I am calling it Filthy February!

Dorothy Dobbie
Issues in the news

Never has so much happened in one short month.

In my personal life, it began with the traumatic birth of my great grandchild, Florence, who arrived by C-section the early hours of February 1. 

 That was a Tuesday, the day after the long weekend. The truckers’ convoy had started a week before and arrived in Ottawa on Friday, January 28, settling in over the long weekend for a rousing demonstration of frustration over being made to vaccinate after having hauled goods for two years and being hailed as heroes for doing their duty despite the early concern over the dangers of COVID-19. During those heavy days, many were unable to find washrooms or food along the road as so many restaurants were closed to them, but they carried on.

It started as an inspiring journey and ended sadly for everyone involved. 

Now they were slapped with an order to vaccinate or isolate and lose their livelihood if they would do neither, and this at a time when OMICRON had proved infectious but not dangerous and was already on the wane. They were angry and fed up. As they crossed the prairies, their convoy gathered steam and suddenly other convoys were being formed in the east and in the south. Even in the north. People gathered along the highways to cheer them on. When first of the trucks converged on Ottawa, the drivers were helped by the Ottawa police to station their trucks along Wellington in front of the Parliament buildings until they overflowed onto the neighbouring streets. 

They came in singles and in families, wives and children occupying the trucks that were their second homes. They mainly represented the independent owner drivers, the small business operators, the blue colour cowboys of the road, whose very hearts are rooted in freedom, an urge that put them in the truck cabs in the first place.

At first there was a great outpouring of support – money poured into a Go Fund Me account – somewhere around $10 million from mainly small and medium sized donors – a few hundred here, a thousand there, lots of $20s. And the odd larger donation from “somewhere else”, we were told by government who claimed that the convoy was being funded by right wing terrorists. This has not been proven to be true, but it became a media mantra.

The truckers welcome to Ottawa did not last long. First, they honked their horns incessantly to the annoyance, growing anger and finally fury of the residents. Second, they were soon joined by the “cling-ons”, the disruptors looking for excitement and a reason to raise hell. They brought their hot tubs and liquor and refused to wear masks in stores and restaurants. Third, the truckers’ self-appointed leaders posted a stupid manifesto declaring their intent to overthrow the government and replace it with who knows what – they didn’t know, that’s for sure. They showed their naiveté in this proclamation, but the government took it more than seriously. By Monday night, the common refrain was, including from me, “You have made your point. Time to GO HOME.”

And they might have, had they received a different response from the Prime Minister, who from his place in hiding (the Secret Service was reportedly afraid for his safety from this grinning, honking, peaceful horde of people,) he issued a statement calling them “a small fringe minority” that hold “unacceptable” views. He would go on to characterize then in even more derogatory terms as being far right radicals, misogynists, and racists, among other things. 

While all that was playing out and going from bad to worse, on Feb. 2. the leader of the Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole, was booted from his job as leader and replaced with Interim Leader Candice Bergen. 

On Feb. 7, the truckers moved to blockade the Ambassador Bridge, followed by blockades at Emerson, and Coutts Alberta and some smaller border crossings. That same day, in Ottawa, a 10-day injunction brought by a 21-year-old civil servant, Zexi Lee, was granted by an Ontario Superior Court judge. This substantially reduced the noise so Ottawa could get some sleep.

We were still reeling in shock from the dismissal of the Conservative leader when, on Feb. 8, Quebec Liberal caucus chair Joel Lightbound spoke out against the Liberal Party and the Prime Minister saying that since the 2021 election, “a decision was made to wedge, to divide and to stigmatize.”

In the weeks that followed, trucker protests were held across the country in most major cities. On Feb. 11, Doug Ford declared a state of emergency in Ontario to enable him to do what was needed to clear the border crossing at Windsor. A couple of days later, on Valentine’s Day, police discovered a cache of arms in three trucks at Coutts, Alberta. The blockade spontaneously dissolved.

With things calmed at the borders, police support for the Ottawa police was now on their way to the capital city to help clear out the truckers using the Ontario Act to support the measures. It looked like we were on our way to a final resolution.

Then, to a stunned country, Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act, a strange gift wrapped in anything but hearts and flowers. This Act had never been used in all of its history and the Act that preceded it, the War measure Act, had only been used thrice in history, once for each world war and once by Trudeau the elder to deal with the October crisis in Quebec. “Follow the money,” said Deputy PM Chrystia Freeland, gleefully. We will direct all financial facilities to freeze the accounts of anyone who gave or tried to give money to this “illegal” protest! The list of donors was leaked, and thousands of innocent Canadian donors began trembling for fear of losing their money.

That was Monday. For the next seven days, the House debated the measure. Outraged Tory and Bloc members railed against the unnecessary action, while a confused NDP mumbled and bumbled but unblushingly said they would support it. (Interestingly, Jagmeet Singh’s brother was reported to have donated $13,000 to the truckers’ cause but the money was pulled back by the Liberals’ order to freeze the Go Fund me account).

While the debate was gong on in the House, the troops that former police chief Sloly has been crying out for finally arrived. On Feb. 16, Ottawa’s police chief “resigned”. The next day, the Ottawa police board chair and one of the councilors, was ousted from the board. The deputy chief took over as interim chief.

Starting that same day, Thurs., Feb. 17, Police began shutting down the protest. The streets were cleared by Saturday.

Meanwhile, in Manitoba, on Feb. 18 police were able to negotiate an end to the blockade here, although the protest carried on in front of the Legislature. Still, it looked like things were being brought back to order. 

Monday, the House debate ended, the vote was called and on Mon. Feb. 21, Trudeau had his Emergencies Act declared by parliament – amid scathing commentary around the world. Canada had taken a sledgehammer to a fly. The bill then went to the Senate where Senators were heatedly debating when, suddenly on Feb. 23, amid speculation that the bill would fail in the senate Trudeau announced an end to the Act! 

Had enough of February yet? Not so fast. While all this tempest was taking place in Canada, the Olympics were being played out in Beijing, a miserable games according to all accounts. Look alike truck protests were taking place all over Europe and the US (handled much more expeditiously than in Canada). And Putin was moving troops closer and closer to the Ukraine. After making some threatening moves, on Feb. 24, he plunged right in and began aggressively firing on the country.

As a backdrop to all of this, there was more personal family trauma, subzero temperatures, glacial roads, and several feet of snow, falling not just here but on the sad streets of our capital where it was frigidly cold much of the month.

As I write this, it is the last day of the month, February 28. This has been Filthy February.

It has to get better from here.

• • •

P.S. On the money side of things, it appears that the financial freeze truly has been lifted, not because of protests from Canadians, but because the financial world came down on Freeland like a ton of bricks, letting her know that if it was that easy to breach financial security in Canada, this was no place for their money. The threat of having all that cash withdrawn from Canadian financial institutions was enough to scare her into submission. She announced that the 202 accounts which she had reserved for further scrutiny, would be unfrozen. As far as I can tell, your money is now safe again. I hope. But who knows what long term damage has been done to the reputation of our monetary system on the world stage