We need protections from the ‘freedom convoy’ in Ottawa that don’t involve the police

Image by: Uwineza Mugabe

Canada is failing when it comes to protecting citizens and holding perpetrators accountable without police involvement. The continuing violence and hatred from those participating in the “freedom convoy” protests outside Parliament Hill is a prime example of our country’s glaring shortcomings.

Beginning Jan. 28, downtown Ottawa has been the site of a surge of approximately 10,000 protesters calling for the cancellation of mask and vaccination mandates. Organizers of the movement include those with a history of white nationalism, racism, and Islamophobia.

Protesters have allegedly harassed citizens, taken food from the unhoused, and caused major disruptions on the city streets.

Although attending peaceful protests are a citizen’s legal right, waving Nazi and confederate flags aren’t the actions of a peaceful demonstration—they’re openly hateful and violent. A person can hold personal beliefs about vaccine mandates, but participating in a protest alongside white supremacists should be a clear indicator that you’re doing something wrong.

The actions of protesters instilling fear in the citizens of Ottawa are condemnable and unproductive. Ottawa law enforcement haven’t responded to the protesters with violence, which is a positive step—but there should still be actionable protection in place for innocent citizens who are impacted.

Since police are currently dealing with a largely white crowd, however, their lack of intervention should be taken with a grain of salt. Policing is, after all, a colonial and white supremacist institution.

There’s a significant disparity between how the police are treating the current protesters compared to those attending demonstrations in recent years across North America, including those for the Black Lives Matter movement and Indigenous issues.

Of course, the solution to the Trucker Convoy shouldn’t be a call for police retaliation. Instead, a framework not centred on policing should exist to protect vulnerable individuals affected by the harm this protest poses. It’s frustrating this framework doesn’t exist.

But the police aren’t the only ones to blame.

The root of this issue is our white-centered society that empowers white supremacists, who then feel entitled to disruptive, hate-fuelled behaviour because they won’t be held accountable.

Media outlets showing pictures of smiling attendees from the protest are sending the wrong message. Celebrating the event ignores the harm suffered by Ottawa citizens and the hate behind some protesters’ actions.

Now isn’t the time for MPs from the Conservative Party to use the convoy to send encouraging messages to protesters on Twitter. The government has a collective responsibility to challenge white supremacy—members of all political parties should be working towards the best and safest way to control vitriol over much-need vaccination mandates rather than placating this large-scale tantrum founded and funded by hate.

In the meantime, the citizens of Ottawa are to support each other through structured mutual aid—an incredibly meaningful form of activism. But it’s a shame this solution isn’t coming from the government.

When it comes to the convoy and movements like it, policing and violence aren’t the solution. It’s time to focus on mitigating the consequences now and planning for a better, safer future.

Journal Editorial Board


Freedom Convoy, Ottawa, police, protests

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

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