When Canadian truckers first signaled their intent to assemble a Freedom Convoy protesting their government’s draconian Covid-19 policies, including vaccine mandates and passports, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau blew them off as a “fringe minority.”
Just this week, however, Trudeau invoked for the first time ever the Emergencies Act, the successor law to the War Measures Act, in order to mobilize the Canadian military to crush the Freedom Convoy and forcibly clear the truckers and their rigs from the streets of Ottawa. Somehow, this “fringe minority” has prompted the most authoritarian response from a Canadian government since Trudeau’s father, Pierre Trudeau, deployed soldiers in the October Crisis of 1970 to quell an actual separatist movement, the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ), after it kidnapped the deputy premier of Quebec and a British diplomat.
The October Crisis marked the first time the War Measures Act had ever been invoked in peacetime. But Pierre Trudeau was dealing with actual terrorists (the FLQ had carried out a years-long bombing campaign before the kidnapping, and ended up murdering the deputy premier, Pierre Laporte). His son is dealing with a peaceful, if inconvenient, protest of government policies. Yet here we are, with the younger Trudeau invoking the Emergencies Act for the first time, and taking the remarkable step of treating peaceful protesters as domestic terrorists.
“It is now clear that there are serious challenges to law enforcement’s ability to effectively enforce the law,” Trudeau said at a news conference Monday afternoon. “It is no longer a lawful protest at a disagreement over government policy. It is now an illegal occupation. It’s time for people to go home.”
Days after the Trudeau administration backed GoFundMe’s attempt to deplatform the truckers’ fundraising campaign, Trudeau’s Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced that the Canadian government would expand its terrorist financing rules to target crowdfunding sites like the convoy’s new platform GiveSendGo.
“The illegal blockades have highlighted the fact that crowdfunding platforms, and some of the payment service providers they use, are not fully captured under the Proceeds of Crime and Terrorist Financing Act,” she said. “We are making these changes because we know that these platforms are being used to support illegal blockades and illegal activity which is damaging the Canadian economy.”
Trudeau’s decision to use the Emergencies Act against Canadian citizens who have already been banned from supporting truckers and threatened with fines and prison time is unprecedented. Historically, the War Measures Act has only been invoked during the two world wars and again in 1970. Now, Trudeau is mobilizing the Canadian military and intelligence agencies against the truckers because he doesn’t like their views.
Let’s be clear: Trudeau and his administration aren’t targeting the truckers because they are violent. Even the prime minister admitted that his issue with the thousands of protesters is that they hold “unacceptable views.”
“The small fringe minority of people who are on their way to Ottawa, who are holding unacceptable views that they are expressing, do not represent the views of Canadians,” Trudeau said during a press conference in January.
Even then, Trudeau knew the truckers’ true intentions were peaceful, but he didn’t lend them a listening ear. Instead, when the Freedom Convoy arrived at his doorstep, the prime minister fled his Ottowa residence and hid in an undisclosed location. Then he smeared the movement on Twitter and accused the Freedom Convoy of harboring racist vandals.
It’s natural to wonder if this weeks-long tension between the Canadian government and Freedom Convoy could have been peacefully resolved if Trudeau had engaged the truckers and offered them an off-ramp. Instead, Trudeau and his team are taking notes from the Democrats’ Jan. 6 committee in the House by cutting off financial pipelines to people they deem “domestic terrorists.” In return, the Biden administration is pressuring the Trudeau government to crack down even harder on what the corporate media have labeled a “nationwide insurrection.”
The truckers and other Canadians who have stuck it out in Ottawa want freedom, and they risked their trucks, gasoline, warmth, finances, and freedom to secure it. Their reward for voicing legitimate concerns about Canada’s draconian Covid policies, however, has been an authoritarian crackdown at the behest of Trudeau, who could have deescalated the situation by listening to the convoy’s concerns. His pride and intolerance, though, allowed only one response: The truckers hold “unacceptable views” and must therefore be treated like terrorists.
By recklessly invoking the Emergencies Act and involving the Canadian military, Trudeau has massively escalated a situation that could now easily spiral out of control. If it does, he will only have himself to blame.