Tiny sliver of society becomes convoy spike strip

There is a particularly perverse form of irony surrounding the so-called “freedom convoy” that has taken up residency in the nation’s capital.

Read this article for free:

or

Already have an account? Log in here »

To continue reading, please subscribe with this special offer:

All-Access Digital Subscription

$1.50 for 150 days*

  • Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
  • Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
  • Access News Break, our award-winning app
  • Play interactive puzzles
Continue

*Pay $1.50 for the first 22 weeks of your subscription. After 22 weeks, price increases to the regular rate of $19.00 per month. GST will be added to each payment. Subscription can be cancelled after the first 22 weeks.

Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/01/2022 (311 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

There is a particularly perverse form of irony surrounding the so-called “freedom convoy” that has taken up residency in the nation’s capital.

Started by long-haul truckers in Western Canada to protest vaccine requirements for cross-border travel, the convoy that finally arrived in Ottawa last week has mutated — not unlike the novel coronavirus at the root of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s no longer about supply chains, empty grocery store shelves or civil rights. The convoy has become a lightning rod for a broad collection of grievances, not all of them just.

Hundreds of trucks drove around the Perimeter on Saturday. (Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files)

As is the case with the “yellow vest” protests of 2018-19, and the anti-vaccine movement in general, the Venn diagram of this convoy has drawn in racists, homophobes and authors of irrational conspiracies.

What unites them, however, is the feeling they are somehow out of step with the majority of society, and the desire to seek catharsis through angry, occasionally violent protest.

In short, they are angry as hell, about a wide variety of reasons, and they’re not going to take it — whatever it is — anymore.

However, break down what they really want and the irony begins to bubble to the surface.

Foremost, it’s pretty hilarious to hear a group of people involved in an act of pointed civil disobedience that has paralyzed the centre of the nation’s capital complain about a lack of constitutional freedom.

Convoy supporters have slowly transformed downtown Ottawa into something like the aftermath of a rowdy outdoor music festival. Through it all — destruction of property, defacement of monuments, blocking of streets and sidewalks, various scatological incidents in public spaces — local and national officials have been utterly respectful and deferential.

Convoy supporters have slowly transformed downtown Ottawa into something like the aftermath of a rowdy outdoor music festival.

Police elected not to tow vehicles off of the streets they are blocking to avoid conflicts. Businesses closed rather than risk confrontations with aggressive protesters. And — despite the fact laws are being broken — there was yet to be a single arrest over the weekend.

No matter what happens from this point on, it’s pretty clear the protesters’ constitutional freedom of assembly has been protected.

However, the larger, more pressing and more significant irony is connected to the freedoms we all lost during the COVID-19 pandemic, and why we’re continuing to suffer social and economic restrictions.

The pandemic is one of the greatest infringements on individual rights in the country’s history. All are legally and morally justifiable, but they are infringements nonetheless.

Many of them persist largely because of the threat posed to, and by, the unvaccinated.

Even though fully vaccinated people can do more than the unvaccinated, we all still living with capacity limits, activity restrictions and mask mandates. (Patrick T. Fallon /AFP via Getty Images files)

Opinion polls show support for social and economic restrictions is waning, but not necessarily because people doubt their need or effectiveness. Rather, most are frustrated we must endure restrictions largely in place because just enough Canadians refuse to be vaccinated.

Think about that for a moment: if every Canadian were vaccinated, we could theoretically eliminate most of the current restrictions.

Although vaccines were never designed to prevent contracting the virus that causes COVID-19, they ensure you suffer much milder symptoms if you do.

However, when tens of thousands of people refuse to get vaccinated, the COVID-19 threat is both amplified and sustained.

However, when tens of thousands of people refuse to get vaccinated, the COVID-19 threat is both amplified and sustained.

Although convoy participants and their supporters are desperately trying to muddy the waters with extraneous debates about mythical civil liberties and phantom threats to democracy, there is only one truth: the pandemic continues to require restrictions because it continues to pose a significant threat to public health.

Fully vaccinated Canadians fully expected, by now, they would be able to go where they want and do what they want, with no more restrictions than those that existed pre-pandemic. Instead, even though fully vaccinated people can do more than the unvaccinated, we are all still living with capacity limits, activity restrictions and mask mandates.

These freedoms to avoid restrictions were supposed to be the dividend for getting the jab (now times three). Instead, the freedom of a few to refuse the vaccine is eroding the freedom of the gross majority to resume a normal life.

Underlying all of the arguments made by anti-vaxxers — or the vaccine-hesitant, if you prefer — is the idea they cannot legally or morally be compelled to do something they think is unnecessary or that could pose a risk to their health.

No matter what happens from this point on, it’s pretty clear the protesters’ constitutional freedom of assembly has been protected. (David Lipnowski / The Canadian Press files)

No one in this country, or in any democracy, has ever been allowed the unfettered right to do whatever they wanted, wherever and whenever they wanted, if it poses a risk to someone else. Responsible limits on individual rights and freedoms are just as important as the rights and freedoms themselves.

There is no great, silent majority at work here.

The convoy participants and their supporters claim they are fighting for freedom. In reality, they are but a tiny sliver of society desperately clinging to a freedom that does not exist.

dan.lett@freepress.mb.ca

25012022 The lead vehicles in the ‘Freedom Rally’ convoy make their way through Grand Valley just west of Brandon on Tuesday demonstrating opposition to vaccine mandates. The convoy of at least hundreds of vehicles took over an hour to make its way through Brandon. (Tim Smith/The Brandon Sun)
Dan Lett

Dan Lett
Columnist

Born and raised in and around Toronto, Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school with a lifelong dream to be a newspaper reporter.

History

Updated on Tuesday, February 1, 2022 1:06 PM CST: Corrects typo

Report Error Submit a Tip