Don’t be fooled by its almost sleepy downtown core, the pristine and bucolic grounds of Parliament Hill or the Gothic architecture of the buildings that could lull one into a sense that this is really an innocuous national capital more devoted to tourism than punishing political unorthodoxy.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Freedom Convoy leaders Tamara Lich and Chris Barber are charged with mischief, counseling others to commit mischief, intimidation and obstructing police as leaders of the Freedom Convoy that polarized residents of Ottawa in February 2022 and arguably began to rollback COVID-19 mandates.
It was ironic on this first day of the proceedings that there was a group of university students outside of the Ontario Provincial courthouse seeking donations for a charity associated with the Shriners. The kids were encouraging the drivers of the cars passing by to honk their horns and voice their support for the cause. It was the honking of course that caused some in Ottawa to apparently go mad during the late January to mid February protest of 2022. People claimed the truckers who came to town and parked their rigs on Wellington St. in front of Parliament Hill were honking all night long.
As someone who stayed all night long for the protest in the sub-zero temperatures of an Ottawa winter, I can tell you that the truckers did not continue to blast their horns way past midnight. They went to sleep.
We heard the usual drivel on Tuesday from the Crown prosecutor, one Tim Radcliffe who had the gall to suggest this trial had nothing at all to do with the political opinions of Lich and Barber but had everything to do with their allegedly dangerous “means.” He claimed their protest was “anything but peaceful.”
Well, let’s just stop there for a minute for a realty check.
There were a myriad of false reports issued on social media and sometimes by the mainstream media throughout the Freedom Convoy. There were ridiculous tales of truckers urinating and defecating on the streets, leaving garbage everywhere, even setting fire to an apartment complex in some apparent convulsion of anger and resentment. None of these stories were true, including the report that an anonymous Freedom Convoy demonstrator had dared to dance on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, next to the national cenotaph. These Freedom Convoy people didn’t even respect veterans!
The Ottawa mayor at the time was Jim Watson, a bundle of nerves who ran to his Twitter account every time he saw the children of truckers playing on the “bouncy castles” that apparently drove him to distraction. He said the protesters just weren’t taking their protest sufficiently seriously.
Truth be told, Ottawa’s mainstreet was never cleaner than it was during the protest. The truckers brought in port-a-potties because a lot of the local businesses either closed their doors or barred their bathrooms from public use. The truckers picked up their garbage and managed to feed thousands of people by themselves.
Restaurants that remained open and served the protesters made a lot of money but were targeted by the COVID Gestapo on social media.
Lich and Barber are being charged under provincial law so the focus is not on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who set a tone of animosity, repugnance and contempt towards the blue collar workers who opposed him. Trudeau had the unmitigated nerve to flee the capital soon after the truckers arrived, but not before he had routinely labeled all of them as racist and misogynistic. “There is a small fringe minority in this country that is lashing out with racist, misogynist attacks. "The vast majority of Canadians aren’t represented by them,” is how he put it.
I say routinely because this is precisely how Trudeau depicts all of his political enemies, even if he performed in blackface for a large portion of his private and professional life and has routinely demonstrated his utter dismissal of women – through sexual misconduct in his personal life and angry rants in his professional life. He is the consummate hypocrite, a man and a politician who deftly projects his own weaknesses onto others and simply refuses to acknowledge any responsibility for his own actions. In this, he is a political blood brother of President Joe Biden who also chooses to live in his own parallel universe, one that has been made more painfully obvious by his growing senility.
Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act after the only possible justification for his doing so had been resolved: the border disputes in Ontario and Alberta. Despite police not finding a single firearm or explosive in Ottawa, federal ministers were calling for the mobilization of the Canadian Army to put down the protest and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland actually froze the bank accounts of Freedom Convoy protesters and supporters. And she got that list of political enemies from an illegally hacked donor list from Give Send Go.
And the Emergencies Act was anything but peaceful. Police pushed, shoved, dragged and hit protesters. I was there. I saw it. A police horse literally trampled a woman using a walker. There was no disciplinary action for the rider. Trudeau created an emergency by freezing bank accounts and using municipal, provincial and federal police for purely political purposes. This remains a dark period in Canada’s history.
Lich, who is diminutive of stature but large in character and courage, became a political prisoner as a result of her participation in the Freedom Convoy. When she was shackled and arrested by police, she urged those still remaining free to “Hold the Line.” It became the title of a book she wrote about her experiences.
She was incarcerated in prison without bail, on two occasions. She was rearrested for attending a free speech awards dinner sponsored by the Justice Centre. The justice system has treated this grandmother like a dangerous terrorist.
But she and Barber are still holding the line – holding the line for freedom of speech, freedom of belief and freedom to protest evil. And they are holding it for all of us.