Convoy brats desperate to regain celebrity status
Read this article for free:
Already have an account? Log in here »
To continue reading, please subscribe:
Monthly Digital Subscription
$4.75 per week*
- Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
- Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
- Access News Break, our award-winning app
- Play interactive puzzles
*Billed as $19.00 plus GST every four weeks. Cancel anytime.
A strange thing happened to the leaders of the so-called freedom convoy during their occupation of downtown Ottawa last winter: they became celebrities. Now, almost a year later, they desperately want back into the spotlight and plan to use another gathering — this time in Winnipeg — to reclaim their infamy.
Freedom convoy organizers and their supporters contributed exactly nothing to society during the COVID-19 pandemic. They mostly whined and complained about vaccine mandates and mask rules. Some expressed a desire to overthrow the government, while others used the event to wage partisan attacks (often with profanity-laced flags) against the federal Liberal government.
Meanwhile, front-line health professionals across Canada worked tirelessly around the clock to save lives, while ordinary Canadians followed public health rules and made sacrifices to mitigate the spread of a deadly virus.
The adults in the room took responsible action to protect themselves, their families and the community at large; freedom convoy organizers threw hissy fits and occupied cities such as Ottawa and Winnipeg. They mocked people who wore masks, spread disinformation about vaccines and made erroneous claims about breaches to their Charter rights.
Much to the chagrin of most reasonable Canadians, the convoy organizers also gained infamy. They were the subjects of regular news coverage and became enamoured with the public attention they received. They felt important. Even though there are no pandemic public health orders left to protest, they want to feel important again. Which is why they’re planning a freedom convoy 2.0, which was slated for Ottawa but has been relocated to Winnipeg.
“People can come from the East Coast, the West Coast, people will be able to convoy across the nation… and we’ll meet in the middle, the heartbeat of Canada,” James Bauder, who has been charged with criminal offences for his involvement in the Ottawa occupation, said during a live video address on Facebook on the weekend.
Exactly what the freedom convoy people plan to protest this time around is anybody’s guess. They don’t have a coherent message. The organizers say they want to convene in Winnipeg Feb. 17 to 20, 2023, as part of a new “world unity” movement to promote freedom and responsibility and “find solutions” to global issues. It doesn’t matter what the cause is, or if they even have one. That’s not the point. The event is about self-promotion, to revive that moment when organizers felt like they mattered. They were somebodies during the freedom convoy and they want to be somebodies again. So they’re getting the band back together.
Naturally, they’re free to protest or hold demonstrations on anything they please. Freedom of assembly is a cornerstone of Canadian democracy. What they’re not free to do is clog up streets for days, block access to the legislative building with large trucks and farm equipment and keep people up at night with train horns. Under new legislation brought in by the Stefanson government earlier this year, such activity on the grounds of the legislative building is prohibited.
There is no appetite in Winnipeg (or likely in any other Canadian city) for another occupation. The public will expect police to enforce the law and prevent the kind of three-week illegal occupation the city experienced last winter in front of the legislative building. Police handled that occupation as well as could be expected under the circumstances. However, allowing a similar takeover of city streets is not an option. Also, holding it on Louis Riel Day weekend as planned shows a galling lack of respect for an important Red River Métis celebration.
Fortunately, the latest planned convoy appears to have a scheduled beginning and end, which should make it easier for law enforcement to manage. Police tend to be in communication with protest organizers, often weeks before planned demonstrations, to establish guidelines and to agree on logistics. That’s likely already happening for the February event.
If organizers hold peaceful demonstrations for four days and don’t impede Winnipeggers’ rights and freedoms to use their streets and sidewalks, everything should be fine. However, if the convoy organizers don’t respect the community’s rights and freedoms, their desire to be back in the national spotlight at the expense of Winnipeggers will likely be met with anger and scorn.
Tom has been covering Manitoba politics since the early 1990s and joined the Winnipeg Free Press news team in 2019.