Statement on Canada’s Freedom Convoy

Parliament Hill • New Brunswick Southwest Member of Parliament John Williamson issued the following statement on Canada’s Freedom Convoy:

Living for almost two long years with the coronavirus pandemic has impacted all Canadians. It has created financial stress for far too many, contributed to worsening mental and physical health or some combination for countless others, and, of course, everyone has had to postpone family and career plans as well as basic, but nevertheless extremely fulfilling, life experiences we had thought would happen naturally. Too many Canadians have lost jobs, savings or a family member as a result of COVID-19 or the restrictions put in place trying to control the virus. As a country, we’ve become more easily agitated and even uncharacteristically angry when we see something we don’t like.

The freedom to peacefully object to government decisions and hold decisionmakers accountable must never be denied in a democratic country. Dissent is a legitimate part of our society, whether it is today’s truckers’ protest in Ottawa, last year’s national coast-to-coast outcry that Every Child Matters following the grim discovery of unmarked graves at several former Residential School sites, or large Black Lives Matter rallies we witnessed after George Floyd's brutal murder in 2020. As citizens it is our duty to demand better from those given the responsibility to govern on our behalf.

Small protests are properly discounted by Canadians along with the media. But that doesn’t end the right of small groups of citizens to peacefully protest. Indeed, who can say whether a demonstration will be fringe or significant? COVID-19 weariness and irritability or even anxiety and fear are not excuses to deny legitimate and peaceful assembly, whatever size, against any government decisions. Indeed, a large gathering that attracts thousands of people both protesting loudly and patriotically waving Canadian flags is a moment when political leaders, media and other citizens have an opportunity to listen and appreciate the experiences of other Canadians.

The trucker convoy to Parliament began as opposition by some drivers to the federal government imposing vaccines mandates on all truckers crossing the Canada-United States border. Some, like me, thought this was an unnecessary requirement since truckers have been driving – safely and responsibly – to and from the U.S. since March 2020, but others disagreed, believing it was an appropriate condition to work.

The truckers were nonetheless undeterred and along the long road to Parliament something unexpected happened. The trucker convoy, dubbed the “Freedom Convoy” – even by a mostly unwelcoming media – became a symbol for pandemic fatigue and, I believe, growing opposition to illiberal restrictions on Canadians.

Detractors will overstate the political weight of a handful of reprehensible individuals in Ottawa who inexcusably carried swastikas and danced on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. These individuals do not represent the thousands of peaceful protestors who waved Canadian flags and acted responsibly. We should be able to observe this massive pan-Canadian event while separating the wheat from the chaff.

The Canadians we’ve heard from along highway overpasses and stops come from many different communities and ethnic backgrounds. The message is more and more Canadians want federal and provincial restrictions on family separations, our schools, the ability to earn a living, recreational sports, travel, and life’s many experiences to be lifted. They see this is happening throughout the United States as well as in Britain, Ireland and growing parts of Europe too.

Truckers were called unsung heroes at the start of the pandemic. I believe Canadian truckers are still our heroes after almost two years living with COVID-19. They keep Canada moving and I am adding my voice to the belief that it is time to end lockdown restrictions and to put the emphasis on fixing our underperforming healthcare system to manage the coronavirus. Shuttering society to save the health system is no longer an acceptable choice.

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