Going to hell in a hand basket

As the young people say, you can’t make this stuff up!

We have a convoy of angry and shambolic truck drivers to thank for pulling back the curtain and exposing how fragile our Canadian way of life really is.

When people don’t feel safe to walk in the downtown of our nation’s capital and Ottawa’s police chief admits his force is untrained for chaos and can’t control the threats and dangers to his city under siege, it’s time to admit we’ve got a problem.

What does it say when first responders become the target of demonstrators’ demand for “freedom?” In Toronto, where demonstrators roam the streets near Hospital Row on University Avenue, health care workers are hiding their scrubs to avoid harassment and possible harm.

When symbols of evil like the flags of Nazi Germany and the U.S. Confederacy flutter amidst bedlam in the shadow of the Peace Tower, what more will it take to admit we are not immune to U.S. style political upheaval and loss of trust in our leaders and democratic institutions?

Within spitting distance of the current chaos, our parliamentarians squabble over who if anyone should even talk to the rag tag assembly of thousands harmed by the pandemic, sympathizers, dissidents, squatters, rabble rousers and outright bad-ass individuals out to cause harm and make trouble.

Students have joined the demonstrations in a party-like atmosphere and grandparents with all their shots grumble that they’ve had enough of isolation and support the truckers’ demands to be “free” again.

You can be forgiven for thinking our political leaders have been caught with their bloomers in disarray. They’re either in denial about the public mood and demands or they’re paralyzed by hubris and partisan interests.

This is not just about vaccines and mandates---it’s about a host of festering angst and fear. It’s a witch’s brew stirred by social media and the lies, distortions and hate that it spreads.

Here in the peaceful and reverent realm of Canada, where we are known around the globe as nice folks, observers could conclude we are going to hell in a hand basket.

People are mad as hell and they’re not going to take it anymore.

That’s not just diesel fumes you smell on Parliament Hill. Demonstrations in Ottawa and elsewhere carry the unmistakable odor of Trump-like far-right extremists and white nationalists and social media venom in our once safe, respectful and comfy backyard.

Police intelligence confirms the “significant” involvement and influence of U.S. extremists and big money in the Ottawa demo. How many bad actors and how much money coming from what sources are under investigation but it’s no coincidence that Donald J. Trump, as he plots his return to the White House, was quick to praise and encourage the protest- generated chaos up here north of the 49th.

Trump, meanwhile, is busy promising that if he is elected in 2024 he’ll issue pardons to participants in last year’s failed but bloody coup to take over Washington. He’s encouraging supporters to organize the “biggest protests ever seen” in cities all across America.

The continuing presence of Confederate flags and Trump in 2024 signs leaves no doubt that his disciples are at work in our neck of the woods.

It’s a crying shame. What began as a peaceful protest of a vaccine mandate for cross-border truck travel attracted thousands of supporters united in frustration, fear and anger after two years of lockdowns, whose benefits and damages will be studied and argued for years to come.

Well-intentioned but inequitable policies over costly government handouts and lockdowns and confusing and conflicting science have contributed to the fear and cynicism that creates a perfect storm for social unrest.

The original convoy was quickly hijacked and overshadowed by an ugly cabal of racists, antisemites, and downright hooligans who have desecrated national monuments and shown disrespect for ordinary citizens, first responders and civility.

Opportunistic politicians test which way the wind is blowing to determine where to throw their support and which position will prove the safest and most productive in winning votes.

The ruling Liberals have found a comfortable pew in maligning the truckers as a minority fringe group that ended up in bed with a bunch of very bad people. Their refusal to meet with anyone representing the motley crew was originally popular but is weakening as the public demand—especially in Ottawa-- grows for action to end the blockade.

(It‘s tempting at this point to suggest it’s a tad rich for the local burgers to get excessively irate about the tawdry invasion when so many of them are public servants or otherwise feeding from the public purse with secure jobs and safely working at home---a far cry from truckers and other ordinary working stiffs who have lost jobs and incomes and small businesses by the millions during the pandemic.)

The protest so far has thankfully been a far cry from last year’s failed insurrection of the U.S. Capitol when demonstrators chose violence as their weapon to overthrow their government.

The truckers’ demonstration promised no violence but included a documented and signed plan by organizers that would amount to a peaceful takeover of the Canadian government. Our appointed Senate and the Governor General would usurp the authority of the elected government and cancel all vaccine mandates and other health restrictions.

This is pitiful, of course, and shows either the ineptitude and/or brazenness of the organizers. Our constitution does not make possible such a mad scheme.

As another indication of the demonstrations’ public support, millions of dollars continue to flow in from followers across the country and beyond.

It is no wonder that lawmakers are anxious to determine the source of these donations. Such data will provide a goldmine for political party fundraisers—especially for those to the right and extreme right of the spectrum.

Maxime Bernier, head of the alt-right Peoples Party of Canada (PPC), must be rubbing his hands at the sight of all those anti-government protesters and their cheque books. While he didn’t win any seats in the last federal election, there were 800,000 votes cast for his party and public support for the PPC has increased in recent months.

Ditto for Conservative Party of Canada(CPC) supporters who have a leadership contest on their hands and would love to have access to a data base of convoy supporters.

The outcome of the CPC leadership race could be determined by the candidates’ ability to tap into such a resource. Sadly, it would not be the first time that moderate candidates are beaten by the one who can win the alt-right support among delegates.

Meanwhile, all parties and voters need to take stock of what the current demonstrations have shown us as a measure of mistrust of our institutions, the outright lack of trust and the hatred that exists for many of our politicians, the depth of anger and frustration among voters of all ages and backgrounds and the danger of extremists and their links with powerful forces outside of Canada.

Unfortunately, Canada is not in a very good place at the moment.

We need strong, courageous leadership and we need it now. -- Photo via CTV News

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