A year without truck horns would be nice


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The national noise of 2022 was a honking horn, and Manitoba and the rest of Canada would be better off if the klaxons remained silent in the weeks and months ahead.

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The national noise of 2022 was a honking horn, and Manitoba and the rest of Canada would be better off if the klaxons remained silent in the weeks and months ahead.

Semi-trailer truck horns blared by participants in the self-described “freedom convoy” brought traffic to a near-standstill in front of the Manitoba legislature in February, copying similar blockades that began near Parliament Hill in Ottawa and in border communities such as Coutts, Alta.

Peaceful protest is a fundamental part of Canadian democracy, but the protesters offered little peace as their demonstration dragged on for more than four weeks.

The seemingly incessant racket drowned out reasoned discourse regarding federal and provincial COVID-19 vaccine mandates, civil liberties and Canada’s democratic values, which were reasons convoy organizers said they were protesting in the first place.

Unvaccinated truckers were apparently angered by public-health restrictions that prevented them from working cross-border routes, although it was U.S. public-health directives that required Canadians to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and to test negative for the virus in order to travel to the United States.

But the truckers’ message became drowned out, not only by the horn-honking, but by extremist voices that joined the rallies and brought their own grievances, against the federal government in general, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in particular.

They also hauled in placards and banners adorned with obscenities, waved racist imagery such as Nazi swastikas and Confederate flags and, in the case of the Coutts blockade, transported firearms that were eventually seized by police.

It was later revealed millions of dollars helped fund the demonstrations, with a good portion of the financial support coming from like-minded lovers of “freedom” in the United States.

By the time Mr. Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act on Feb. 14, giving protesters in Ottawa notice they must disperse or face the possibility of arrest, their message had degenerated into cries of “Freedom!” while forgetting or ignoring the fact the government and police had allowed them to squat in public places for weeks without repercussions, disrupt the lives of downtown residents in Ottawa and Winnipeg, and hinder the flow of goods across the Canada-U.S. border.

Also seemingly tolerated by the authorities was the harassment of journalists by some of the convoy protesters, who at one point were shown on video threatening members of the media with violence.

Mr. Trudeau said the Emergencies Act was invoked to keep Canadians safe, protect jobs and restore confidence in Canada’s institutions.

An inquiry was launched in October to investigate whether the federal government’s use of the act was justified. Ontario Justice Paul Rouleau will release his final report before Feb. 20.

Whether he finds the government acted rightly or wrongly, the use of the Emergencies Act for the first time has given Mr. Trudeau’s antagonists another target for their freedom-fighting bluster.

Some of the organizers of last year’s protests announced Dec. 25 they plan to bring another convoy to Winnipeg on Feb. 17, and invited their supporters to join them, perhaps believing they will receive a warmer reception here than in their original intended destination, Ottawa.

What they plan to accomplish with this rebellious reunion is unclear, beyond perhaps recapturing some of the small-scale celebrity they achieved last February and making lives miserable for those who live in Winnipeg’s core or wish to use Broadway as a thoroughfare.

Authorities have been served with ample notice; what’s required is a response that respects the right to peacefully protest at the same time as it protects city residents from prolonged cacophonous disruption and the looming potential of violence.

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