Thousands protest COVID mandates in Canadian capital

(Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

Canada’s well-known reputation for having a polite, “nice” society is a common trope in the United States, but yesterday’s activities in their capital city of Ottawa show that everyone has their limits. A massive convoy of trucks and other vehicles choked the highways in that region as protesters who were fed up with the country’s strict COVID mandates converged on the capital to vent their frustrations. Some of the images were reminiscent of similar protests seen in America and other countries around the world, as upside-down Canadian flags with swastikas drawn on them were displayed. Protesters invoked the Nazi imagery to compare the government mandates to socialism. Whether Justin Trudeau’s government will be influenced by the unrest remains to be seen. (Associated Press)

Thousands of protesters gathered in Canada’s capital on Saturday to protest vaccine mandates, masks and lockdowns.

The sounds of honking horns echoed around Ottawa’s downtown core. A convoy of trucks and cars parked in around Parliament Hill with some parking on the grounds of the National War Memorial before police asked them to move.

“Parking on this sacred ground that includes the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was a sign of complete disrespect,” Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson tweeted.

One Canadian security official sent out a warning to lawmakers, instructing them to keep their doors locked because there were rumors that violent protesters might target their homes. Some of the protesters carried what were described as “expletive-laden signs” deriding the Prime Minister.

It was apparently the army of truck drivers that kicked off all of the protest activity. They were upset over a new rule that went into effect two weeks ago requiring all truck drivers entering Canada to be fully vaccinated. (The United States now has the same rule for trucks traveling in the other direction.) Many of them were pointing out the pointless nature of a mandate targeting people who largely spend their entire day sitting alone in the cab of a tractor-trailer. Others spoke of the number of stores that are already having trouble keeping any stock on their shelves while some drivers will be taken off the roads.

Speaking of the Prime Minister, where was Justin Trudeau during all of this? He reportedly fled to “a safe space” in the United States.

Not exactly a “profiles in courage” moment if you ask me.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family were moved from their home in Ottawa to a secret location as thousands of people descended on Canada’s capital Saturday to protest vaccine mandates for truckers and other public health restrictions.

Trudeau was relocated over security concerns earlier in the day, CBC reported, though the protests had remained peaceful as of Saturday evening, with no charges brought against any demonstrators, Ottawa police said.

So there were no reported incidents of violence or measurable property damage. The police didn’t arrest anyone. And after the protest concluded, most of the participants left. In other words, it was a large exercise of free speech. And yet the Canadian government decided that the appropriate move would be for the Prime Minister to flee the country? What are these people going to do if they get into an actual war some day?

As we watch similar events unfolding around the world from Australia to Austria and beyond, there are a couple of lessons we can probably take away from this. The countries without massive protests are authoritarian regimes like China and Iran. The nations with citizens who value freedom are the places where all of this unrest is boiling over. And if these government leaders who are issuing restrictive mandates right and left think that the protests will simply fade away, I’d be willing to bet they will end up being very disappointed. Or at least the ones with enough of a spine to stay in their own country and engage in dialogue with the protesters will be.