Mark Carney is an Ottawa resident and former governor of the Bank of Canada and the Bank of England.
In our capital city, many people have been terrorized for more than a week. Women fleeing abuse have been harassed. Many elderly have been too afraid to venture outside their homes for groceries. Families have been deprived of sleep for days on end by the constant barrage of 100 decibel noise. Control over the city’s downtown core, which includes the Parliamentary Precinct, was ceded by the police and taken over by what the chair of the Police Services Board describes as an “insurrection.”
Canadians can be forgiven if they thought this would never happen in Ottawa.
The goals of the leadership of the so-called freedom convoy were clear from the start: to remove from power the government that Canadians elected less than six months ago. Their blatant treachery was dismissed as comic, which meant many didn’t take them as seriously as they should have. Certainly not our public safety authorities, whose negotiations facilitated the convoy’s entry into the heart of our capital and have watched as its dangerous infrastructure has been steadily reinforced – a policy of engagement that has amounted to a reality of appeasement.
On the first weekend, many Canadians who joined the demonstrations undoubtedly had peaceful objectives. Tired as we all are with unprecedented disruptions that we’ve all endured over the past two years, it’s understandable that many would want to come to Ottawa to protest. It’s a free country, and everyone should be able to express their opinions free of interference from the state, just as the press should be able to report without fear of harassment or intimidation.
But now in its second week, no one should have any doubt. This is sedition. That’s a word I never thought I’d use in Canada. It means “incitement of resistance to or insurrection against lawful authority.”
On Sunday, authorities began to draw the line. Declaring a state of emergency was the right thing to do.
From now on, those who are occupying the downtown of our country’s capital should be in no doubt. They are no longer simply advocating a different strategy to end COVID-19. They are not patriots. This is not about “restoring freedom” but beginning anarchy. This isn’t getting carried away at a rally. It’s not a rush of blood to the head. It’s deliberate and calculated, and because of that, they must know that from now on, there will be consequences for their actions.
The police had been reluctant to enforce the most basic bylaws. But these “infractions” – the constant blaring of horns at all hours, the harassment of people, the culture of fear – have been making residents’ lives hell, will bankrupt our businesses, and if left unchecked, would help achieve the convoy’s goal of undermining our democracy and the rule of law.
Those who are still helping to extend this occupation must be identified and punished to the full force of the law.
Drawing the line means choking off the money that financed this occupation. Again, many Canadians who were amongst the initial donors were likely well meaning. Perhaps they were unaware of the convoy’s stated objectives, or – like many in positions of authority in Ottawa – they didn’t take them seriously. Perhaps all they wanted was a new COVID-19 policy with fewer restrictions.
But by now anyone sending money to the convoy should be in no doubt: You are funding sedition. Foreign funders of an insurrection interfered in our domestic affairs from the start. Canadian authorities should take every step within the law to identify and thoroughly punish them. The involvement of foreign governments and any officials connected to them should be identified, exposed and addressed.
I know from experience that crises don’t end by themselves. You can’t spin your way out of failure. You must recognize the scale of the challenge, devise a clear plan and then implement it methodically and deliberately. Your determination to do so can never be in doubt. Then and only then can order be restored. In this case, that means enforcing the law and following the money. Individuals must be held responsible for their lawlessness and those who financed their actions must be dissuaded from ever doing so again.
Our Constitution is based on peace, order and good government. We must live up to this founding principle in order to protect all our freedoms.
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