There’s a bit of giggling before two older women, buddled against the cold, pull sandwiches from their jackets and hand them to a man leaning out of his big truck. You hear him thank them, laughing. “Oh,” one woman adds, “we have banana bread also.” More laughter. The video-ed interaction is wonderfully Canadian. Yet the City of Ottawa has said those bringing food to protesting truckers can now be arrested.
In another video – a huge circle of parents and children, dressed warmly against freezing temperatures, hold hands and sing, It’s a Small, Small World. There’s drone footage of a large crowd in the province of Quebec, where the official language is French. It’s night time and the crowd is singing our anthem, O’ Canada, in French. United.
Back to Ottawa – the nation’s capital, an enormous contingency of protesters, started by Canadian truckers who crossed the country in their trucks, mostly men, but women too, many with their families, joined by thousands and thousands of diverse citizens from across the land are asking for an end to restrictive mandates. Near our parliament buildings there are several Sponge Bob bouncy castles, inside children are staying warm by jumping. Others are being helped down a little red slide. Another social media video shows two women with Polish accents talking about how they have brought one thousand sausages and buns to feed whoever wants to eat them.
More than once I viewed video from a father who has brought his two pre-teen children from Victoria, B.C across five provinces to view this great gathering of Canadians because he feels it is a time in history to be witnessed. In one video the three are carrying pizzas for protesters and he asks his son and daughter, “Have you seen anyone from the media here?” They both answer, no.
There’s no looting or fires. It’s safe to bring children to this protest started by truckers, joined by farmers, nurses, veterans, native drummers and dancers, police officers, small business owners, and others of all descriptions. There have been many videos and more importantly live streaming, of warm encounters and conversations between on-duty police, RCMP and the protesters.
Over the last week people around the world have viewed joy, friendship, community, laughter, and great crowds of Canadians – thousands across the land, standing together on overpasses, alongside highways, at welcoming gas stations, so much so that I confusingly believe all Canadians must have viewed this togetherness. How could these scenes not have made it to the news stations that have covered the protest. Media has shown the same few photos of men carrying symbols of hatred – a swastika and confederate flags (which don’t even make sense here) and shamefully picked up on them as representative of the thousands of citizens. A woman was videoed waving her hands on the sacred monument of the Unknown Soldier and someone put a hat, scarf and a flag on the statue of Terry Fox. Those acts were absolutely wrong. Unequivocally. Arrests were made. Police reported those arrested were NOT part of the convoy, but the media won’t let go of those acts, reporting on them heavily, ignoring that truckers have laid flowers at both places and guarded them against further interference. Yesterday, a prominent newspaper falsely said the protest was of far-right extremists. Another paper reported racial slurs against a shop owner – shame on whoever might have done that. But, no footage of the man who told an independent reporter he has seen more acts of kindness in Ottawa this week than ever before. Truckers are feeding the homeless –having brought food in their vehicles for charitable acts. In turn, citizens and churches are happily feeding the truckers. There is an Adopt-a-Trucker program. On Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram the entire world is seeing videos of co-operation and goodwill but if you don’t access those you get a skewed and biased view of what is happening in our nation. You won’t see the trucker who received a package of valentine cookies from a child in Port Hope – getting emotional as he reads the kind note inside.
Supporters of the protest donated to a GoFundMe campaign that raised more than ten million dollars to go toward fuel and food for the trucks (with any remaining for our veterans). The mayor and chief of police of Ottawa are accused of calling the protest an occupation and had the GoFundMe cancelled. Shockingly, the mayor is heard asking for the money to be given to the city of Ottawa at a recorded meeting. GoFundMe made a wrong decision to take the money Canadians contributed for this convoy and give it to charities they – GoFundMe – would choose. The criminality of that was voiced and the money was returned to the donors. It would have bought a lot of banana bread.
What has been shouted the most by men, women, and children that are joining protests in cities across the country? Shouts for freedom. Freedom to do what some ask? To go into your kid’s schools again. To invite all your loved ones to weddings, graduations, and funerals. To visit your lonely elderly in retirement residences. To decide how many guests to invite into your own homes. To sit in a restaurant with your family members – no matter what their personal health choices were. To unmask your children from the mostly ineffectual masks they’ve been forced to wear. To watch your kid’s sports, or to board an airplane in Canada to visit loved ones in your country without showing proof of your healthcare choices. And most importantly to not be coerced into choosing between your livlihood and a vaccine. Those are freedoms they call out for.
Myself, I would ask for the freedom to see all sides of the story of what is happening in Ottawa from our Canadian media. I can see it elsewhere. Sadly, the biggest lesson so many have learned this week is how one-sided and unforgivingly bias our media is being. A young woman in Southern Alberta organized the most peaceful convoy – hundreds of cowboys and cowgirls clip clopping their beautiful horses, with police assistance, down the highway, virtually ignored by our media but cheered for around the world. Daily other countries are saying it is time to live with the virus, time to lift restrictions, time to unmask the children. This movement could be Canada’s moment to shine, to show unity, warmth, compassion, and above all hope. To work with our elected officials, instead of being mocked by them. What could those against the convoy’s possibly shout? “No Freedom?”
Put away your fear. Embrace going forward. Insist our PM meet with the truckers.
Oh, indeed the trucks have been extremely noisy honking their horns. There was an injunction issued by the court. They asked them to please stop. The trucker’s said Ok. We’ll honk at 5 pm for five minutes. It was agreed on. Oh, such a Canadian protest.