This space has been a bit quiet for a while, mostly because I’ve been quite busy and haven’t had the time to write. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to say, it’s just been more of a matter of not having enough time to say it. And to be fair, there have been many great columnists and commentators out there who have been saying a lot of what has been on my mind. But with the events of this week, and after a particular Twitter exchange I had yesterday about the topic du jour (re: convoys), I felt compelled to write. This is the specific part of this exchange that tweaked this for me:
When I was having this back and forth with the amazing journalist Stephen Maher and with fellow political gadfly Jamie Carroll, I had a moment of clarity that really just struck me as so strange. It brought me back to the end of the summer of 2020 and a piece I wrote about the disturbing scenes we were seeing play out just off of Parliament Hill. At that time conspiracy theory spouting individuals were trying to enact “citizens arrests” against politicians and journalists. That came after members of the same group tried to do the same to the Prime Minister at Rideau Cottage. And of course, that came after an armed military reservist and supposedly “friendly sausage-maker” attempted to storm Rideau Hall to get the Prime Minister.
At that time, I remember so much of the conversation what centred around how this was out of control, about how our politicians should be better protected, how it was un-Canadian to have this happen on the street right outside Parliament and how we didn’t want to go down the rabbit hole we saw playing out in the United States. It was a moment when it felt like almost everyone across the political spectrum was saying “hey, this is too much”.
Yet we fast forward to today, and during that conversation it just hit me that moment was clearly gone. Instead of speaking with a united voice against those malign voices and forces, we’ve seen splintering and called to embrace the crazy conspiracy theories and those spewing them. When one points out that there are far-right groups, white nationalists and other assorted populists attached to this group coming towards Ottawa, a growing number of mostly big and small “c” conservative voices have tried to silence those points. They call the ones who point to these malign influences as the true dividers and the real problem. A prime example of this played out right in front of the Sir John A. MacDonald Building across the street from Parliament Hill this morning, from a sadly unsurprising voice:
When you listen to that, it’s clear as day who is driving the Conservative bus these days and it’s clearly not Erin O’Toole. Pierre Poilievre is driving that thing, trying to angle his way into a leadership job with some of the most disingenuous and devise stuff I’ve heard from anyone on the Blue Team in a long while. I know there are good, moral members of good conscious with that caucus who are shaking their heads at what Poilievre is doing here. He’s parroting the worst of what we’ve seen play out stateside, just as some within this convoy are calling for a Canadian remix of the worst event to play out there in decades. You don’t believe me? Here:
I could go on but I’m going to ask a question here that I asked in the Twitter thread I mentioned yesterday: At what point do we take these people at their word? Do we wait until the first shot is fired? Until blood is spilled? Words matter & have consequences, as it is in a free country. When those words go beyond the legal standard and create harm to others, they should be acted upon by the authorities to the fullest extent of the law. Seriously, how many people down south were talking the same way about what happened last year in Washington? How could we allow ourselves to be put in the same situation with the same kind of malaise?
Right now all of the warning signs are blaring red, telling us that we should take this seriously, even if this isn’t a group of serious-minded people. Heck, these are the same people who think that if they get enough signatures on an incoherent petition that they can force the Senate and Governor General to dissolve the government and basically put an end to our elected, representative democracy. Doesn’t that sound eerily familiar to the batshit crazy stuff that led to what happened on January 6th, 2021? And when those people show up in Ottawa and what they’ve been led to believe will happen doesn’t, what do you think they’re going to do? Go home, realize this was all a big mistake, that they’ve been fooled and had and will just go home quietly? I come to this video clip here to make my point:
This has all the ingredients to make for a terrible time in Ottawa, one that could be minimized and dealt by the authorities if we are taking this seriously. The different police and security agencies clearly are and i’m thankful for that. But sadly we’re seeing some Conservative politicians who are seeing political advantage in this moment, trying to replicate the “successes” of the likes of Republicans like Josh Hawley, Marjorie Taylor Green, Paul Gosar and others of their ilk. They have seen a road to personal political advantage through creating the ruins of strong democratic institutions that they have personally helped to create, and now we are seeing some Canadian Conservatives apparently looking to walk the same path. Basically they’ve look at Maxime Bernier and decided they can do that better. Do I think that’s what is going to play out in Ottawa when that convoy arrives? I’m not convinced of it yet, but I’m not willing to wait to find out if I’m right. It only takes one time to get succeed, regardless of how many failed attempts are made. On January 6th, 2021 we saw just how close our American neighbours came to that edge, and that should have been our wakeup call here at home. Instead we slept through that alarm and this is on our doorstep today. Will we continue to hit snooze hoping for things to get better? I guess time will tell but now is the moment that our elected political leaders need to dig deep and lead. That means denouncing the hate and conspiracy theories that should be easy to denounce and standing firm. They all did it back in September of 2020 and the future of our democracy depends on all of them doing it again now.