OPINION: The protests over vaccine mandates for truckers at Canadian border crossings are getting major support from white Americans, and a copycat movement could be brewing in the United States.
On Saturday, January 29, 2022, a group of truckers took over Ottawa, the Canadian national capital. The impetus of this Trucker Convoy, aka the “Freedom Convoy,” was the decision to limit the cross-border movement of unvaccinated long-haul truckers. For two weeks now, these truckers have urinated and defecated on statues, intimidated residents and blasted country music for the world to hear, all for their “freedom.”
As a Black Canadian woman, this is my heads up to you as leaders have predicted copycat movements will pop up in other white settler societies in New Zealand, Australia and, of course, the United States.
As of right now, Ontario, a province that is home to half of Canada’s population, is under a state of emergency as a result of this “peaceful protest.” Most notably, factions of the movement have blocked four international border crossings: one between Coutts, Alberta and Sweet Grass, Mont.; between Emerson, Manitoba and Pembina, N.D.; another between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit; and a fourth between Sarnia, Ontario and Port Huron, Mich.
The blockades alone are said to be costing Canadian businesses hundreds of millions of dollars.
What is the impact on Black people?
The far right-wing movement has demonstrated that it is anti-Black. In Canada, their dog whistle sounds like “freedom” but looks like swastikas and Confederate flags. In the U.S., their dog whistle sounds like “Make America Great Again” but also looks like swastikas and Confederate flags.
The vitriol may not be directed at us at this time, but the underlying resentment is there. They resent that we are calling for racial equality through movements like Black Lives Matter and the racial reckoning; they resent that we are calling out the murder of Indigenous children at state-run schools; they want things to go back to the way they were. They never will because things weren’t great, at least not for everyone.
How can they afford this?
To find out what is going on, follow the moolah.
Who do you think are some of the most generous donors to the Trucker Convoy (a cause that made its first million dollars before even blocking any traffic)? White Americans.
Protesters and supporters wave flags at a blockade at the foot of the Ambassador Bridge, sealing off the flow of commercial traffic over the bridge into Canada from Detroit, on February 11, 2022 in Windsor, Canada. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
White Americans are so enamored watching another group of white people fight for their centrality in their country that they are willing to pay for it—like it’s Netflix. The attorney general of Texas, Ken Paxton, even had the audacity to publicly condemn the fundraising platform GoFundMe for not paying out the donation money his constituents contributed to the effort.
Since GoFundMe stopped payment, Florida, Missouri and West Virginia are also threatening to sue the platform for fraud. GiveSendGo, another platform, has also stopped transferring payments to the group. AG Paxton went as far as calling the Trucker Convoy Texans “Patriotic Texans.” This is not your country, sir. How is supporting Canadians who are attempting to overthrow their government (literally waving flags saying F**k Trudeau) patriotic?
This story has captured the hearts and minds of white supremacists everywhere. But here is why it’s happening:
Since March 2020, most of Canada has lived through painful lockdowns that have fundamentally changed who we are. The first lockdown was fun and scary. I don’t need to tell you. I’m sure you remember it. Twenty-three months later, we are still locked down despite over 90 percent of Canadians being fully vaccinated, and it is not fun, and for many people—it is no longer scary.
The Trucker Convoy was initially underestimated and labeled a “fringe” movement. But this group of people who do not represent all truckers (even the Truckers Association has condemned the convoy) has transformed from a group of truckers who refuse vaccination to people who are angry at the government for a whole bunch of stuff. The only thing they have in common is this ambiguous call for “freedom.”
I’d like to be clear about something. In 2020, truckers were not heralded as heroes by Canadians. The “heroes” included nurses, doctors, delivery people, cashiers and stock people. But truckers are heroes. They were missed in our votes of appreciation, but they demonstrated their courage through their willingness to continue to take goods across the border during a global health pandemic. And we need to thank them for their contribution.
While this, of course, is a global pandemic that has impacted the world, consider that the lockdowns are highly contextual. They have been more extensive in colder places, with more liberal governments and in places with fewer hospital beds per capita. For example, in Toronto, Ontario, we have had one of the world’s longest (series of) lockdowns. Lockdowns, I argue, are the first contributing factor to a very complicated formula that has resulted in the increase of fascism, which has led to the Trucker Convoy and its related blockades.
What is further aggravating Canadians is the election we had in September 2021. This is why you’ll see real anger in the men and women on the streets waving flags that communicate an intention to do harm to our prime minister, Justin Trudeau. In Canada, elections are not scheduled every four years like they are in the U.S. Here, elections happen either when either: a) Parliament loses confidence in the leader or b) when the leader feels like it. So Prime Minister Trudeau felt like it and called an election (that he was well-positioned to win) last fall.
That wasn’t cool.
We thought we were all in this together. Fighting COVID-19, learning about new variants, and avoiding large gatherings and then BOOM, you call an election? Now is not the time, sir. Not only did that call for an election feels opportunistic on the part of our prime minister, but according to Elections Canada, the 43rd general election cost Canadian taxpayers an estimated $610 million CAD. Note that the pandemic is already expensive for Canadian taxpayers, with Canada’s health spending amounting to beyond $300 billion in 2021 alone.
So picture this: Every day, the news is telling you how much money the government is spending on new programs to keep things going; the federal government just ran an unnecessary and expensive election then…
…you lose your job due to a lockdown. And others, notably, some of our trucker heroes, lose their jobs due to their vaccination status.
Like lighting a match in a dry forest.
I get it. It sucks.
But please don’t confuse my understanding for empathy. We are all sacrificing our privileges in order to protect our most vulnerable, and screaming “freedom” at the top of your lungs at the border doesn’t change that.
Patience Adamu is the vice president of the Afro Canadian Political Literacy Foundation or ACPL, which is laser-focused on improving political literacy among Black folks—especially millennials, and advocating for policy that reflects our socio-economic needs.
As an almost-doctorate holder in the field of Public Policy, Patience always offers a thoughtful perspective on all things Canadian news and Black issues alongside co-host Kurtis Vermont every week on The Drip Podcast, found wherever you get your podcasts. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
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