freedom convoy canada ottawa
© Dave Chan/AFP via Getty Images
Hundreds of "Freedom Convoy" supporters march in downtown Ottawa on Canada Day July 1, 2022 in Ottawa, Canada. - The so-called "Freedom Convoy," which inspired copycat protests in other countries, began in January 2022 with truckers demonstrating against mandatory Covid-19 vaccines to cross the US border.
It's been six months since Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cracked down on one of the largest labor protests in recent history. In February, thousands of Canadian truck drivers joined what became known as the Freedom Convoy, driving to Ottawa and parking their rigs in the capitol city in protest of Trudeau's vaccine mandates. I was one of them. But rather than meet with truckers, Trudeau demonized us as extremists, and then invoked the never before used Emergencies Act, meant to be used during times of war or terrorism, granting the government extraordinary powers they do not normally have. He then used the Emergencies Act to freeze the bank accounts of protest organizers and those who donated to the truckers and had Convoy organizer Tamara Lich arrested.

Six months later, it's clearer than ever just how unjustifiable Trudeau's actions really were. In a recent report, the CBC, Canada's federal public broadcaster, found that at the time Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act, an agreement for truckers to leave the city's residential streets had already been reached between the City of Ottawa and Lich and other organizers. The Emergencies Act meant that the agreement wasn't given time to play out before the government took such a draconian move.

"This is a black mark on Canadian history," Dean French, who organized the agreement, told the CBC of Trudeau's actions. "History will show this was a total overreaction."

Indeed, some truckers had already begun to leave Ottawa before the EA was invoked, as had those truckers blocking several border crossings.

At the time, Trudeau's Minister of Public Safety, Marco Mendocino, claimed repeatedly that the RCMP, Canada's Federal Police Force, and Ottawa's police chiefs asked for the Emergencies Act to be invoked. And yet, this appears to be false; according to both the Commissioner of the RCMP and Ottawa Police, neither asked for the Act to be invoked.

"No, there was never a question of requesting the Emergencies Act," RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said on May 11. "I did not make that request. I'm not aware of anybody else in the Ottawa Police Service who did," agreed Former Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly.

They didn't just lie about the police, though. From the beginning, Trudeau cast the striking truckers as Nazis and extremists. "Freedom of expression, assembly and association are cornerstones of democracy, but Nazi symbolism, racist imagery... are not," Trudeau said at the time, in one of just many such iterations of the theme, and Canadian media and other politicians dutifully repeated Trudeau's talking points.
trudeau chrystia freeland presser convoy
© The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, flanked by cabinet ministers including Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, announces that the Emergencies Act will be invoked to deal with protests, in Ottawa on Feb. 14, 2022.
Yet even at the time, there was overwhelming evidence to contradict that.

Canadian Journalist Rupa Subamanya found "a diverse group of truckers and protesters, vaccinated and unvaccinated, and of many different ethnicities and backgrounds, at Freedom Convoy. Their stories haven't been told." Her narrative comported with video footage from True North Centre, which painstakingly chronicled the falsehoods of many claims made about the Freedom Convoy and its millions of supporters across the country were false.

This reporting echoed my own experiences, both in Ottawa, where I was one of the many thousands of Canadians who welcomed the Freedom Convoy to town, and in my 25 years on the road in four different countries, where I have met truckers from every possible background and ethnicity, all of them sharing the same values of respecting freedom, individual worker sovereignty, and bodily autonomy.

And yet, these debunkings never received the full-throated attention of the original claims made by various antagonists of the Convoy.
Tamara Lich  Chris Barber
© Twitter/Facebook
Tamara Lich (left) was arrested in Ottawa on Thursday after she and her followers denied orders to leave the blockade in the center of the capital. Chris Barber (right) is seen on Thursday afternoon being arrested by Ottawa police
Trudeau didn't stop at smearing the truckers. He created political prisoners. Trudeau had Freedom Convoy organizer Tamara Lich arrested and charged with "counseling mischief" for the crime of setting up a GoFundMe to support protestors living in sub-freezing temperatures. Those funds were later redirected away from the Freedom Convoy under pressure from leftists. Lich was famously brought to court in handcuffs and leg shackles, as if this slender grandmother was some kind of dangerous terrorist.

Trudeau's response to the Convoy will forever be a deep stain on his record.

And yet, whatever ultimately results from the enquiry into the invocation of the Emergencies Act or any committee looking into actions by all of the players during the Freedom Convoy demonstrations, the effect that the Convoy has had on the rest of the world is deep and profound. Farmer protests that erupted in The Netherlands and are spreading throughout Europe took inspiration from the Convoy, and have now lead to the recent resignation of the Prime Minister of Italy. And here in the U.S., politicians have started to make noise about supporting the working class in recent months, no doubt due to working people's issues being forced into the limelight by Canada's Truckers.

This Labor Day, while we ostensibly celebrate the contributions to society made by the workers of the world, some consideration should be given to many issues bubbling under the surface which were brought forward by trucker resistance to vaccine mandates. These include surveillance of workers, poor pay which has no hope of keeping up with inflation, and a disconnected media class which attacked us for standing up for our rights as workers. This Labor Day, thank a trucker for standing up for your bodily autonomy.

Most of all, six months after the Freedom Convoy, Trudeau's lies, cowardice, deceit, and draconian overreach are clearer than ever. We will not forget.
Gord Magill comments on issues around trucking at Newsweek and elsewhere, drawing from his 25 years of experience On The Road.