Canada has long been viewed as a peaceful, welcoming country. Like most western democracies, it has witnessed some difficult historical moments: divisive election campaigns, Quebec separatism, and policy debates on free trade, capital punishment, gay marriage and decriminalising marijuana. While these issues led to periods of tension, cooler heads have usually prevailed.
The Freedom Convoy, however, which has seen hundreds of truckers converge on Ottawa and the blockade of cross-border trade with the US, has been a moment like no other in modern Canada.
The Freedom Convoy’s important message of more individual freedom and less government restrictions and lockdown measures during Covid-19 resonated with many Canadians. Conversely, the potential economic ramifications from traffic logjams, blockades and reduced amounts of cross-border trade has started to divide family, friends and neighbours. People want the protest to have a peaceful resolution, and not lead to further frustration, anger – or worse.
How the Freedom Convoy got to this point is an intriguing story on its own.
On January 15, Canada’s minority Liberal government announced a Covid-19 vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers. It was a significant policy shift. Truck drivers and other essential workers had been exempt from the two-week quarantine rule for unvaccinated travellers crossing the Canada-US border. Meanwhile, the Canadian Trucking Alliance had estimated that 85 per cent of Canada’s 120,000 truckers were vaccinated. If the vast majority of men and women who drove the big rigs were complying with the rules, why were they being targeted?
While these matters could have been managed without a restrictive government mandate, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau motored ahead. He knew that most Canadians were fully vaccinated – 78.69