From the March-April 2022 issue of News & Letters
When the Canadian government finally decided to put an end to the “Freedom Truckers” convoys, it was hard not to notice how gently those individuals were treated. This contrasts sharply with the brutal treatment of First Nations/Indigenous people who have been trying to protect their land and their way of life from pipelines, flooding from damming, and petroleum, gas drilling and mineral extraction. They are protecting the land for all of us.
There is another contrast that is equally stark: the difference between the Emergency Powers Act of today (adopted in 1988) and its use to end the convoys, and the War Powers Act (1914) used by the government during the “October Crisis” of 1970 in Québec. The “Freedom” convoys caused vast disruption and billions in economic losses, including blocking an international border crossing.
The 1970 crisis was triggered by a group of perhaps a dozen or so adventurists who kidnapped a British diplomat and the Québec Minister of Labour. In that case, all civil liberties were suspended and the Canadian army was sent in to occupy Québec, especially Montréal.
Almost the entire political opposition to the parties in power, during an election campaign, was arrested and jailed for up to four weeks, without charges or probable cause. Most union leaders were also detained. There were almost 6,000 troops in the Montréal area. Other people were detained on the street and many of us had the uncomfortable experience of being interrogated at gunpoint while going to and from work or running errands. This occupation was directed against French-speakers, of course.
This contrast in treatment reveals what many have known all along: that the convoys are not a group of workers standing up for themselves, but a disruptive element among truckers who represent some elements of Canada’s ruling elite. Canada’s rulers cultivate such things deliberately, but sometimes this comes back to bite them. Canada’s Teamsters Union has vehemently opposed that small faction of truckers, as have at least 90% of Canada’s drivers.
A NEEDED REVOLUTION
A few observers have been saying that this event reveals an “Americanization” of Canada. That is absurd. The “Freedom” convoys are homegrown, as Canadian as maple syrup or Molson beer. “Canadian exceptionalism” is a dangerous illusion, and those who promote that nonsense, American or Canadian, are doing a disservice to Canada and to themselves. It is time to look at things as they are, which isn’t easy.
Canada is a beautiful place but it has as many problems, and deep ones, as any place else. One thing to keep in mind is Canada’s enormous wealth in natural resources, perhaps the greatest per capita of any country in the world, is being looted right and left by capitalists from all over the world. For them, the existence of people on Canadian land is just incidental, an inconvenience.
Canada needs a revolution, in thought and in life!