The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
It’s no secret in the Canadian news that there are protests in Ottawa, Ontario regarding Covid-19 mandates. What was originally deemed as a “Freedom Convoy” for commercial truckers has now presented the opportunity for extremist groups to spout themes of racism, hatred, and violence amongst the nation’s capital. They are placing the lives of the residents of Ottawa on hold as businesses, grocery stores, and other essential services have been closed for safety precautions.
This cross-Canada convoy protesting Covid-19 mandates started arriving on the 28th of January. They quickly grid-locked the core of Ottawa with various types of trucks and thousands of protestors on foot. As of February 6th, this convoy has now placed the City of Ottawa in a state of emergency. In other words, the same convoy that is advocating for ”freedom” is preventing individuals from continuing with their lives, in Ottawa, freely.
Before I continue, I just want to state that I am in no way invalidating one’s right to protest. Feelings of disagreement with the government are okay- quite frankly, they’re natural. However, there are other ways you can express these feelings- voting, running for the legislative assembly, or PEACEFUL protest. Keyword: peaceful. But this situation has escalated from expressing one’s rights to terrorizing the residents of Ottawa. Completely departing from the “peaceful protest” ideology. As a result, life has been put on hold in the Nation’s capital.
This demonstration has shown nothing but a deep disrespect for people living in the city through increasingly violent tactics. These people are not responsible for the public health mandates being contested or for the empty Parliament building all these people are honking at endlessly. Everyone is trying to recover from the repercussions of government-imposed mandates. It is universal. Shepards of Good Hope, a social service organization based in the heart of Ottawa, support those in need daily. Throughout this convoy, they have been faced with constant harassment, assault, and torment for food meant for those in need. This organization has devoted itself to providing services to the city’s most vulnerable- not protestors terrorizing the hard-working staff.
If only it had stopped there. One of the central malls in Ottawa containing 175 businesses, the CF Rideau Center, has closed indefinitely after many unmasked protesters stormed the mall in the beginning phases of the demonstration. Rocks are being thrown into windows of small businesses, innocent people are being assaulted for wearing masks, and confederate & nazi flags are being held high throughout the protest.
Now, I am not shocked in the slightest that these protests are transpiring. We have been locked in our houses on and off for the past two years with no end in sight. With the constant change in direction throughout the pandemic, it has been hard to uphold faith in the government. What I am shocked by is HOW these protests are transpiring, as the coordinators have not denounced their association with the non-peaceful participants and the continued hate and violence that the city has endured during their stay.
It is not impossible to protest peacefully. It has been done before and definitely could have been done in Ottawa. For example, in 1913, women had been deprived of the right to vote for more than sixty years in the United States. As a result, on March 3rd, 1913 thousands of women gathered on Pennslyvania Avenue along with parade floats, bands, and mounted brigades. Coupled with the National American Women Suffrage Association this huge parade was spearheaded by Alice Paul who strategically organized the parade one day before the president-elect’s inauguration. This strategy proved to be effective as it led to congressional hearings. Now, it did take seven more years for equality at the ballot box, but, this parade has been credited for revitalizing the suffrage movement in a peaceful manner.
This parade, similar to the Freedom Convoy, attracted a lot of attention. Obviously, these two events occurred at very different points in time. Today’s attention is equated to going viral on social media and back then, attention was attaining headlines in the print newspaper. In both of these instances, the individuals protesting were well within their rights to do so. What can be highlighted as a fundamental difference was how the protest ensued.
In Washington, a group of individuals called upon the government to make a change. The same occurred in Ottawa: a group of individuals has called upon the government to make a change but it has been faced with violence and hate. We have all endured the many lockdowns and mandates that our government has placed upon us and yes, naturally, we are all tired of it. With that being said, that is no excuse for the behaviour the residents of Ottawa have had to endure over the past few weeks. To the protesters- who came, protested peacefully, and left- thank you, you have not gone unseen.