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25 Feb, 2023 17:09

Canada's Freedom Convoy crackdown wasn't the last and worse will follow

The report on the government’s use of the Emergencies Act against Covid-19 protesters says it was fair and effective. So it won't end here
Canada's Freedom Convoy crackdown wasn't the last and worse will follow

The final report on the Canadian government’s use of the Emergencies Act amid last year’s country-wide trucker protests against Covid-19 vaccine mandates is in, and it’s largely a roadmap for greater government control.

Former Canadian Liberal Party top advisor turned justice, Paul Rouleau, has issued the Public Order Emergency Commission’s report, which concludes that the government was indeed justified in using the measure, which included the ability to block bank accounts of not just the protesters but also those who donated to them. There are reasonable limits to free expression, Rouleau points out.

I guess this guy hasn’t been around downtown Vancouver during the Stanley Cup playoffs when the Vancouver Canucks lose a critical game. The unrest that broke out in 1994 and 2011 left hundreds injured and millions worth of property damage, but no federal emergency was declared. And let’s face it – the rioters’ lives were impacted a lot less by the results of the playoffs than by Trudeau’s Covid jab mandates. Guess it was just shrugged off as angry hockey fans who would ultimately calm down once the catalyst – the loss – dissipated. No threat to those in power and their forays into authoritarianism.

The head of the Canadian Security and Intelligence Services (CSIS), David Vigneault, underscored during the inquiry that he didn’t consider the Freedom Convoy to be a threat. “Mr. Vigneault stated that at no point did the service assess that the protests in Ottawa or elsewhere [those referred to as the "Freedom Convoy" and related protests and blockades in January-February 2022] constituted a threat to security of Canada as defined by section 2 of the CSIS Act and that CSIS cannot investigate actively constituting lawful protest,” according to an inquiry document. But Rouleau insists that the protests were “unlawful”, referencing the term several times in the report.

Rouleau also says that blocking participants’ bank accounts based on lists provided by the federal police to banking institutions was a tactic used by Trudeau’s government to entice protesters to desist. “The asset-freezing regime had two main purposes: first, discouraging people from remaining at the site of unlawful protests; and second, preventing further financial support from reaching convoy protests,” reads the report. “Seeking to prevent any funds from supporting the illegal protests was, in my view, a reasonable measure in the circumstances,” Rouleau concluded, while praising the “overall effectiveness” of the “powerful tool” in “bringing the emergency to a safe and speedy resolution”.

Great, just what we need – a newly rubber-stamped tool for government to “discourage participation and incentivize protesters to leave,” as Rouleau puts it. He adds, “I am satisfied that it played a meaningful role in shrinking the footprint of the protests, and in doing so, made a meaningful contribution to resolving the Public Order Emergency.” Sounds like Rouleau and the asset freeze should just get a room already and leave the rest of us to lament another nail being hammered into the coffin of Western democracy. 

Incidentally, CSIS Director Vigneault also told the inquiry that there were no foreign actors engaged in funding the protests, running contrary to suggestions in the Canadian state-backed press that Russia could be behind the movement. This includes former Bank of Canada and Bank of England chief Mark Carney’s now debunked suggestion that “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.” 

Another striking aspect of the Rouleau report is his focus on “disinformation” as a contributing factor to the protests. “During the COVID-19 Pandemic, foreign state actors had significant success spreading false information about COVID-19, public health measures, and vaccines, done as a means to sow mistrust in democratic governments,” Rouleau wrote, disregarding the military-grade propaganda operation ran by the government itself. The Canadian military deployed tools honed during the war in Afghanistan to influence and shape public opinion around Covid – a fact that had already been widely publicized by Convoy protesters when they took to the streets.

Rouleau’s implication that the establishment was the voice of truth and science during the pandemic and that contradictory information could only be fake news risks opening the door to greater control and censorship of both online and traditional media in favor of establishment narratives. In whitewashing Trudeau’s authoritarian overreach, the final verdict on this crackdown effectively encourages more of the same. 

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.