Skip to main content
Open this photo in gallery:

Vehicles queue on Bank Street as truckers and supporters continue to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates, in downtown Ottawa on Feb. 9, 2022.BLAIR GABLE/Reuters

What a massive irony. What a perverse portrait of this country.

On account of the truckers’ insurrection, reputedly moderate, mellow Canada is becoming an inspiration, a poster child for hard-right demonstrators, disruptors and anti-vaxxers the world over.

It’s a rare moment when Canada tops the international news but the occupation of downtown Ottawa has done the deed. We’ve given anarchists a template on how to lay siege to cities. Prop warfare. Roll in the big rigs. Paralyze downtowns.

The siege has yet to play out but the hard right has already scored a victory. One of the world’s leading democracies has stood by hapless and helpless as the protesters brought the core of its capital to a standstill.

Fox News and like-minded media are having a smirk-filled field day at Canada’s expense. Donald Trump lays on the insults saluting the “Freedom Convoy” and denouncing “the harsh policies of far-left lunatic Justin Trudeau who has destroyed Canada with insane COVID mandates.”

As I see it, there is cause for legitimate, peaceful protest, which in fact is the way of a large number in the convoy. Many think the federal and provincial governments have gone too far and too long with pandemic lockdowns and punitive restrictions.

But listening to the rage from the extremists among them and their hard-right supporters abroad, one would think the country was a leading denier of liberties, a suppressor of rights. Tucker Carlson, for one, says the demonstrators are being treated like “a terror group.”

What rubbish.

Sure, Canada has its problems, but anyone who thinks the siege images from downtown Ottawa are symbolic of the state of liberty in Canada should give their heads a shake.

The Canada bashers, particularly those in the U.S., need to be reminded about a few things in respect to this country. If they really want to take a cue from Canada, there’s plenty to choose from.

Why not start with Canada’s ranking in a list of the best countries on a wide range of indices directed by U.S. News and World Report? That ranking is number one. Top of the heap. Greatest nation of them all.

How about the current cause of upheaval, our supposed lack of freedoms? In a study based on political rights and civil liberties, Freedom House gives Canada one of its highest rankings, fourth overall and best among G7 countries.

On the quality of its democracy, Canada ranks fifth, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s latest democracy index. A fine measure of a country’s progress is education. Canada, according to an OECD study, is the most educated country on the planet.

On standard of living, studies put Canada fifth best, on health care sixth, on racial equality second. On immigration – a grading for countries on their welcoming of foreigners – this country stands first. On economic freedom, the best countries for doing business, a study by Forbes magazine puts it sixth.

Canadians aren’t boasters. But given all the flack coming their way, it’s occasionally helpful to put things in perspective.

As for the criticisms of Ottawa’s restrictive measures in the fight against COVID-19, we won’t embarrass countries such as the United States and Britain by drawing comparisons on hospital admissions and death counts.

For his response to the truckers’ blockade, many say Justin Trudeau is being too tepid while others, such as Liberal MP Joël Lightbound, condemn his harsh criticism of the protesters. One can only imagine the furor if he was tougher and used force to end the blockade. Trudeau haters need to make up their minds. Is he too hard or too soft? Which is it?

It’s inevitable that social and political trends from the U.S. have some northward spillover and there is certainly evidence of it in respect to the Ottawa siege. What is happening with the truckers hardly compares with the Capitol riot on Jan. 6 last year, but the hard right is punching far above its weight in Canada as elsewhere given the limitless platforms provided by modern media.

It menaces the Canadian fabric. But the country is much more unified today than it was when Quebec separatism was a dire threat and when the West was aflame with Reform Party rage and talk of firewalls to protect it from the federal government.

The country is hardly becoming unglued. The dark forces partaking in the protest are freedom deniers – not freedom fighters. They represent a tiny minority in a country whose greatness they are too blind to see.

Keep your Opinions sharp and informed. Get the Opinion newsletter. Sign up today.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe