ringing endorsement of Trudeau’s draconian actions.

    Further, Ray failed to note that this inquiry was tainted from the get-go. Rather than having an impartial judge preside over the inquiry, Trudeau chose a judge with deep connections to the Liberal Party. And the inquiry was hardly transparent–the frequent use of redactions and the use of parliamentary privilege to hide significant critical details was a vintage Liberal strategy, one which they had employed previously in the Lavalin and WE Scandals to hide their malfeasance.

  • Charles Zach

    This was a kangaroo court plain and simple. Public respect for the rule of law just took another hit. This doesn’t end well.

  • Hans Jacobs

    Well done. Thank you Ray.

  • Ted Gamble

    A quick review of Mr River’s rant indicates it’s not worth your time to read it. I recommend the Gazette consider publishing balanced opinion pieces.