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  • Writer's pictureKevin Graham

“Just watch me!”

Declaring rights that clearly don’t exist reflects either the manipulator or the manipulated.

……………………

Q: At any cost? How far would you go with that? How far would you extend that?

A: Well just watch me.

For my American friends, these were, perhaps, the three most important words ever uttered by a Canadian Prime Minister. In my view, these words reflect leadership at its best, a willingness to take a stand in the face of genuine threat to our government, our democracy, and our freedom from terror and anarchy.

Two questions later, standing on the steps of Parliament, the same Prime Minister declared:

A: Yes, I think the society must take every means at its disposal to defend itself against the emergence of a parallel power which defies the elected power in this country and I think that goes to any distance. So long as there is a power in here which is challenging the elected representative of the people I think that power must be stopped and I think it's only, I repeat, weak-kneed bleeding hearts who are afraid to take these measures.

That speaker was Prime Minister Trudeau… well, not the current Prime Minister Trudeau, but his father, Pierre Elliott Trudeau. These words were spoken a full year before our current Prime Minister was born, so perhaps he hasn’t heard them. They were his father’s response to a reporter who challenged the October 1970 invocation of the War Measures Act, bringing our military into the streets of Ottawa and Montreal to help shut down the terrorist attacks of the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ). The FLQ was a militant group, intent on separation of Québec by violent means. Bombings, kidnappings, and murder were their principal tactical choices.

……………………

I’ve had people laugh when I describe the current environment in Canada as one of terrorism. Well, let’s have a closer look at that word, shall we?

Terrorism: Section 83.01 of the Criminal Code defines terrorism as an act committed “in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause” with the intention of intimidating the public “…with regard to its security, including its economic security, or compelling a person, a government or a domestic or an international organization to do or to refrain from doing any act.” (link)

This definition applies well to the October crisis of 1970. In my view, it applies in equal measure to the current occupation of downtown Ottawa and to the current blockades of borders across the nation. Just as ‘cyber’ has evolved into a prefix for ‘cyber-war’ (who would have thought this forty years ago?), what we see now, simply put, is ‘economic-terrorism’.

The so-called ‘protestors’ in Ottawa and at various locations across Canada will tell you that they’re just speaking out against what they see as an infringement on their rights and freedoms. They are not just ‘speaking out’. Their method of protest, ironically, is to infringe on the rights and freedoms of others.

In difficult times, people feel disenfranchised. This feeling of disenfranchisement opens the door wide for radicals to spew nonsense and have it picked up by people desperate for solutions to their problems.

Of course, this ‘protest’ has brought out of the woodwork the anarchists, Western separatists, Islamophobes, anti-Semites, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and assorted other fringe operators. These are the looters latching on to legitimate BLM protests south of the border. If things go badly, this small number of infiltrators, seeking civil war (they’ve actually articulated this aim) and waving Confederate flags (huh?) will be the face of history’s account of this activity.

As I watch all of this unfold, I’m saddened to say that, in part, the case for this protest reflects an utter failure of our education system. Three failures, in fact: One, people lack the critical thinking skills necessary to protect themselves against puppeteering manipulations such as we now see playing out in our streets. Two, people choose not to read for themselves, opting instead to buy into the nearest conspiracy theory that voices the agony and anger of their perceived disenfranchisement. Three, people are prepared to abandon the notion that they belong to something larger than themselves… a civilized society… a representative democracy… a collective shared responsibility for each other. In its place, they have locked on to the idea that they are a tribe apart from others, with rights and freedoms as individuals that do not connect to the rights and freedoms of everyone else. The wild west is reborn in such moments. “Here… let me protest my loss of rights and freedoms by stomping on your rights and freedoms.”

I’m shaking my head when I hear people declare that the pandemic restrictions are an infringement on their rights and freedoms, referring at every turn to our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. No… I’m past shaking my head over this one. I want to climb up on the rooftop and scream.

These people have either never read the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or know that their audience never has and likely never will. It’s not a long document, spanning just nine pages and bearing just 34 clauses. You don’t even need to read all nine pages. Start and stop with Clause #7 to understand that the government has every legal right to impose these restrictions. Not only does the Charter say so. The courts have also said so, over and over and over. As I say, declaring rights that clearly don’t exist reflects either the manipulator or the manipulated.

“Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”

This is Clause #7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Twenty-nine words. Just 29 words, but the protesters who bother to read it conveniently stop reading at word 20. Here’s the catch. The words, “except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice” hold meaning, and cannot be dismissed out of hand. They don’t mean what most casual readers think they mean. I won’t expound on these principles of fundamental justice, other than to say that, if and when the government feels that it is in the interest of the ‘greater good,’ the rights and freedoms of the individual can be subjected to temporary suspension. Again, the courts have repeatedly upheld this authority.

So-called ‘protestors,’ whom I call economic terrorists by the Criminal Code definition, have blockaded the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor and Detroit, effectively shutting down one of the largest commercial border crossings in the world. $1.5 billion cross the border between Canada and the United States every day. More than 25% of that is conveyed over the Ambassador Bridge. 150,000 jobs in the region, on both sides of the border, depend on that bridge. This week, auto manufacturing plants in both Canada and the United States are shutting down operations as a result of the blockade. How does that not fit the Canadian Criminal Code definition of terrorism? Necessary food products are prevented from crossing the border, at Windsor-Detroit and at other locations out west. Cattle feed is prevented from entry into Alberta. Meat products aren’t getting to Montana. How does that not fit the Criminal Code definition of terrorism?

For two weeks, businesses and residents in Ottawa have been unable to carry on their daily lives because of this occupation. Restaurants that cannot open in occupied downtown Ottawa are forced to throw away spoiled food. Occupation that disrupts the lives and livelihood of others is not protest. It’s economic terrorism. There’s a legal line here and that line has clearly been crossed.

Indecision and “weak-kneed bleeding hearts who are afraid to take these measures” will lead only to encouragement of further and future such terror. Our current Prime Minister could have and should have taken a page out of his own father’s playbook. He could have and should have shut this uprising down the first moment it crossed that line into lawlessness. Instead, he waffled… and he waffled… and he waffled. He is correct in refusing to negotiate with these terrorists. I’ll give him that. At the same time, he has effectively done nothing. Inaction speaks as loudly as action. His inaction sends a message to would-be terrorists that they, and their successors, have hopes for changing government policy… and for deposing a duly elected government (and they have declared this as one of their objectives) by continued replication of these terrorist tactics.

It may be too late to walk this message back… but it’s still worth trying. If we do not enforce the law, effectively, there is no law. I do not agree with everything our government has done and said in its response to the pandemic. That’s not what this is about. This is about free society as a construct in which members respect the law of the land and respect the rights and freedoms of other members.

In a liberal democracy, there is only one way to change governments, and that’s in the voting booth. Our current government, albeit a weak one, was elected just last September. The mandate to create policy is theirs by virtue of that election. Just because a small fringe group doesn’t like the outcome of that election does not confer upon them the right to dispute the outcome by shutting down a city or by shutting down one of the largest commercial border crossings in the world. Democracy isn’t supposed to work like that. Democracy doesn’t work like that. Right or wrong… I’m not judging government policy here, only its legal authority. If we don’t like what the government is doing, aside from peaceful protest (which this is not) the voting booth is our recourse. It seems these days that some people think that elections don’t matter, or that elections can be turned over. If and when that happens, we’re done and democracy is dead.

Saying, “please, please, go home” doesn’t cut it. Insurrection has only one successful remedy. Lance it. Hammer it down. Crush it decisively so that other would-be anarchists understand that there is no hope for that path. Let me be clear. I’m not talking about putting down peaceful protest. Peaceful protest is a fundamental right, embedded in our Constitution. What we’re now experiencing is not peaceful protest. It’s not bombing and kidnapping and murder, but it’s not peaceful protest either. It’s modern-day economic terrorism, plain and simple. Cripple government, democracy and the economy, and it’s game over.

And here we sit, waiting for the next occupation or blockade, surely to be replicated both at home and abroad. The world is watching Canada. Will we buckle to populism? Will we plead on our knees for our democracy as it slips through our grasp at the hands of a small number of fringe extremists who have mobilized unknowing masses?

Some political leaders bring down democracy on purpose. Others do it without purpose, without spine, and without vision of what democracy really means and of who we are as a just society.

Borrowed from Winston Churchill… an empty car drove up, and Justin Trudeau got out. I prefer the older model. It wasn’t perfect, but it had character.


Kevin Graham

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