In the News
Don’t Blame the Truckers!
Divisive Self-Serving Stunts and Disinformation
of the First Order
A mobilization called the Freedom Convoy converged in Ottawa on January 29. It is being presented as an initiative of truckers demanding the revocation of the vaccine mandate applying to truckers entering Canada from the U.S. that came into effect on January 15. However, it is not a truckers’ rally and our advice is Don’t Blame the Truckers!
An organization called Canada Unity claims to be the organizer of the convoy. It is demanding the resignation of the Trudeau government, an end of all mandates and that the Senate and Governor-General recognize their group as representatives of “the people of Canada.” Besides pushing their ideological beliefs in the name of freedom and democracy with the aid of not a few advocates of racism and misogyny, a cabal of Conservative Party MPs and those involved in their own causes, such as the so-called People’s Party of Maxime Bernier and other such formations, they do not permit any discussion on the working and living conditions of truckers in Canada. For the media to call it a truckers’ convoy is a misnomer to say the least.
The demands of the promoters of the convoy are suspect from the get-go. For instance, while they protest the Trudeau government issuing mandates, those organizing the entire affair behind the scenes in Alberta themselves rule by decree. This includes the Premier of Alberta, Jason Kenney, whose approval ratings have consistently been among the lowest, if not the very lowest, of any premier in the country. Kenney himself was in Washington D.C. at the National Governors Association Meeting at the time the convoy hit Ottawa, where he raised with members of the U.S. Congress and Governors the demand for the U.S. to end its vaccination mandate for truckers entering the U.S., and for favourable deals for the oil and gas sector his government represents.
A key organizer and spokesperson of the convoy is Tamara Lich, based in Medicine Hat, Alberta. She is secretary of the Maverick Party, a new federal party that first called itself Wexit Canada. It became eligible for registration on January 16, 2019 under that name then was registered under its new name, the Maverick Party, on August 19, 2021. The party’s interim leader is Jay D. Hill, who was a Conservative MP from 1993 to 2010 and served as Government House Leader under Harper in the House of Commons from 2008 to 2010.
The conception of freedom Ms. Lich’s party stands for can be seen in its stated mission, which aims to “achieve greater fairness and self-determination for western Canadians through fundamental change, or the creation of an independent nation.” A quick look at their platform shows that among other things they promote the building of what they call national energy corridors to develop Energy East, Trans Mountain Pipeline, Keystone Pipeline, Northern Gateway, and new potential pipelines, which are part of further integrating Canada into the U.S. and its war economy. They also say they do not support the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Instead they support “meeting with Indigenous peoples” who in their estimation have “conveyed progressive agendas and the need for change regarding the Indian Act” and engaging in “an open dialogue with all Chiefs (Hereditary, Traditional and Elected), Leaders and their councils” with an eye to coming up with “a New Deal for the Indigenous people of western Canada.” They also want a review of Canadian funding of the United Nations to limit support for what they call the UN’s “globalization initiatives related to climate change, refugees, immigration and WHO.”
This so-called Freedom Convoy is organized, in the words of Ms. Lich, to get the federal and provincial governments to end vaccine passports, all mandatory vaccination requirements and contact tracing throughout Canada and to respect the rights of those who wish to remain unvaccinated. She claims that she is defending freedom and democracy against what she calls the divisive rhetoric and the coercive measures of governments to censor those who hold different opinions.
What has become clear is that the mobilization is a self-serving stunt to push factional rivalries in the contest over control of the supreme political power in this country which, at this time, lies with the federal executive power. Whatever else they think they may have achieved, one thing which has already been consummated is the ouster of the leader of the federal Conservative Party Erin O’Toole. O’Toole was removed on Wednesday by the Conservative caucus following a staged leadership review. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Trudeau and his government have surpassed themselves as concerns their penchant for throwing epithets around to blame their rivals for being backward and the cause of every conceivable problem the Trudeau government is not addressing.
According to media reports, Trudeau said the convoy was comprised of a “small fringe minority.” He dismissed their views as “anti-science, anti-government and anti-society,” which pose a risk not only to themselves but to others as well. While the media made the issue his refusal to meet “the truckers,” all of it served to suggest that the Trudeau government which has distinguished itself for privatizing everything, including government itself, and pushing the anti-social offensive through rule by decree, is scientific, not antisocial and not a “fringe minority.”
Taking their cue from the neo-liberal ideology and the positions of the factions within the ruling class, the media promote the mobilization as being a truckers’ convoy despite the fact that all discussion on the worrisome working and living conditions truckers face is taboo.
All of it — the divisive stunts and expenditure of vast amounts of money to pay for policing, and the algorithms designed to portray “thousands” of rigs on the march — adds up to a massive disinformation campaign to hide the fact that it is up to the Canadian people themselves, in action in defence of the rights of all, to define what is democratic and what is not, what is pro-social and what is not, what is needed and what is not. All the hooting and hollering seems designed to imitate the theatrics of the failed January 6, 2021 coup at the Capitol in Washington D.C. so as to drown out the workers speaking in their own names about what must be done regarding their living and working conditions.
The so-called Freedom Convoy had essentially the same aim as one called the United We Roll convoy from Red Deer, Alberta to Ottawa that was organized in February 2019, with Jason Kenney as one of its main proponents. That convoy largely fizzled when a lot of people jumped off the bandwagon in opposition to the shady way in which the money that was raised was being used and because the convoy was a tool in a sectarian fight for power and privilege between the Conservatives and the Liberals. It had nothing to do with discussing and solving the problems of the economy, especially of the oil and gas sector, let alone the problems the truckers and other workers face in making a living.
The United We Roll convoy took place two months before the Alberta general election which was held on April 16. At the time, Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party (UCP) was in the opposition and Rachel Notley and the NDP were in power. The April 16 election resulted in a win for the UCP manouevres.
As with the 2019 convoy, facts show that rank and file truckers have not jumped on this bandwagon either. Concerns over how the money has been raised and where the money is going indicate the necessity for a police investigation. There is no doubt that the funds are being used to push ideological beliefs Canada’s truckers have had no role in adopting.
By February 2, in just a few weeks, over $10 million was raised with no public accountability. A few days earlier the Freedom Convoy 2022 GoFundMe page showed the largest single donation to be $25,000, from an anonymous donor, with several other five-figure amounts showing as well. A note on the page at the time said only that “funds will be spent to help cover the cost of fuel for our Truckers first and foremost, will be used to assist with food if needed and contribute to shelter if needed.” For all Canadians know, the hotel industry in Ottawa could have had something to do with organizing people to converge in the city in the middle of a pandemic when business is slow.
The fact that organizers of this so-called Freedom Convoy won’t even permit discussion on the living and working conditions of truckers, which are very difficult, is significant in getting to the heart of the matter of who is behind this convoy and who it represents. With much nastiness, they opposed the just cause of the truckers in Vancouver who, before this so-called Freedom Convoy got underway, organized some 350 rigs in a rally and convoy from Surrey to Vancouver on January 22 to draw attention to their working conditions. Those truckers demanded that the BC government take responsibility for the conditions of the roads in B.C. which are extremely dangerous. They have been handed over to private contractors for whom paying for maintenance is not money-making. The government’s social irresponsibility is putting the lives of not just truckers but also every other driver at risk.
This is the program of privatization the organizers of the so-called Freedom Convoy advocate, which is why it has the endorsement of arch reactionary Jason Kenney, and why Maxime Bernier of the People’s Party, federal Conservative MPs and their leading lights all jumped on the bandwagon.
In this regard, monopoly-owned and controlled media, including social media, have been pushing disinformation in the most irresponsible manner. False photographs seek to create the impression of a huge convoy of trucks amassing. One such photo showed a lineup of trucks crossing the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor — an everyday occurrence — that was said to be a photo of the so-called Freedom Convoy. How many media saw fit to bring out the endorsement of the protest by Quebec neo-nazis and others of their ilk known for promoting racist and anti-immigrant views? It is quite something to see the official media, including the “very responsible” CBC making out that the cause of the convoy’s organizers is catching on as if it was a popular movement when it is well known how social media is used to create such false impressions for self-serving reasons.
So too, the definition of the police In Ottawa as to what constitutes a disturbance of the peace is very self-serving as they bend over backwards to accommodate alleged truckers in the name of freedom to protest and speak.
The fact is that Trudeau’s intervention further divides the polity while claiming that everyone’s freedom of expression is protected so long as they do not engage in violent acts. In this way he attempts to portray himself as the hero who represents real freedom and democracy. What is covered up by the fight over whose views on democracy are valid, is the support of both sides for the integration of Canada into the U.S. economy and war machine. Controlling energy corridors, building pipelines without consent on Indigenous territories, manipulating regulatory regimes to turn environmental standards and requirements on their head and sacrificing the human and natural environment are par for the course for both sides in this factional fight to control the federal power.
For the rich and powerful, at stake are the bonanzas that competing global private interests behind these parties are vying to control, lucrative contracts for infrastructure builds and other pay-the-rich schemes governments are putting forward in the name of “building back better” after the pandemic. What is at stake for the Canadian working class and people is the fight for their own empowerment which begins by speaking out in their own name. These are the voices across the country these divisive stunts and disinformation campaign are designed to silence in the name of high ideals.
It Must Not Pass!
1. On January 26, at a press conference, Trudeau said: “The small fringe minority of people who are on their way to Ottawa, who are holding unacceptable views that they’re expressing, do not represent the views of Canadians who have been there for each other, who know that following the science and stepping up to protect each other is the best way to continue to ensure our freedoms, our rights, our values as a country.”
Earlier, on September 16, he said on a Quebec talk show: “But there are also people who are fiercely opposed to vaccination, who do not believe in science, who are often misogynistic, often racist too. It’s a small group but it’s taking up space. And here we have to make a choice, as leaders, as a country. Do we tolerate these people, or do we say: let’s see, most people, almost 80 per cent of Quebeckers, have done the right thing, have been vaccinated. We want to get back to the things we like to do, and these people are not going to stop us.”
2. A story in the Globe and Mail titled “Almost one in five Canadian truckers is South Asian, but many don’t see themselves represented in the trucker convoy” quotes some truckers and those connected to the trucking industry who are of South Asian origin. One long-haul driver from Brampton said he had no desire to be part of the convoy because he didn’t believe in the issues they were raising. Another, the president of the Ontario Aggregate Trucking Association, told the Globe that nobody invited him or any South Asian truckers he knew, or asked them if they agreed with their demands. A third person who publishes a magazine for truckers said there was no anti-vaccine sentiment among South Asian truckers, but rather a desire to get vaccinated and boosted as soon as possible. Many live in places like Mississauga and Brampton, in multi-generational families, he said, and they do not want to catch COVID only to bring it back to infect the grandparents.
For further information and views on this alleged Freedom Convoy, read TML Monthly, February 6.
(TML Daily, posted February 3, 2022)