Pellerin: The real threat of the “freedom convoy” concerns social norms

Everyone has the right to demonstrate, but we must not tolerate threatening democratic institutions and the rule of law

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The problem with the early return of the so-called Freedom Convoy isn’t just the obnoxiousness, noise or violence inherent in your average seat. It is the damage caused to the institutions that keep our society together, starting with the rule of law and the integrity of our parliamentary system.

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The rule of law means that the law applies to everyone equally. So if, to take a random example, it is against the law to sit half-naked in a hot tub on Wellington outside Parliament, then anyone caught doing this, especially if they are also disturbing drunk peace, would be thrown into the jingle.

Not, as we saw a few months ago, left to macerate in peace. Now they feel entitled to break the law, which erodes our common understanding of what the ground rules of living together should be.

Our system of self-government is far from perfect. But if we all agree to live by the same ground rules, we’ll be fine. That’s why most of us take turns speaking, voting, and accepting the results, even the ones we don’t like. When a small group decides they can cancel the election and throw decency and fair play under the truck, we no longer have self-government. We are ruled by the most odious.

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Demonstration is one of the most precious privileges of democratic societies. But occupying, intimidating and treating passers-by with violence in addition to deafening them and poisoning their air is not protest.

Apparently the plan is to stay in Ottawa long enough for the Prime Minister to resign. Why? It’s not clear. I mean, they obviously don’t like Justin Trudeau and as far as I can tell the feeling is mutual. Engaging in an illegal occupation to overthrow a politician you don’t like is not the way we do it in countries that aren’t banana republics.

Alas, it seems some politicians are actually embracing this institutional vandalism. Pierre Poilievre, a local MP who thinks he can change our system of government by repeating 10 million times that he’s running for prime minister when that job isn’t on the ballots anywhere, presses with enthuses the convoys. Nor is he the only Conservative MP to do so.

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poilievre says No one from his campaign has spoken to organizers who plan to be on Parliament Hill on Canada Day, but he fully supports and encourages protests against the government’s attacks on our freedom.

It could be funny if indeed the conveyors respected the law, decency, the rights of others and also logic. I guess it’s a relief that most of them are here for the hot tub and not the constitutional confusion that sees vocal idiots claiming they have a right to have their Miranda rights read to them and that their First Amendment rights are protected. Maybe try reading the Canadian Constitution?

I could sit here all week and laugh at gross ignorance. But I’m too worried about the damage to our institutions, let alone the violence, to think of laughing.

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Charlie Angus, NDP MP for Timmins-James Bay, recently published an article in Political review commenting on the safety of politicians and the widespread belief in wacky conspiracies among the Canadian public.

He cites an Abacus Data poll which shows that 44% of Canadians believe that “a secret group of elites control elections, recessions and wars”. Nearly 40% believe in the “racist white replacement theory” that there is a conspiracy to replace “ethnic Canadians” (ugh) with immigrants.

It is horrifying and distressing, as is the display of Nazi images and flags near these convoys. Anti-Semitism lives on the corner of evil and stupid, and if you allow its symbols into your neighborhood, we’ll draw the appropriate conclusion.

Everyone has the right to protest mask mandates even after they are lifted. Go ahead and fill your boots. But threatening the foundations and institutions that keep us free, prosperous and democratic is vandalism and cannot be tolerated.

Brigitte Pellerin is a writer from Ottawa.

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