In the News
State of Emergency and Mayhem in Ottawa
The Time Is Now to Speak Out in Defence
of the Rights of All
The equivalence of the word mayhem connotes disorder, confusion, havoc, bedlam — a reference to a place which housed the mentally ill in England in the 1400s; pandemonium — denoting the place of all demons; tumult; uproar; turmoil; madhouse; all hell broken loose; hullabaloo; wild disarray; trouble; disorganization; maelstrom; disturbance; commotion; anarchy; destruction; violence. In law it historically means the crime of maliciously injuring or maiming someone, originally so as to render the victim defenseless.
Take your pick. All of these words to a greater or lesser extent describe what is taking place in Ottawa as a result of the occupation of the city by the so-called freedom convoy. In this regard, some people now refer to it as the “Freedumb Convoy” because it has nothing to do with defending freedom and democracy. Residents of Ottawa are not amused. Many people live in fear of being assaulted by having their masks torn off their faces to cries of Freedom!
The City of Ottawa backed by the Ontario government has now declared a state of emergency. Press statements assure that this merely serves as a warning that the police will apply parking bylaws, issue tickets and, in addition, sanction anyone who provides gas or food to those who are making a nuisance of themselves in the name of whatever they claim to stand for. Prior to this, on February 4, a class action lawsuit was filed by one resident against noise pollution and psychological damage, on behalf of the 6,000 residents in the area bounded by Bay Street to Elgin Street and Lisgar Street to Wellington Street. The hearing on the lawsuit was adjourned to Monday, February 7, where Ontario Superior Court Justice Hugh McLean issued a temporary injunction to end horn honking and the use of air horns and train horns by the convoy. Also on February 7, Ottawa City Council is holding an emergency meeting regarding the convoy. Reports indicate that the Ottawa Police Chief has requested an additional 2,000 police officers and civilians to “turn up the heat” on the convoy.
A lot is said about defending the freedom of speech of members of the convoy so long as they are law-abiding despite the fact that this is not what characterizes their actions. As far as anyone knows of the convoy, theirs is a manifesto whereby they declare themselves to be the real representatives of the people of Canada. Among other things, they demand that the Prime Minister and his government resign and that all vaccine mandates be rescinded.
The irony does not escape Canadians that many governments at different levels are in any case lifting not only vaccine mandates but all precautions which protect workers, teachers and education workers, health care workers and professionals, seniors and populations against catching COVID. Based on a spurious assessment that if everyone catches COVID it will create herd immunity, they seem to think that they can create a herd mentality that whoever dies in the process is dispensable. According to this narrative, society bears no responsibility: governments cannot be held to account.
Others wonder why the police in charge of the city and RCMP in charge of Parliament did not enforce the usual law and order measures in the first place without the need for a state of emergency? This would include penalties for noise and parking violations or response to calls of hoteliers and others whose premises and neighbourhoods are being misused and trashed.
People point to the ample evidence that the Canadian police and military are breeding grounds for racist and fascist groups. The outlook which informs the decision-making of all official circles is rooted in 19th century definitions according to which society is divided between rulers and those who are ruled. They have no qualms about using law and order measures against the people, but not against their buddies. Indigenous peoples, workers, women, youth and anyone who takes a stand for rights can attest to the fact that the attitude of the state towards the disruption caused by the hooligans in Ottawa, and now in other cities, in the name of “freedom” and “rights,” is not just hypocritical but shows they are unfit to rule.
It is not a matter that what is good for the goose should be good for the gander. It reveals that the law and order measures and constitutional arrangements they are based on have seen their day and do not sort out any issue facing the society.
The federal and other governments, their official media, the cartel parties with seats in the federal and provincial parliaments are incapable of providing analysis and measures to resolve the conflicts within their ranks, let alone meet the just demands of the people. This is why what is called “freedumb” applies to all of them, not just the demands of the hooligans who are causing mayhem in Ottawa and other places.
When government officials, police and official media continue to say they uphold freedom of speech and protest so long as it is peaceful, who does it serve? What speech? What protest?
Expletives in the form of uncouth words or accusations of extremism, white supremacy and fascism do not add sense to any conversation. Speech is a human right. It is an affirmation of the right to be which serves to communicate with one another, to inter-relate. To praise or condemn this or that action to line the people up on one side or the other, while silencing discussion about the course that Canada is taking, is to make sure the people do not work out a stand which favours them, and what solutions are needed to solve the problems they and society face.
Police powers — both in the form of governments which have concentrated all decision-making power in the hands of a few who serve supranational private interests and those of the agencies of law and order — are used against the people. They are part of the agenda of division and diversion to smash the movement of the people for their rights. It is not the intention of police, military, government and courts of law to defend the rights of working people and those who are not in positions of power and privilege. This is why it is necessary to take stands which favour the people and hold to account the actors who are not upholding the rights of the people.
This is indeed what the inhabitants of Ottawa are doing by speaking out in their own names and organizing actions to defend their rights.
The Time Is Now to Speak Out in Defence of the Rights of All!
(Renewal Update, posted February 7, 2022. Photos S. Mathur, CUPE)