The Freedom Convoy in support of truckers went through Winnipeg on the way to Ottawa. I wish I had gone to see it, but Christiane and I are staying close to home in support of our health care workers and Manitobans who have not been able to get vital health care procedures or surgeries because our hospitals are filled up with Covid-19 patients and the staff are being relentlessly overworked. We are triple vaxxed so we think we are safe, but don’t want to take a chance right now partly for their sake.
Canada’s truckers don’t support such thinking. They want their freedom. And to them that basically means they don’t want to give in to health restrictions even if that increases danger for others. It’s all about them.
The truckers have also been joined by some unsavoury characters that they are not able to denounce. For example, in Winnipeg Niigaan Sinclair a professor at the University of Manitoba and columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press went to see their “freedom rally” when the convoy stopped in Winnipeg. He took his young daughter with him. She got an education. This is what he reported seeing:
“We saw swastikas. We also saw dozens of signs chanting homophobic and Islamophobic slurs, threats against politicians, and near-endless messages about “freedom.”
I saw lots of sign-less people alongside children and elders.
I hope everyone I saw realizes that there’s no point chanting “freedom” when you stand beside someone calling for violence.
No one credits someone with a “differing opinion” while watching violence. The watcher is as complicit as the doer. Ask the German people if you want to know what I mean.
So, two days after International Holocaust Memorial Day (Jan. 27), Nazi symbols were brandished openly in downtown Winnipeg — and nobody stopped it.”
Frankly, I never thought Swastikas would be brandished in downtown Winnipeg. Some of the truckers or their supporters were carrying yellow Star of David’s with wording that suggested vaccine mandates were equivalent to persecution by Nazis.
This “freedom convoy” has been planned for nearly a year. Sinclair believes the date chosen for the event was significant. It was the day set for Canada’s National Day of Remembrance of the brutal and hateful attack on a Quebec City Mosque. It should have been about that event, not some phony “freedom rally.” There was a hero 5 years ago during that attack. He was not a trucker. He was Azzedine Soufiane, a 57-year-old grocery store owner, who was killed while opposing the gunman for long enough for others to join him and stop the shooting. That took bravery. Driving a big rig across the country does not take any courage. As Sinclair said, Saturday should have been about Soufiane.” It should have been about a real hero.
Instead of supporting a cause that needs our support, this convoy stood up for racism and zeonphobia. As Sinclair said, “No, Saturday was about people who used frustration with the COVID-19 pandemic to spread hate, sow division, and try to intimidate people they disagree with.”
I am not saying all the participants in the convoy are scum. But there were plenty of them, and I did not hear many words of dissent from the truckers or the non-truckers that organized the event. They were too busy ‘shouting hooray for our side,” to quote Neil Young. The denunciations should have come through loud and clear. My own Member of Parliament, Ted Falk, had gone to the Manitoba/US border to show his support for the truckers earlier in the week. I did not hear him denouncing the hate.
Sinclair said he had not seen anyone standing up at the Winnipeg Rally to denounce the racism and hate. Sinclair summed it up well,
“Truth be told, I don’t know if anyone during Saturday’s rally in Winnipeg or Ottawa had the courage to speak up against those waving swastikas. I’d like to hope there were a few… It takes courage to stand up for what one believes in. It takes much more courage though to stand up for what’s right.”
I would like to see some more truckers and politicians standing up against hate. That’s what freedom is really about. Standing up against hate. That takes guts. Something notable by its absence at the Freedom Convoy.