In the past I’ve written some of these “Morning After” pieces to discuss elections, debates or more normal political things. It was an approach I always felt worked well for those things. Yet this morning I was racking my mind as to how to talk about yesterday in Ottawa, because there was so much that happened that was awful . As a result, I decided to revive this title for this because of how disturbing the day was, but also because of the political fall out that may very well come from what has happened so far.
The day was full of foul language, disturbing signage and a lot of things that we have seen show up at anti-vax events all across the country over the past year. That was to be expected, and honestly probably wasn’t as shocking. It was some of the other things that happened that have grabbed us all by the scruff and infuriated many. I’m going to take this in some tranches of events. Let’s start on Parliament Hill itself, and some of the images we saw:
In that collection of images you saw there, we saw swastikas a plenty, Confederate flags, people literally pissing on the grounds of our hallowed democracy and then desecration of the Terry Fox statue, found directly across the street from Parliament. We also saw photos and videos from Conservative MPs who were hobnobbing with the people there, leaving them to defend getting themselves seen with these images, like Conservative MP Michael Cooper in that screenshot of a live TV shot with swastikas in the background. It was the ultimate example of “fucked around, got caught”, but things got more disturbing as the day went along. Let’s go to the next tranche, one of the most hallowed places in all of Ottawa:
Many of us woke up Saturday morning to see photos of the National War Memorial being used as a parking lot, an act of disrespect for those who have fought for our freedoms and died to protect them. For a group that was supposedly all about “freedom”, it was an ignorant and disgusting act. Eventually the vehicles were cleared, some leaving willingly and others refusing, having to be removed, giving an additional act of disrespect. You might have thought that once the out-of-towners realized what that place was that they would steer clear if it, but that didn’t happen. Nope, it actually got worse. Later we saw members of this “Freedom” protest drinking and dancing on the memorial, jumping on top of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. And then this morning, I woke up to images of people who literally pissed on the place. For those of us who were working in Parliament in 2014, that place holds extra importance because that was the place that Corporal Nathan Cirillo was murdered by a terrorist before he shot up Parliament. He died standing sentry, protecting that place in 2014. And here we are less than eight years later, and a group of self-proclaimed “patriots” treated that hallowed ground with the ultimate disrespect. That disrespect extended to those who live in the city, which is the next tranche for your consideration:
When I lived in Ottawa, I saw a lot of protests. That is part and parcel of what comes with living in the Nation’s Capital and those who live there are used to what comes with that. Most protestors who come to Ottawa are, in our most Canadian of traditions, are polite and respectful as they make their point. That has been far from the case this time, almost right from the start the night before with images of threats being made against simple workers in hotels, restaurants and stores. That continued through Saturday, and I expect will do so again going forward as the crowd gets thinner and more extreme. But it was the news that came out late last night of the actions of members of this “freedom” protest against the Shepherds of Good Hope was maybe one of the most stomach-turning things I’ve ever seen. As the shelter itself told everyone on Twitter, some of those “protestors” turned up at their shelter, demanding to be fed and because of the fear of this moment, they gave it to them. These “patriots” claimed that they had to because they couldn’t get fed without a mask, and therefore were somehow worthy of getting the meager and limited resources aimed for the homeless in Ottawa. Yes, because they refused to wear an effing mask, they stole from the poor. They supposedly raised over $8 million, yet they stole from the poor. They had the money and resources to feed themselves, but they refused to do a simple thing that the vast majority of us have done. So in the end, they literally stole from the homeless, who are trying to survive on a 30 below night in Ottawa. I would invite people to make a donation to the Shepherds of Good Hope and show them just how their good work is supported by the vast majority of Canadians.
I can’t adequately describe my anger and disgust at those acts because that is so debased and disgusting. All day during interviews on live national TV yesterday, these self-professed “Canadian Patriots” talked about how they were really doing this for all Canadians, for the poor, the homeless, for small businesspeople, for Indigenous peoples, for veterans and more. Yet in all of these depraved acts, groups of cowards in this “protest” desecrated, demeaned and stole from all of those people. And as a group with so many self-professed Christians, they even deliberately tried to disrupt church services, even after they were asked to stop. They weren’t just acting like jerks, they took it up more than a few notches, with that last act at the Shepherds of Good Hope being the lowest of lows. But in the last tranche here, I can’t help but look forward a bit, with what might still come next:
On Friday night I wrote about the dangers that could come ahead with this protest. I pointed to the unprecedented actions taken by the Parliamentary Protective Services and their warnings to MPs about staying safe at home. It spoke to the threats that are being traced, to the safety of members of Parliament and those in the Parliamentary precinct. And yesterday, we saw more of that play out. We heard from CBC that the Prime Minister and his family were moved to an undisclosed, safe location, again a serious step I never witnessed in my time on Parliament Hill. We saw trucks trying to force their way to Rideau Cottage, showing that those precautions were warranted. One of the most infamous protest leaders was videoed knocking on the door of the Prime Ministers office, making comments that could be construed as threatening. We also saw threats lobbed at journalists yesterday and this morning we saw that Parliamentary Press Gallery members needing police assistance to get into work, something else I cannot remember ever hearing about or witnessing in my time there. This is very serious stuff.
Remember, this group has been calling for the removal of our democratically elected government and dismantling of our representative democracy. That is in their demands, along with other crazy things that show their complete lack of understanding of our democratic system, the Constitution and more. But this is what they want, and as I’ve been saying for a while now, I don’t picture a situation where this group gets told “No” and just walks away quietly, accepting the denial and protection of democracy. They haven’t accepted a bloody thing during this whole pandemic and have made it clear that they want to overthrow the government. So why would they all of a sudden gain rationality when they’ve shown themselves to be anything but. Heck, now they even have the backing of Donald Trump of all people, stirring the pot at one of his dangerous rallies just last night. That is only going to push them along further, not chasten them.
So what is going to happen when they finally realize they aren’t going to get their way? That is the next step that is dangerous and worrying. Tomorrow Parliament is supposed to reconvene after their winter break and while it will be a hybrid sitting, there will still be some MPs there in person, along with Parliamentary staff that are needed to make it work. I don’t logistically see how all these trucks and people will be cleared out of Ottawa’s downtown by tomorrow morning, and the group has clearly stated they have no intention of leaving until we no longer have a democracy. While so much of we saw yesterday was disturbing, enraging and disgusting, this isn’t over yet and still has the potential to get worse. Now that some of the cooler heads who were along for the ride of this protest have gone home and we have a more extreme group there, it remains to be seen what will happen. I continue to pray for the best and that nothing dangerous will come from this, but after the depravity we saw yesterday, I am not as hopeful as I’d like to be. We’ll see what happens tomorrow but unfortunately this is not over, and the worst may still be ahead of us.