The Emergencies Act came, like a meteor, flashing out of nowhere, to kill a legitimate protest
Not so long ago, the Charter — as the shorthand for it goes — was looked upon as Canada’s most important, close to sacred, document — something like how the British think of the Magna Carta, or the Americans of their Declaration of Independence
It was the heart and soul of the Canadian political experience. The shield of all our more precious liberties, or, to vary the phrase, a steel wall protecting the most basic rights of individual Canadian citizens against any overreach or invasion from their governments.
COVID showed us many things about the charter. And what it mainly showed was how quickly (and with how little objection) its steel guarantees became, in reality, but a film, a tissue, to be overridden by pure decree and the varying whims of municipal and provincial leaders.
All those deep civil liberties — of assembly, freedom of movement, personal bodily autonomy, the right to work, and more — were brushed aside, and very rarely, if at all, was this put to a court test, challenged by opposition parties, or debated with any rigour or to any extent in our frequently suspended, or operating on Zoom, Parliament.
Up until COVID, rights listed in the charter were the bedrock of Canadian society. Enter COVID and they were as a morning mist.
Enter COVID and they were as a morning mist
The federal government in particular quickly developed a compulsive taste for operating without serious challenge.
The only really serious protest came with the truckers’ convoy. This was a justified expression of political challenge. It was based on legitimate grounds. It was serious — by which I mean it was not the standard, rote performative “protests” we get from the protest professionals, especially the juvenile climate crowd.
These were typical blue-collar folk, doing real work for a living, and they put in a real effort. The trip to Ottawa was no holiday. And they certainly didn’t lower themselves to some infantile and degrading stunt like gluing themselves to a famous painting, or scrambling up the Peace Tower for a publicity arrest when they came down.
They went all the way to Ottawa to give political expression to their stand on COVID mandates. And where else should they have gone? Ottawa, as so many seem willing to forget, is the centre and site of what is left of Canadian democracy — the location of the House of Commons. They went with the wish and the hope to have a meeting with perhaps the prime minister, certainly with relevant cabinet ministers.
Trudeau, by this time accustomed to ruling by fiat, denounced the protesters even before they arrived. And not once did he offer an opportunity for a meeting, or delegate ministers to have a discussion. The PM in fact treated them more like invaders than a representative group of Canadian citizens with relevant and pressing concerns.
Which brings me right to the point of the Emergencies Act.
Trudeau denounced the protesters even before they arrived
What efforts, what actions, did the government take before proceeding to that draconian, unprecedented measure? None. None at all.
Did they meet? No. Did they negotiate? No. Did they send mediators? No. Did they call Parliament in to debate the protest? No.
They did nothing. Outside of berating the protest in the most vivid terms, they did absolutely nothing!
Did they meet? No. Did they negotiate? No.
One day Canada was a country at rest. The next day “there’s a movement to overthrow the government.” It was a pure concoction of political convenience, and by no means incidentally, a huge gesture of contempt for those in disagreement with the government.
The Emergencies Act came, like a meteor, flashing out of nowhere, with no specified circumstance to justify it, no convening of Parliament before so fierce a legislative response, and absolutely no communication with the protest or its leaders.
A drastic law killed a legitimate and non-violent protest. Curiously some looked at this with — what’s the phrase — a “level of admiration.”