Canada's Descent into Tyranny
Some claim that what's happening is in no way tyrannical. The events of the past week show otherwise.
Before discussing the events of the past week, here’s some context:
Like many other nations over the past two years, the Canadian federal government and various provincial governments implemented mask mandates, vaccine mandates, capacity limits, vaccine passports, and many other restrictions on everyday life. While many Canadians have been supportive of such measures, many other Canadians strongly oppose them. While opinions differ, it is beyond dispute that many have suffered devastating losses to their livelihoods, freedoms, and dignity as a result of these measures. As a result, tens of thousands of Canadians engaged in one of the largest protests in Canadian history, culminating in an enormous convoy of trucks and other vehicles that made the long journey to Ottawa, the nation’s capital. Accompanied by thousands of individual protestors, the truckers sought to remain in the capital city until all the mandates were lifted. To understand the deeply held convictions and earnest, sincere desires of the many Canadians who are protesting, read this excellent article posted on Bari Weiss’s Substack:
As the article above shows, those who traveled to Ottawa come from all walks of life—all religions, ethnicities, creeds, and political affiliations. Some are protesting to preserve their freedoms, as they migrated to Canada in order to enjoy freedoms they did not have under Communist and other authoritarian regimes. All of these protestors recognize the danger of growing authoritarian controls.
As a result of these protests, some provincial governments removed all or nearly all of their covid measures, including capacity limitations, mask mandates, and vaccine passports. But while some provinces have listened to the concerns of the protestors, the Canadian federal government, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has doubled and and even tripled down on the nation’s covid restrictions. Notably, in recent days Prime Minister Trudeau has barely referenced the alleged reason for the various mandates—to keep Canadians safe from the harms of covid-19. Instead, Trudeau has resorted to denigrating the protestors, calling them names and implying that they are violent and racist. Here’s Trudeau in a recent speech denouncing the convoys (full transcript here):
We are not intimidated by those who hurl insults and abuse at small business workers and steal food from the homeless. We won’t give in to those who fly racist flags. We won’t cave to those who engage in vandalism or dishonor the memory of our veterans.
Trudeau gaslights and misrepresents the protestors throughout his speech, calling them conspiracy theorists “who choose to reject science, who choose to reject the caring and service and sacrifice that the vast majority of Canadians” have made by taking the vaccines. When a Canadian MP (Member of Parliament) recently challenged some of Trudeau’s statements and actions, Trudeau responded that “Conservative Party members can stand with people who wave swastikas, they can stand with people who wave the confederate flag.” Despite Trudeau’s inflammatory and deceitful rhetoric, the trucker protests were an indisputably peaceful protest (if the protests had been even remotely violent, it’s virtually certain corporate media would have shown images and videos of the violence 24/7). Even The Washington Post has clearly shown that the protests were in no way violent or hateful but were instead jovial and family-friendly:
Sandwiched between the big rigs blaring horns and blockading major thoroughfares are play pens and bouncy castles. Makeshift food stands serve kid-friendly meals. A sign in a tent at a logistics hub lists daily activities for adults — and kids.
Here’s a photo shared by WaPo:
All this leads to the events of the past week:
Instead of genuinely listening to the protestors (Trudeau never even attempted to communicate with them), Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act, granting the federal government tremendous powers. As the BBC explains, the Emergencies Act had never been invoked until these protests, though “a predecessor of the law, called the War Measures Act, was used three times in Canadian history: during the First World War, the Second World War and, most controversially, by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau - Justin Trudeau’s father - during the October Crisis” (emphasis added).
The invocation of this act and Trudeau’s use of far-reaching “emergency” powers to quash a peaceful protest is nothing short of tyranny. Below are a just a few examples of the power that has been used (and clearly abused) during the past week:
(1) Freezing Assets / Suspending Financial Accounts
Perhaps the most astonishing use of unchecked power is the widespread suspension of the protestors’ financial accounts, including accounts of people who simply donated to the truckers. What’s more, banks and other financial service providers have been authorized to immediately freeze or suspend accounts WITHOUT A COURT ORDER.
As if this immense and unchecked power were not enough, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has indicated that at least some of these powers may be needed permanently:
One individual reported that all of his bank accounts (personal and corporate) were frozen, along with all of his credit cards. One Canadian MP shared how a single mom had her bank account frozen because of a $50 donation to the convoy, despite the fact that she did not even attend the protests. And if there is any concern that these are overblown claims from non-verified Twitter users, mainstream publications have also reported on the use of these broad financial powers. From Newsweek:
Under the broadened federal powers, Canada's financial institutions have been prohibited from providing “any financial or related services” to people who are “directly or indirectly” involved in the anti-COVID mandate protests across the nation.
“Directly or indirectly.” The scope of Trudeau’s new powers are broad indeed. In effect, the government now has the power to suspend the accounts of anyone who agrees with the truckers or who disagrees with the government’s positions. These powers will no doubt have a chilling effect on free speech and will serve to further crush dissenting opinions. How many people will be willing to speak out against the government’s policies if they know their accounts may be frozen? This is not hyperbole. And judging by a recent bulletin from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that equates the spreading of so-called misinformation with terrorist-related activities, the freedom to communicate dissenting views is not simply under threat in Canada. The risk of having one’s accounts frozen for simply disagreeing with the government is a real possibility, and it may not even be the worst consequence of opposing increasingly authoritarian governments.
(2) Excessive Force / Abuse of Power
In addition to the unprecedented ability to freeze financial accounts without a court order, the force used to disburse the many peaceful protestors has also seemed excessive. Before reviewing the evidence, I should make clear that I have first-hand knowledge of how police officers are trained to enforce the law. I’ve been through a top-notch police academy and have attended many additional trainings. I also teach criminal justice and legal studies, including a course on law enforcement use of force, and I’ve watched countless videos of use of force encounters. I’ve written previously about how police officers are trained to enforce the law as well as how they are not trained to enforce the law. In sum, while I don’t have as much experience as some, I believe I have more knowledge than most. With this said, here’s what I can say about the footage I’ve seen and other evidence I’ve reviewed from this week’s protests:
First, it is absolutely true that police have a duty to ensure that streets and businesses can remain open. It is also true that protestors in some cases made the use of public roads difficult (or potentially impossible, though I have not been able to confirm this). Furthermore, police who are giving lawful orders are authorized to use reasonable force to ensure compliance with these orders if the orders are not obeyed. But I believe the question in this case is whether or not such orders were lawful and, if they were lawful, whether or not the force used was justified given the peaceful nature of the protests.
As to whether the orders were lawful, protestors could lawfully be asked to remove their vehicles if they were impeding traffic, and they could also be lawfully asked to move if they were interfering with businesses. However, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects the fundamental rights of Canadian citizens, including freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and freedom of peaceful assembly (Section 2). Considering that the protests were entirely peaceful, the lawful authority of the police to forcibly remove the protestors is questionable so long as the protestors were not impeding traffic or violating other local laws. Moreover, because “[t]he federal government has not met the threshold necessary to invoke the Emergencies Act,” actions taken by police under the presumed authority of this act would also be unlawful.
As to the amount of force that was used, the truckers and other protestors were not throwing rocks, bottles, or anything else at the officers. They were not damaging businesses or destroying property. They did not start fires, they did not loot, and they did not assault or physically harm other people. The most these protestors did was block traffic in the city and disturb the peace through the constant blowing of horns. These offenses could legitimately be addressed, and those who refused to move could even be arrested. But the force used to address what could be best described as non-violent civil disobedience must be reasonable in light of the totality of the circumstances. Judging by some of the following examples, it does not appear that the force employed was reasonable; to the contrary, the force used on these genuinely peaceful protestors seems greater than that used to quell the riots and genuinely violent protests that have taken place over the past several years. Consider the following examples:
Others videos show at least two people who were knocked over by law enforcement on horses, including an elderly woman with a walker. Police initially claimed that someone threw a bicycle into the path of the horses, but additional video footage shows this did not happen. Moreover, a Canadian pastor recounted much of what he saw and experienced during the protests:
On Saturday I knelt beside a truck driver with hands on my head surrendering to arrest. Instead of arresting me the police began kicking me. I was thrown to the ground pushed up against a truck, in no position to escape.
Police continue to maintain protesters are violent and they are peaceful. This is an outrageous lie. I was one of many struck multiple times while walking away from the police or helping someone who had fallen. Every one I saw arrested was beaten even though hands on their heads. I saw no violence on the part of the protesters but plenty on the part of the @OttawaPolice. And their violence was cowardly. They kicked & beat the fallen, those retreating and those surrendering to arrest.
And his sobering conclusion:
Today is a day I will never forget: the comraderie [sic] among protesters, the brutality on the part of #OttawaPolice, the incredible restraint on the part of the peaceful protesters even when provoked, and what felt like the fall of a nation.
In addition to the use of force against protestors, officers are even allegedly going after businesses who “aided and abetted” the protestors by serving them meals and coffee. Yet, even in the face of an overwhelming show of force by law enforcement, the protestors remained peaceful, in some cases singing the national anthem:
After the streets were cleared, Ottawa Police set up “approximately 100 police checkpoints surrounding the secured area downtown,” requiring individuals to state their reason for traversing the city in this allegedly free nation. Add to this the reality that more streets have been closed (and more businesses disrupted) by the actions of law enforcement than were affected by the three-week protest, and one has to wonder whether disbanding the peaceful protests was in any way justified.
Finally, when asked what would happen if the protestors leave and go home, here’s what Ottawa’s chief of police had to say:
“If you are involved in this protest, we will actively look to identify you and follow up with financial sanctions and criminal charges. . . . This investigation will go on for months to come.”
Months to come? This was a peaceful protest. These were non-violent demonstrations! These are not investigations into genuine criminal activity with the point of convicting individuals of any serious crimes (if any actual crimes at all). No, these are reprisals upon those who dared to dissent, who challenged mandates that infringed on fundamental freedoms. Such reprisals have no place in a free society, but they are regular tools of tyrannical regimes.
For those who would still contend that Trudeau’s use of emergency powers is not tyrannical overreach, I have to ask: If Donald Trump instigated what has happened in Canada over the past week (if not the past year)—if Trump supported the use of significant police power to quash an entirely peaceful protest and enabled the suspension of protestors’ financial accounts without a court order—would it then be considered tyranny?
What is this Abuse of Power Really About?
Finally, it must be remembered that the truckers and other protestors were simply asking for an end to all the covid restrictions throughout the nation—measures that were implemented for the alleged purpose of keeping people safe and “reducing the spread” of covid-19. Not only do many of the protestors believe these mandates to be a significant infringement on their liberties, but they also believe that they are not rationally related to the health and well-being of Canadian citizens. It would seem the protestors have a point: thousands upon thousands of protestors were closely gathered together for three weeks without any significant surge in hospitalizations or deaths (no claims have been made of hospitals being overwhelmed in Ottawa or the surrounding areas). This is yet another indication that the mandates are not about health. Others have also pointed out that there is no rational connection between the mandates and the alleged threat of covid. Still others noted that the protests could have been resolved easily and peacefully—no conflict, no force, no frozen bank accounts:
All Trudeau had to say was ‘the mandates are over’ and everyone would have left as peacefully as they have been for weeks.
Others were even more pointed:
Let us not forget that when given the choice, Justin Trudeau would rather declare war on his own people than drop a single coronavirus restriction.
Some might say that giving into the demands of the protestors would be equivalent to “negotiating with terrorists.” But to say that Trudeau was right to hold the line on these mandates is nonsensical, as many nations have dropped all or nearly all of their covid restrictions, and some parts of the U.S. (Florida, South Carolina, etc.) have been living pretty much normally for more than a year. Keeping the mandates in place is not rationally related to public health (and not just because the vaccines cannot stop the transmission of covid).
If the mandates are unrelated to public health (and arguably are harmful to public health), why would Trudeau insist on keeping them? Is it simply pride? Corruption? Outside influences? While all of these may be possible explanations, there is much evidence that shows outside influences are at play—influences that have been dismissed as conspiracy theories and that are not allowed to be openly discussed. I’ve been working for some time on an article that evaluates these influences and that compiles evidence of questionable connections, not just in Canada but around the world. I hope to publish this piece soon, but for now, consider the following short article that starts down that rabbit hole:
For those interested in keeping up with what’s happening in Canada, here are three journalists who seem to be reporting what has actually been happening and who are willing to critique Trudeau’s abuse of power:
Addendum for My Students
For my criminal justice students reading this piece: we must carefully and seriously reflect on whether or not we will obey the orders of our commanding officers when such orders clearly infringe on the fundamental rights of citizens. Trudeau’s invocation of the Emergencies Act, and what seems to be excessive force used by law enforcement against peaceful protestors, are the first steps down a path that ends with men and women of good character doing the bidding of tyrants. To everyone who serves in law enforcement or who aspires to this noble profession, you must ask yourself: at what point will enough be enough?
Will you abuse your authority?
Will you make false accusations against those who oppose government policies?
Will you arrest pastors for leading their congregations to worship God according to their consciences?
Will you use your position to crush dissent?
Will you aid and abet the destruction of liberties you take an oath to uphold?
Please consider these brave officers who resigned their posts because of what officers in Canada have been asked to do:
Daniel Bulford’s Speech (formerly on Trudeau’s protection detail).
David’s Letter (resigned on February 18th after what he witnessed at the protests)
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