Canada’s capital is taken hostage by extortionists | Opinions

The job of columnists is to convey their ideas in writing. Sometimes these ideas are shared by readers. Others, no.

It doesn’t matter, really. A columnist should say something fresh or concise – whether readers agree with them or not. It means thinking about something that other columnists, writing on the same topic, haven’t thought of.

There have been many columns written in many forums about what has happened in Canada lately.

You may have seen or read news or chronicles about a group of mostly angry white men driving big trucks and tractors in Ottawa, Canada’s capital, and other Canadian cities and causing trouble .

I like doing what the late US Congressman John Lewis coined “good trouble.” So I don’t mind other people getting into “good trouble” in different ways. But it’s not “good trouble”. It’s an ugly and venomous problem.

As such, you may have found the footage of what’s happening in Canada a bit surprising or maybe even shocking. Canada is supposed to be a calm and peaceful country where people get along – in general.

It’s the “beautiful” Canada you’ve probably read about, heard about or experienced. So, now you know there’s also a not-so-nice Canada where – like in many other places – rage, ignorance and a healthy dose of selfishness can make a poisonous brew.

Before we get to that, it’s important to understand the context of what’s been happening in Canada lately.

First, most long-haul truckers who live and drive in Canada believe in science. More than 90% of them have been vaccinated. They know that to cross the border with their shipments to the United States – Canada’s largest trading partner – they need to be vaccinated.

They appreciate that defeating COVID-19 – if that is hopefully possible – means that Canadians must not only work together, but think about what is best not only for themselves, but also for their neighbours.

This is called having an enduring sense of community.

It may sound naïve and pollyannaish, but, in turbulent times like these, it becomes more acute and true.

Most Canadians have, I believe, kept this dedication to community close to their hearts and minds to try to protect themselves and their neighbors from a deadly virus not because they were ordered or forced to do it, but because they know it’s the right and the good neighborly thing to do.

We get vaccinated. We wear masks. We are patient and considerate. Many Canadians have made sacrifices – far more costly and more often than I have – for the benefit of their communities. Cashiers. Bus and metro drivers. Grocery and restaurant workers. Teachers. Pharmacists. Nurses. Doctors. Scientists. I am grateful and indebted to my fellow citizens.

Of course, we are tired of COVID-19. We, like you, want this to end. To return to life with the wonderful spontaneity and urgency that we have lost. But most Canadians know that we are not there yet. We need to show a little more courage to get to this illusion and what will be such a rewarding finish line.

Most Canadians – the silent, thoughtful, kind and generous majority of Canadians – are, I think, united on this.

Not those truckers and their furious supporters. What unites them is not patience, calm or understanding in the face of grim and stubborn adversity, but incoherent anger, stupidity and self-indulgence, wrapped in a Canadian flag with a maple leaf upside down to start.

They don’t believe in science. They don’t believe in sacrifice. They do not believe in unity born of common purpose and determination.

Instead, they believe, like tantrum-prone toddlers, in what they want, when they want it. Now. They believe in charlatans and their insane potions and “theories”. They believe in division born of threats and intimidation. Some of them think that Jews benefit from vaccines. They believe, of course, in Donald Trump. They believe that journalists are “the enemy of the people” who should be executed. They believe in urinating on war memorials. They believe in defecating in the street. They believe they can honk their tinnitus-inducing horns 24/7. They believe they can do all this damage without fear or consequence.

They took Ottawa hostage and like all hostage takers, they made demands. They no longer ask for vaccines, masks or warrants. They demand “freedom” to deny the freedoms of others. They demand that democracy be replaced by autocracy. Yes, they do. They demand that they can continue to pollute a city with their presence until their demands are met.

It’s extortion.

Yet there are conservative politicians who not only agree with the hostage takers, but who have given their blessing to what the hostage takers have done and will do until their demands are met.

They posed to take photos and selfies with the happy hostage takers. They have delivered inflammatory speeches in the House of Commons – the very chamber that some of the hostage takers want to dissolve immediately – in support of the hostage takers’ aims and means.

Among the many Conservative MPs who support the hostage takers is Pierre Poilievre. He is likely to soon become the leader of the Conservative Party. The last leader, Erin O’Toole, was fired last week, in part, for not backing the hostage takers hard enough or fast enough.

My crafty daughter says Poilievre is the doppelganger – ideologically – of American right-wing flamethrower Ben Shapiro, but with glasses.

I see the similarities. While it may seem impossible, I can assure anyone unfamiliar with the pedestrian characters that populate Canadian politics that Poilievre is a cruder, irritating facsimile of Shapiro.

Either way, the hostage takers are set to take Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition hostage as well – with their dear colleague, Poilievre, at the helm.

All of this is causing a great deal of anguish and heartache for many white columnists, men and women, who dominate Canada’s two centre-right “national” newspapers.

They are apoplectic. How and why did this happen at a once “big” party, they wonder – with varying degrees of apoplexy.

It’s no mystery at all, you suddenly have amnesia.

Here’s a hint. First name: Stephane. Last name: Harper.

The former Prime Minister whom you praised and celebrated as the avatar of “stable” and “sober” governance was and remains the father of the dangerous discord that you condemn today.

You applauded his tactical abilities as he plunged himself and the Conservative Party into a “corner” policy. Harper has spent a career leveraging West against East, pitting new Canadians against “old stock” Canadians, defaming the National Council of Canadian Muslims as a hive of “terrorists” and stoking fury and preposterous grievances in Ottawa.

You have been warned of the harm that Harper’s cynical modus operandi was causing and will cause. You dismissed Harper’s “enemies” as suffering from Harper Derangement Syndrome. Remember?

The thread that has united all the leaders of the Conservative Party since Harper’s defeat in 2015 is this: they are enthusiastic and loyal disciples and servants of Stephen Harper.

If he wins, Poilievre would be the most enraged iteration of Harper of all. Like the others, he will fail because a majority of Canadians will refuse to be taken hostage by truckers, extortionists carrying the MAGA flag.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.

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