I live in Cornwall, Ontario and as such, I was not directly affected by the seditious occupation of Ottawa that was mislabelled as a “protest”.
I have followed many protests and disinformation campaigns that began when Covid appeared in Canada and locally in Eastern Ontario. So damaging were the disinformation campaigns and local protests that the area covered by the Eastern Ontario Health Unit had the dubious distinction of having the highest and near highest Covid infection rates in all of Ontario at different times in the past 3 years.
The local “anti-tyranny / anti-oppression”, “protect my rights” and “anti-vax” crusades fed into the trucker convoy rebellion with the help of proponents like MPP Randy Hillier, Maxime Bernier and “Pastor” Henry Hildebrandt and local protesters.
This commission needs to consider the damages not only to Ottawa and border crossings but also the considerable damage to the health of real freedom in Canada and the safety of Canadians.
My biggest issues surrounding the deployment of the Emergencies Act are as follows:
- A variety of basic laws (parking, overnight parking, loitering, public mischief etc) were broken by the occupiers and blockaders. These laws should have been sufficient (from a legal standpoint) to disband the occupation. Instead, all manner of lawbreaking was tolerated for this group that has not been tolerated in the past for other protesting groups and would certainly not be tolerated for an individual.
- The apparent lack of ability or will to clear the truckers by the Ottawa Police and other law enforcement was and is very concerning. It resulted in this “protest” going on for weeks instead of hours.
- It took 3 weeks for this Act to be used.
I believe that this occupation and other Covid-related protests are part of a bigger picture meant to unseat the present government and demolish the principles we currently accept as democracy and our “way of life”.
I am worried about the proliferation of extremist, hate and terrorist groups that were involved in these “protests” that in turn have spawned other groups of the same ilk. While they may seem relatively “harmless” and “stupid” they are persistent, intimidating and used to spread messages of division.
I am worried that groups like this (with the help of military and law enforcement sympathizers?) can coordinate attacks on essential services like the flooding of 911 on February 10, 2022. This resulted in police being unable to help citizens in trouble, ambulances were not called etc. While it did not break down totally or for long, it was an example of just how impacted a city’s emergency system could be by a relatively small group of people.
I am very concerned about international and homegrown disinformation/propaganda campaigns that now regularly assault Canadians and stoke hatred within our country. While we bend over backwards to ensure the rights of everyone are protected, we lack the common sense to limit that which is against the law, dangerous and leads to social breakdown.
If there are laws to muzzle these groups or shut them down, they should be used. The longer they are allowed to operate publicly with the appearance of public sanction or tolerance, the more damage they do. Their enduring presence proves to others that this kind of power can be taken with few hurdles.
My suggestions for the future include:
- Enforce existing laws quickly.
- Define sedition and what is and what is not a protest.
- We have laws against sedition in Canada. Use them.
- Disinformation is dangerous. Define the difference between “opinion” and deliberate disinformation. Consider policies that will challenge and punish deliberate disinformation.
- Protests should be on foot or driving by in convoy. Convoys should not go through cities. Do not allow vehicles to be used to block movement.
- Have a plan in place for blockades that includes immediate towing.
- Pay attention to protesters/terrorists who plan to invade. Inform them of the laws and don’t wait for them to install themselves.
- Clarify agreements with towing companies. They should not dictate who they will and will not tow if they have contracts with the government.
- Reinforce what is expected from different layers of law enforcement. They exist to enforce the law, not to interpret it depending on individuals’ sympathies.
- Investigate crowdsourcing and other income streams for these groups. If you do not monitor and stop the flow of their cash, you allow terrorist movements to proliferate. Groups like Go Fund Me and Give Send Go etc should not be underwriting sedition.
- Investigate individuals and groups who seek political and economic leverage through protest and disinformation campaigns (including anti-vaccination).
- When this commission is finished its research, have a transparent and public airing of why this protest was allowed to develop into an occupation that paralyzed the city of Ottawa that was allowed to flow out to other major Canadian cities and why the various policing and law enforcement agencies were unable to or unwilling to do the jobs to restore peace.
- Define and punish “threatening” and “menacing” behaviour. Too much dangerous behaviour has been ignored recently. To wit – the recent harassment of DPM Freeland by a man twice her size swearing at her and trying to follow her into an elevator is totally unacceptable.
- Dissent in politics is normal. But when the “dissent” makes a dangerous situation more so, all political parties must find a way to put the public good over their own personal and party interests. We have laws against seditious libel for example that might be applied.
- Challenge lies, libel and disinformation. These are society’s weeds. If you allow them to take root, they will grow.