Canada is under attack. As the occupation of our nation’s capital by a loose alliance of anti-government activists, anti-vaxxers and hatred tourists enters its second week, it’s become increasingly clear they’re not going to leave without a fight.
And while the number of people participating in the occupation has steadily dwindled, they have attracted a powerful new ally: Trumpworld. Whether it’s Trump himself calling Justin Trudeau a “far-left lunatic” or his acolytes, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Tucker Carlson and Jack Posobiec, whipping up their own frenzied followers, it’s clear there’s an organized push underway to undermine the Canadian government and invade our politics.
It’s time for Trudeau to push back.
Yes, he’s recovering from COVID-19, which explains his recent absence in — and from — Ottawa. But he needs to take control of this situation before it deteriorates even further. He’s clearly not going to get any help from the Ottawa police department, which has effectively surrendered the city to the freedom convoyers, and it’s unlikely Doug Ford (who faces an election in a few months and the risk of a split in his vote with Randy Hillier’s far-right Ontario First Party) is going to ride to the rescue here.
That leaves the federal government as the last line of defence standing between an emboldened far-right fringe and our democratic institutions.
That fringe is only going to get bolder. While the GoFundMe campaign that raised more than $10 million in their name has been kiboshed, a new flood of cash is pouring in from sources both inside and outside our borders. As my colleague Sandy Garossino laid out in a recent piece, the volume of money at work here reeks of Trumpworld fuckery.
“Any Canadian fundraiser will tell you this number is impossible to achieve organically within Canada. This group is not a registered charity, non-profit or even a trucking organization. Ottawa police Chief Peter Sloly is on record saying there is significant influence and money pouring in from the United States,” Garossino says.
If Trudeau needs some inspiration here, he need only look to his father and how he handled the FLQ crisis in 1970. When the Front de libération du Québec kidnapped a British diplomat and Quebec’s deputy premier from their Montreal homes, Pierre Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act when it became clear the municipal and provincial governments couldn’t respond.
And when reporters asked how far he was willing to go, he delivered his famous response: “Just watch me.”
Opinion: As the occupation of our nation’s capital by a loose alliance of anti-government activists, anti-vaxxers and hatred tourists enters its second week, it’s become clear they’re not going to leave without a fight, writes columnist @maxfawcett.
We have been fortunate not to see any extreme violence in Ottawa yet, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Invoking the Emergencies Act, the 1988 replacement for the War Measures Act, seems unnecessary at this point. But maybe it’s time for Trudeau to engage more directly with the protesters and show Canadians the people occupying downtown Ottawa aren’t the ones in charge.
Here, too, he can channel his father and his display of defiant courage at a 1968 St. Jean Baptiste day celebration in Montreal. While many of the other assembled dignitaries and politicians ran for shelter when separatists started pelting their balcony with rocks and bottles, Trudeau stood his ground. The message was clear: I’m not going anywhere, and you can’t intimidate me.
Canadians need to see and hear that same message from their prime minister right now. Conservatives and their enablers in the mainstream media would surely portray any show of force or resolve as a provocation to violence and an insult to the protesters. Let them.
And when the rocks and bottles start raining down on our prime minister, let them defend that display of lawlessness and violence. Let it colour the Conservative Party of Canada’s leadership race and define the candidates who intend to run in it. The rest of Canada should not forget their behaviour here or who they chose to stand next to and support.
With the right message and the right leadership, the occupation of Ottawa can end. And when it’s over, we need to take full stock of who was really behind it — and what they wanted to achieve.
Few Canadians want to see our politics become as polarized and toxic as America’s have become under Donald Trump. But as the last week has shown, that process is already well underway. Whether the Conservative Party of Canada chooses to fight back against that incursion or surrender to the short-term advantages it offers them is still an open question.
But it’s time for Trudeau to end the siege on our capital — and start the inquiry into how it happened.