I count myself among the overwhelming majority of Canadians opposed to the recent anti-government protests against the mandates and restrictions due to the pandemic. The protesters (for the life of me I can't figure out what they are actually protesting) have been using the word 'freedom' willy-nilly and I can't help but scratch my head at their methods and motives. Here are a few things that are driving me a little batty.
First, the protesters stole our flag. I really don't like feeling sickened by the sight of OUR FLAG being displayed in a truck, car or house window in support of a cause that over 70% of Canadians strongly disagree with. Most of us support the mandates (albeit we are tired and frustrated with them). Most of us are vaccinated. I just wish the so-called protesters would leave the Canadian flag out of it. The flag is a symbol of unity. The flag is a banner for our ideals. The flag is an emblem that proclaims Canada as a just and noble nation. Let all Canadians share this symbol for the values it represents—don't hijack it for a cause that is not only fallacious, but is also slowly disappearing. The mandates are lifting. All that has ever been required over the course of the pandemic is patience. Clearly the protesters ran out of patience and this has caused far too much civil unrest.
Second, let's talk about FREEDOM. All Canadians have sacrificed their freedom in the interests of public health in order to thwart the spread of COVID-19. Yep, sometimes you have to take a step back and give something up so that the collective—our society—can advance. While protesters were hopping in their trucks and cars and advancing on Ottawa to fight for their 'freedom', the vast majority of Canadians were enjoying the health benefits of getting the vaccine (national vaccination rate: 86% with one dose; 81% with two doses). These Canadians were also, by and large, honouring the mandates—a tangible action that has actually restored our collective FREEDOM. The efforts made by vaccinated Canadians has worked. The mandates are being lifted and society is on the road to a semblance of normalcy. Freedom is returning because over 80% of the population got the jab, not because of the misguided efforts of protesters!
Third, there is such a thing as the common good. The protesters have been accused of sedition (inciting rebellion against the government) and anarchy (creating disorder to undermine those in power). To some degree this is true, and that is why Trudeau and company opted to impose the Emergency Powers Act. Regardless of how you feel about this choice (I personally think existing laws could have been used to bring the situation under control), protesting with the sole purpose of removing a government from power is dangerous. There were points to be made by protesters (when did the the vaccination rate move from 80% being a huge public health win to 100% of Canadians having to be vaccinated?), but the minute they called for the head of Trudeau and his removal from office, they lost their credibility. This opened the door to accusations of sedition and anarchy. They were staging a coup. Instead, if they at least tried to make an argument for the common good, and showed how their position fits into this ideal, they might have won some respect. The fact of the matter is this: if things keep going the way they're going, the mandates will be gone by the summer. The roughly 20% of unvaccinated Canadians will be coexisting with the 80% who have been vaccinated. We'll be sitting beside each other at restaurants, in bars, and on public transit. The same people who were never going to get the jab are going to share the same space with the people who got the jab. If they'd just been a little more patient, the protesters would have saved themselves from the embarrassment of being false champions of freedom and enemies of the welfare of their fellow citizens (ie. the common good).
Fourth (don't worry, I know I am preaching to the choir here and those opposed to this post have already clicked away), didn't the so-called 'freedom' protests of the winter of 2022 look like White Canada's Last Stand? In the news coverage I watched, I didn't see one person of colour among the protesters. This is not to say that people of colour were not upset by the mandates and restrictions because the data suggests that people of colour were disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and suffered the most economically because of the government restrictions. Instead, what we saw in the protests was a large contingent of very angry white folks spouting vitriol at anyone who dared stand in their way. This is very un-Canadian. It is not patriotic. While white Canadians have clung to power for decades (centuries?), immigration has kept our economy humming. Most immigrants coming to this nation over the past half century have been people of colour. The protesters should show a little respect for the sacrifices these brave Canadians have made and rein in their anger.
Finally, I don't appreciate the Canadian flag being coopted for the protesters ill-conceived purposes. I am sorry, but they need to give us back our flag. Please.
(The 'sorry' and the 'please' are brought to you by the people of Canada—we've been apologizing and pleading since 1867).
Sean Patrick Dolan's Blog
Sean Patrick Dolan is the author of the thriller, My Father's Secret, inspired by the Air India Bombing.