The Freedom Convoy & the Collapse of Canadian Liberalism

At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is “not done” to say it, just as in mid-Victorian times it was “not done” to mention trousers in the presence of a lady. Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in highbrow periodicals.
George Orwell, “Freedom of the Press”

Recently, a friend told me she’d taken part in a webinar conducted by the Council of Canadians. The webinar included First Nations people speaking about RCMP mistreatment of indigenous peoples on reserve. It was contrasted with the peaceful disbursement of freedom convoy protesters in Ottawa on February 18th.

The webinar narrative was partially true, likely informed by mainstream news reports. RCMP policing among First Nations people needs to be repaired. But, the Trucker Freedom Convoy in Ottawa wasn’t broken up peacefully. Just ask Candice “Candy” Sero.

Sero is a full-blood Mohawk woman from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory in Hastings County, Ontario. On February 18, I watched live footage online of mounted police officers charging through the freedom protester crowd and trampling Candy Sero as she stood with her wheeled walker. She fell to the ground. A horse stepped on her shoulder.

A man in the crowd started yelling with growing desperation, “Oh my gosh. Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. Look what you did. Look what you did to her. Look what you did to her. Look what you did to her. You trampled on the lady… Shame on you. Shame on everyone of you. Shame on you…”

Candy Sero survived the trampling. But she suffered a broken clavicle.

However, what I saw unfolding live in downtown Ottawa wasn’t part of the new orthodoxy. The live footage I saw wasn’t part of what right-thinking people would be shown, would accept. The people hosting the webinar could be forgiven.

But why did I have to depend on independent reporters and footage from protesters cell phones to reveal an ugly side to policing in Ottawa on February 18? Why weren’t the CBC or CTV covering these stories?

Why was I increasingly feeling set adrift from my NDP and Liberal political leaders?

My vote for Joe Clark in 1979 was the exception to my mostly voting NDP since 1980. My paternal grandfather voted for the United Farmer’s of Alberta party from 1921 until it collapsed in 1935, the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation until 1961, and its successor – the New Democratic Party – until he died. NDP leader Tommy Douglas was a hero in my family. And so I supported causes like funding for the CBC, and giving donations at times to the Friends of the CBC.

Over the decades, I’ve been on the ‘left’ on a host of political debates: against NAFTA, keeping Canada out of the Iraq War, and more. I enthusiastically supported Jack Layton, NDP leader from 2003 to 2011, and was acquainted with him when I campaigned for him as a city counsellor when I’d lived in Toronto.

ALL GOVERNMENTS REQUIRE SCRUTINY

Still, I knew Liberal or NDP governments were fallible. Jody Wilson-Raybould was a star Kwakʼwala indigenous Liberal candidate Vancouver riding next to mine in the 2015 federal election. She was given the dual portfolio of Minister of Justice and Attorney-General by prime minister Justin Trudeau. But in 2019, she was expelled from the Liberal caucus over the SNC-Lavalin affair.

Canada’s Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion later found that Trudeau improperly pressured Wilson-Raybould to intervene in an ongoing criminal bribery case. Trudeau’s impropriety concerned the Quebec-based construction company SNC-Lavalin and pressuring Wilson-Raybould to offer the company a deferred prosecution agreement.

In read her memoir, Indian in the Cabinet, Jody Wilson-Raybould described a one-on-one meeting with Justin Trudeau at the Fairmont-Pacific Rim Hotel in Vancouver on February 11, 2019. It took place while the SNC-Lavalin affair dominated the headlines. These lines from her memoir haunted me:

He asked if I trusted him. I could see the agitation visibly building in the prime minister. His mood was shifting. I remember seeing it. I remember feeling it. I had seen and felt this before on a few occasions, when he would get frustrated and angry. But this was different. He became strident and disputed everything I had said. He made it clear that everyone in his office was telling the truth and that I…and others, were not. He told me I had not experienced what I said I did. He used the line that would later become public, that I had “experienced things differently.” I knew what he was really asking. What he was saying. In that moment I knew he wanted me to lie – to attest that what had occurred had not occurred.

By the time the pandemic began in March 2020, I had brought my manuscript Unanswered Questions: What the September Eleventh Families Asked and the 9/11 Commission Ignored to a boutique publisher.

Early on, I heard from some friends who were beginning to question the official narrative about the pandemic. But most of my friends accepted mainstream news stories. I was shocked by accounts of people being put on ventilators. And boggled by the daily case counts, death counts. But, mostly I kept my own council.

Over the next 18 months I worked with editorial staff on editing, copyediting, proof reading, graphic design, and marketing for my book, working with a publicist. The lockdowns, semi-lockdowns and occasional modest restrictions were inconvenient. But, I had my home. I had my computer. In Vancouver, I could order take-out from restaurants. I was rolling with things. Not altogether comfortably. But, I was comfortable enough. I had a deadline to get my book to publication on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

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