LETTER: Reader questions who is leading the siege of Ottawa

In 2017, in celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation, Heather Reisman published “The World Needs More Canada”. It was a love-filled work celebrating our stories, history, institutions, culture, and visions.

This week, local Conservative Member of Parliament, Shelby Kramp-Neuman, stated that: “What started off largely as a friendly protest… has devolved into what I can only describe as a block party rife with fireworks, loud music, incessant honking, public consumption of alcohol, and reported intimidation of local residents. This is unacceptable… what I am seeing with my own two eyes on the streets of Ottawa from an increasing amount of bad faith actors is not legitimate protest: it is two-bit hooliganism hiding behind a facade of veiled legitimacy”. Her candour is to be respected.

This week, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson called the protests “an insurrection” and said “we must do everything to take back the streets of Ottawa, and our Parliamentary precinct, from the criminal activity that has transpired.”

The Mayor then declared a State of Emergency.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance -the main advocate body for truckers- disavowed the protest, saying the vast majority of its members are fully vaccinated and are continuing to work. The Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association has also urged its drivers not to participate.

On Feb. 5th, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) released a statement making it clear that “we (OFA) will continue to work with all levels of government, supported by science and healthcare professionals to find the best way to return to normal once again”. Ontario First Nations leaders have demanded that protesters be “hands off our sacred symbols”.

Manitoba First Nations say “the Freedom Convoy has been hijacked”…with Chief Arlen Dumas lamenting, “Everyone has seen the Nazi flags, desecration and misuse of Indigenous ceremony, hate-filled activities towards the homeless and residents of Ottawa, but also hate-filled misinformation towards First Nations Peoples.”

Conservative Premier Doug Ford has asserted several times that “this is not a protest, it is an occupation”. Clearly, we all want to go about our lives without pandemic restrictions and mandates: but thankfully some have read and appreciate our Constitution and its fundamentals of “peace, order and good government”.

So who is leading this Ottawa siege? The self-avowed organizers of the Ottawa occupation include Alberta separatists like Tamara Lich and Benjamin Ditcher. An Islamophobe and conspiracy theorist Patrick King is another western separatist and organizer along with the far-right Yellow Vest Canada Group, Chris Barber who has been fined for pandemic violations in Saskatchewan -all subject to a lawsuit at the moment- and the occupation appears to be the brainchild of James Bauder an admitted conspiracy advocate who has endorsed QAnon and calls Covid-19 “the biggest political scam in history”.

To date 34,000 Canadians have died of Covid and over 900,000 Americans.

When an event includes bullying a homeless soup kitchen, defecating on a gay couple’s front porch, dancing and urinating on our national war monuments, Fascist and Confederate flags, and (according to the Ottawa police) likely setting fire inside an Ottawa apartment building vestibule and duct-taping the doors shut can we really say this is about restoring democratic freedoms just six months after a free and fair federal election.

Is this about launching anarchy?

And what in God’s name are elected American Republican politicians, from at least five U.S. states, doing funding a movement that demands the overthrow of our Canadian government?

Our government leaders (federal, provincial. and municipal) need to sit down, track the foreign actors in this debacle, make public a clear plan to move forward beyond pandemic restrictions, and have a deeply, soul-searching conversation about what is causing and empowering this extreme anger and anxiety. When Ms. Reisman celebrated that ”The World Needs More Canada” she most certainly didn’t mean this!

Bill Roberts