What the Canadian Truckers Want

What the Canadian Truckers Want. By Rupa Subramanya.

They are a city inside a city whose inhabitants — there are an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 — were outraged with a country that seemed to have forgotten they existed. This past Sunday, as if to confirm that suspicion, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has yet to meet with Freedom Convoy leaders, took a personal day. On Monday, during an emergency debate at the House of Commons, he called them “a few people shouting and waving swastikas.”

I live in downtown Ottawa, within view of Parliament Hill, and have spent the past 10 days or so bundled up and walking around the protests. I have spoken to close to 100 protesters, truckers and other folks, and not one of them sounded like an insurrectionist, white supremacist, racist or misogynist.

They sound like Ivan, 46, who emigrated, with his wife, Tatiana, from Ukraine to build a new life in New Brunswick, in eastern Canada. “We came to Canada to be free — not slaves,” he said. “We lived under communism, and, in Canada, we’re now fighting for our freedom.” (Like so many truckers, Ivan refused to share his last name.)

B.J. Dichter, a spokesman for the Freedom Convoy, is vaccinated, and he estimates that many — maybe most — of the truckers at the protest are, too. “I’m Jewish. I have family in mass graves in Europe. And apparently I’m a white supremacist,” he told me on Wednesday.

Ostensibly, the truckers are against a new rule mandating that, when they re-enter Canada from the United States, they have to be vaccinated. But that’s not really it. The mandate is a moot point: The Americans have a similar requirement, and, anyway, “the vast majority” of Canadian truckers, according to the Canadian Trucking Alliance, are vaccinated. (The CTA represents about 4,500 truckers nationwide.)

So it’s about something else. Or many things: a sense that things will never go back to normal, a sense that they are being ganged up on by the government, the media, Big Tech, Big Pharma.

One thing was indisputable: There was this electricity coursing through the streets, and it felt like it could get out of control. …

It is hard to capture how thoroughly Trudeau has misjudged the moment. “This pandemic has sucked for all Canadians,” he said Monday. As for the protest? “It has to stop,” declared the prime minister.

If he sauntered down to the mess of rigs on Wellington Street, across from the Parliament building, opposite the mall and the war memorial, if he talked to these people for a few minutes, he would understand: It will not stop.

What’s happening in Canada right now is bigger than the mandates.

The convoy is spearheaded by truckers, but its message of opposition to life under government control has brought onto the icy streets countless, once-voiceless people declaring that they are done being ignored. That the elites — the people who have Zoomed their way through the pandemic — had better start paying attention to the fentanyl overdoses, the suicides, the crime, the despair. Or else. …

Individual stories:

If you pointed out to people like Peter — and I did — that almost every doctor in the country had been vaccinated, it didn’t matter. There was bodily autonomy. And privacy. And religious exemptions. And anyway, how could you know what the doctors were thinking? You couldn’t trust the press or politicians, he said, recalling that in the fall of 2020, then vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris expressed skepticism of any vaccine approved under President Donald Trump. Now, they were being ordered to get this vaccine developed . . . under President Donald Trump. “If you’re not vaccinated,” Peter said, “they treat you like garbage lying on the streets.” …

Mackenzie, 24, from Ottawa, works as a bartender at a popular downtown restaurant near Parliament. She had Covid, got better, and believes it’s her choice not to get the vaccine. She isn’t an anti-vaxxer. She’s been vaccinated for other things. … It was ironic, she said that she could serve but couldn’t dine at the restaurant where she worked. She’d lost a close friend over her vaccination status. When I asked her why she wouldn’t tell me her last name, she said she didn’t want to upset her parents. “Not many people know this side of me,” she said. …

Chris, a 40-year-old trucker from Toronto, said that he’d gotten vaccinated so he could keep his job, but that his participation in the protest had torn his family apart. “My father has spat in my face and disowned me as his son. Told me I’m not worth the family name because I will not vaccinate my children,” he said. “My mom and I have battled back and forth.” …


The biggest human rights protest in the West in a generation:

Unlike the United States, Canada had never seen mass protests and civil disobedience on this scale. And it is not dying down. ..

The protesters feel the mood shifting. On Tuesday, the premier of Saskatchewan, Scott Moe, announced the end of his province’s proof-of-vaccination policy. “It is time for us also to heal the divisions in our communities over vaccination,” he said. …

There was a new consciousness, too, a feeling among the truckers that they weren’t as alone as they’d thought. Blake, a contractor who had driven in his pickup to Ottawa from his home in Toronto, called the protest a “diesel-fueled hippie commune.” …

“Seeing the country fall apart like this is heartbreaking,” Sim said. “For me, this is the line in the sand. If we lose this battle, I’d like to move out of Canada.” He said that he was thinking of maybe heading to Florida. A lot of the truckers were thinking about the States. But not yet. “I feel that I owe it to me and others that share my values to, at least, fight for this.”

The great realignment continues. The ruling class have coalesced politically, with the establishment right joining the bureaucratic left. They are all college-educated  (but not too bright, you understand), and they love well paid government jobs and government money, and being aligned to the dominant political ideology so they can name-call anyone else and dismiss them without having to actually engage with what they are saying — without having to actually think.

But they left behind most of society. We can’t all be overpaid non-productive consumers of government money.