In theory, we’re all supposed to be treated equally under the law. But as we just saw with the behaviour of the truck convoy protesters and the Ottawa police’s response to them, it’s a much different story in practice.

After all, while these protesters can apparently break all manner of laws with impunity — from parking illegally and violating noise bylaws to harassing people and vandalizing property — that same courtesy isn’t always extended to people protesting different causes.

You might think after the protesters shut down the capital for the weekend, forcing some businesses to close and many residents to shelter in place, the local authorities would take a harder line with them. But after the organizers — and I use that term loosely — announced their intention to remain in the city and continue disrupting traffic, the Ottawa police effectively waved a giant white flag.

“We urge all residents to avoid travel to the core,” they tweeted. “Police have avoided ticketing and towing vehicles so as not to instigate confrontations with demonstrators.”

They’ve yet to do much of anything about an alleged assault against a homeless person at the Shepherds of Good Hope shelter and apparently decided not to pursue an incident that involved a local service industry employee.

As Ottawa lawyer Paul Champ tweeted, “My 16-yr-old works at Tim Hortons at Bank and Cooper. When he told a patron he must wear a mask to be served, the guy threatened to stab him (but didn’t brandish weapon). Supervisor called police and guy fled. OPS said they wouldn’t follow up on complaint bc assailant was gone.”

It’s not clear whether the Ottawa police are taking this ultra-permissive approach because they sympathize with the protesters or they’re just scared of them. The images and videos circulating of police being chummy with protesters, including one where an officer gives the thumbs up and says, “The truckers have been getting their point across … they can’t ignore all of this,” certainly suggest some degree of bias.

Their stance towards the protesters was so obviously one-sided that it even attracted the mockery of The Beaverton, which tweeted: “Ottawa Police declare protest peaceful so long as public avoids it for their own safety.”

Ottawa’s police are hardly the only law enforcement agency that’s taking a conspicuously conciliatory approach towards this particular group of people. In Coutts, Alta., a convoy of truckers blockaded a major border crossing — ironically, preventing the very flow of goods that many conservative politicians said the federal vaccine mandate would negatively impact. And what did the RCMP do? Nothing. As of Monday night, police had reportedly "negotiated" with organizers to let some people stranded by the blockade leave the border crossing.

Opinion: #Ottawa police waved a "giant white flag" when confronted with white protesters, a marked departure from how police usually treat other racialized protest groups, writes columnist @maxfawcett. #cdnpoli #policing #racialjustice

“Extensive efforts have been taken to engage with all stakeholders in the hopes that a peaceful resolution can be reached,” it tweeted.

One can only assume the response would be different if it wasn’t a group of mostly white truckers doing the obstructing. Up at Fairy Creek, for example, the RCMP took a decidedly different approach to protesters, who included a mix of Indigenous land defenders and mostly white settlers, blockading a road last summer. According to the police version of events, “There was pushing and shoving and OC (pepper) spray was deployed when the crowd failed to comply with police directions and became aggressive.”

But according to a spokesperson for one of the protest groups, “There was no aggression … it was the RCMP who decided to attack and to attempt to take out protesters one by one, dragging them on the ground, cutting off their backpacks, you know, leaning on them full body so that they couldn’t move.”

Meanwhile, a 2019 Guardian story revealed the RCMP was apparently prepared to use lethal force to clear the Indigenous-led blockade of a natural gas pipeline project on Wet’suwet’en territory in northern British Columbia. “Use as much violence toward the gate as you want,” the RCMP commanders instructed their officers at the time.

The police response in Calgary to ongoing anti-vaccine protests offers another window into the disparity in how police forces treat different communities. Some officers have hugged anti-vaccine protesters and made videos in support of their cause, and certainly haven’t done much to disrupt or discourage their protests, which have cost local taxpayers an estimated $2 million already.

That same police force seemed more than happy to dismantle a homeless tent camp near the city’s drop-in centre, one that wasn’t far from where the anti-vaccine protests routinely take place.

There’s nothing wrong with police taking a less confrontational approach to their jobs and trying to de-escalate any potential conflicts. If anything, we need more of that. But when that approach is applied unevenly or unequally, it undermines trust and damages credibility — especially if it reinforces existing concerns about a bias among the police against certain communities.

As Lord Hewart, the former chief justice of England, said in a landmark 1924 case: “Justice must not only be done, but must also be seen to be done.”

It’s time for Canadians to see that scofflaw anti-vaccine protesters are held to the same standard as everyone else, and that our rights and freedoms aren’t being infringed upon by theirs. It’s time for police to send a message that they won’t treat people differently on the basis of how they look or what they’re saying.

Updates and corrections

| Corrections policy
February 1, 2022, 03:01 pm

This story has been updated to include additional information on the Coutts, Alta., border crossing blockade.

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Not paying proper respect to the "Unknown Soldier" and displaying a Nazi Flag are two items which indicate to me the lack of intelligence on the part of this mob. My father, who spent a year in a German Prisoner of War camp in World War 2 as part of the supreme effort to protect the very rights these idiots are using, would be disgusted. It seems we have a rather broad (ignorant) population in our country, similar to that of the USA.

These are the same folks that flip and burn cars after their team loses a hockey game. Fortunately they’re a small minority.

I don’t know if this is true or not, but a story relayed to me the other day about London in World War II where when asked by authorities to keep their house lights shut off after dark to make it harder for German bombers to attack the city, a number refused to do so as it impinged on their ‘freedom’.

Not sure if it’s a true story, but it would not surprise me if it is.

There were stiff fines for blackout violations.

Part of this I think is that police services were caught off by the size of this (they were outnumbered on the ground 10:1) as well as the timing - it’s not very often that you’ll see something of this scale in the dead of winter with windchills below -30c. Police have been criticized, and rightly so, for being unprepared and seemingly on a back foot, but whether biased or accidental or some combination their seemingly calm response isn’t all bad. All it takes is one nut driving a truck carrying-who-knows-what to cause some serious carnage with the whole country watching. Eventually it will dawn on most of the participants that they’ve been duped by the organizers into thinking that this could be anything more than a one day event, and that for some the hidden, hoped for goal was to provoke a police reaction that could then allow them to escalate the situation. Escalation for the politically shameless means more attention and more cash, democracy and the common good be damned.

Correction : cops show double standard when protesters are left-wing. Probably a bit of racial discrimination sometimes as well, but I think the ideology plays a bigger role in how police treat protest situations.

It's both political and racial profiling on the part of police. As an older white woman, I was treated with kid gloves when arrested at Fairy Creek (old growth forest logging protest in BC). But I also witnessed how it played out for Indigenous people who were treated far worse and were often roughed up during the course of the arrest. It's not a few 'bad apples' but police culture as a whole that has to change in this country.

Thanks for the testimony. The racism percolating in our country should be a cause for much concern. I'm ashamed to hear you speak of what you had to personally witness, but thanks for doing so.

I hope that the protesters' refusal to leave turns the court of public opinion against them. Maybe the armed forces will need to be called in to help disperse this group?

I would like to know more about the organizers, James and Sandra Bauder and Martin Brodman, and their links to the Far Right. Apparently their organization, Canada Unity (certainly a misnomer), is based in Calgary. Their goal, according to their Memorandum of Understanding, is to repeal all Covid-19 mandates and also bring down our democratically-elected federal government. This is shocking and appalling. And what is more disturbing is that they have gained so much traction with some Canadians: about 270,000 signatures and almost 9 million in fundraising.

I don't see how they can win anybody's approval at this stage. Now that the week-end partiers have left, with the bad publicity that they have created for themselves, the hardcore lunatics are the ones that are still around, annoying the townsfolk in the city. They can hardly count on the CPC's support anymore, now that the party is covered with the stench of these monkey's poop. Only Bernier and his A**holes' Party of Canadorks are left to court them. 270,000 out of 38.5M people is still a tiny minority, and that is given that all 270,000 are all legit Canadian individuals who signed. A good part of the fundraising came from anonymous accounts inside and outside the country, and now the city council is raising the idea of undertaking the legal procedures to seize that money to cover the costs of the protest.

Yes to everything you've said. We all need a bit of a crash course on how our democracy works.........and a lot more control of what money can be raised anonymously. Certainly...anger, frustration and an extreme sense of powerlessness is more widely spread in the country than most of us realized.

What this article does not address, and that needs to be, is the role of court injunctions in legitimizing RCMP violence. Yes, there's a racial divide evident, but I'm not so sure all the truckers are "white." There's also a divide between citizens and corporations. Corporations have but to request an injunction against peaceful protests, which the courts invariably hand out, as it's been said, like candy, and the peaceful protest is all of a sudden illegal and the RCMP have all the justification they need to bring out the pepper spray, chain saws, and axes.

Perhaps you've hit upon it. We need some important corporation to request an injunction. At the Alberta-U.S. border, that would be helpful as well.

Where are these 'good corporate citizens' when we need them??

The good thing is that the double standard is becoming it needs to be connected to the real emergency we have on our hands......disasterous climate change.

These anti-vaccer, anti-mandate folks are likely for the most part, still at some stage in the process of climate change denial. Remember that after denial, comes anger. I think we're at that stage now, for a variety of reasons.

Many of these people aren't doing so well, economically. What's more, their right wing parties of choice are in disarray as well. After decades of Harper type politics, 'frack on' attitudes, and aggressive defense of our unconventional energy sector........things are changing.

The people who've attached themselves to the 'Truckers Movement', the majority not truckers...don't like any of these shifts in they've gathered to force a coup. Admittedly, they know little about coups....but that has been their avowed intentions.

Stay in Ottawa, force Trudeau to resign and form their own 90 day interim government before what???
A Trumpian style re election where only conservatives can run???

It's crazy think in many ways. But I'm not sure we should be treating it with kid gloves.........or pretending these people are 'our friends and neighbours'. No one I know has the incredulity or the money for that matter, to engage in this trek toward 'peaceful' revolution.

After two years of totalitarian governance you would now wish for Martial Law?

Friends and neighbours no, acquaintances perhaps. We've all met people who seem sensible enough when you encounter them in the checkout line at the grocery store, until they start sharing with you some out-there aspect of their belief system. Maybe grocery store is a poor example these days, but you know what I mean.

Right now it seems that the current premise has run out of steam and all momentum they may have been feeling is likely quickly draining away - and it will soon dawn on some of the smarter participants that they've been duped and it's time to go back home and deal with all the personal fallout and shame of even being associated with this misadventure.

And as far as the folks that are organizing this it's pretty clear that they are narcissists, and when any narcissist tells you their intentions, you'd better believe that it is real to them. The best time to have prosecuted those people to the full extent of the law was last week, next best time is right now!

And what of the shameless political elites that egged them all on at the expense of our democracy and the common good? Will they be sitting pretty on their big bags of fundraising cash? It's up to the rest of us to speak out to make sure that that doesn't happen.

Trust Mr. Fawcett to find a controversial negative turn to a peaceful demonstration by average hardworking men and women. Let's not talk about the intent and purpose of the peaceful convoy, but keep the focus of all mainstream media on two public incidents which were undoubtedly created by the radical and political groups (fortunately there were few this time and they did stick out) who have been "crashing" most demonstrations for the past two years. Let's follow the party line - our PM does it, so why not; let's stay away for the reason for the convoy and start our speech by talking about respect for our war heroes, etc.

Hi Lorraine, I have two questions for you, because I'm curious about your opinion ..

1. In your estimation what was the main purpose of the convoy?
2. Assuming that they've now made their point, what more is there to do, why not now just go home?

1. To convince our government to actually a) listen to scientists around the world; b) be transparent with the people about the facts: what percentage of "cases" landing in emergency have been vaccinated against those who have not; actual causes of death; percentage of cases threatened by a severe other desease; c) stop controling the media; d) stop trying, by devious means, to create identity passes; e) stop promoting hate, fear and violence against those who do not wish to be injected with chemicals; f) stop restricting freedom of movement for those whithout an identity pass; g) stop calling it a sanitary pass when it is really nothing but a political power trip. I could go on but it's too depressing and also useless. To summarize: All of the above are undemocratic measures and definitely infringe on the people's liberty; and
2. Unless the PM deigns to speak with the group's representatives and acknowledges, contrary to his shameful speach while in hiding, that they took the time out to adress an untenable situation which is causing more harm than good, and that the very few acts of "vandalism" which occurred, were perpetrated by "others who used the convoy for their own purpose" some political, then - this entire time consuming and costly and physically taxing trip will have been for naught - if as you suggest they just go home. The only acknowledgement they have now received from the PM is that they are a small fringe minority of hooligans, misogynists, racists and I don't know what else - I was sick before the end.
I am also not convinced that we are a SMALL FRINGE minority any longer, wishing to regain and retain respect of our rights and liberty by those whom we elected. And I am grateful the convoy took this step on my behalf. And if they go home without being respectfully acknowledged, it will have been in vain.

Oh, Andrew, just as a sideline, I have pretty well voted Liberal all my life at the Federal level. Unless, the candidate in my riding really did not suit me, then I voted Green a few times. I have never - never voted PC and am definitely not a Trumpist nor a Popular/rightwinger. In case you were wondering, And also I am a very old grandmother. Not a narcistic punk.

I too am a very old grandmother and remember a time when voting in Canada was not limited to the party but rather you could vote for the person you felt most likely to get the job done well. Admittedly my Mother was a true Liberal in every sense. However, Progressive Conservatives had their share of fine leaders up and until the Mulroney era. But that major change was one that was initiated by the triumvirate of Mulroney, Reagan and Thatcher - three people who had every intention of controlling the people, the masses as it were and to enable the invitation to corporate investment from ports outside of Canada. Trade agreements and such can be great tools but when corporate money takes over the running of countries as we have realized today, when they buy out the media, take over the investment portfolios and move them overseas to avoid taxes, run the machinery behind our governments, then we can no longer blame a sitting PM or President for the follies that now beset our world's democratic leaders. Blaming Trudeau for reciprocating the U.S. requiring vaccine mandates for truckers has nothing to do with the trucker convoys today - provinces mandate the vaccine rules and regs not Trudeau. But the hate-on for Trudeau by Conservatives in Canada is almost rabid in its obsession and they've managed to convince nearly everyone that the mandates are his fault. But you and I know that is not true.

On #1, it would be great to have genuine data (or references / citations) from actual epidemiologists and medical scientists whose research and experience is solely on pandemics, and who have thousands of pages of data on the rapidly evolving COVID virus and its multiplicity of effects at their fingertips. Instead, we are given nebulous, unnamed sources couched in absolutist statements.

It would also be great WRT #2 if you could please explain how the PM has NOT heard from the leaders of this group who demanded not just the dissolution of government, but the wholesale devaluation of policy by democracy to policy by mob rule. He responded by rightfully calling their input methodology and demands (coercion by occupation of a city) illegitimate. [Coercion: The practice of persuading someone to do something by using force or threats. Oxford online.] If they ran for office or formed a registered lobby NOT armed by what is now a full-on urban blockade with hundreds of trucks, then they may be heard through these proper channels and receive full public input through an election, willingly or unwillingly.

I believe giving credence to #1 + #2 would: result in overflowing ICUs, spikes in COVID deaths, more long-haulers and ultimately the collapse of our healthcare system; a parliamentary system run by angry yobs bullying cowardly elected MPs; permission for any mob of whatever ideological persuasion to take over through a tried and true method (blockades), IF they were allowed to.

This turned out to be not a peaceful convoy. That is the whole point behind Mr. Fawcett bringing it up. There was no focus on a peaceful convoy, ever. This is an unabashed attempt to overthrow a sitting government. Considering most COVID rules, etc. are evenutally formulated and pursued by provincial governments on the 'suggestions' of the federal government, why are they all so F-Trudeau minded? Is that peaceful? Defecating on people's yards, intimidating them as they attempt to continue their daily walks to the store, walking pets, etc., is not a sign of peace in anyone's mind. I'm surprised you think so.

I can't help bur wonder what "democracy" some readers are anxious to protect; I remember what a semblance of democracy is but have not seen it for at least two years. Also, before playing the racist card for sensationalism, has Mr. Fawcett considered that the same police officers and RCMP officers, were also subjected to the same "democratic" decree to vaccinate or else, and naturally support the Liberty Convoy, be they of any skin colour. Just saying...

Let's see your evidence of a lack of democracy. Elections produce governments that obtain the confidence of a parliament majority, including minority governments and coalitions of two or more parties that team up on policy.

As for the police (and army, for that matter) and this bellyaching bunch, there is a lot of growing insecurity diluting the white privilege and diminishing conservative representation in Alberta and elsewhere. That may be one of the lesser challenges to using these organizations to enforcing city bylaws against hundreds of big rigs many members support and cutting the 24/7 auditory, physical and verbal harassment of residents. Police forces and the military in this country have issues with some members who have violent right wing extremist tendencies, along with a majority with natural philosophical leanings toward conservative governments.

As reported on the CBC last night, a former member of the PM's RCMP security detail is now one of the mob leaders. If Harper or Scheer was the PM, would you have a problem with that?