Ottawa Protests Offer a Window Into Our Political Transformations

On Monday, Canadian Prime Minster Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act in order to clear out the trucker protests in Ottawa. 

From the beginning, I’ve remained quietly fascinated by the whole spectacle. Quietly, because I’ve struggled to figure out what I think about them, fascinated because they are a window on the political transformations on both sides of the 49th parallel. 

The protests began as a revolt against a new and ill-advised vaccine mandate in January requiring unvaccinated truckers to get the shot or isolate for two weeks each time they crossed the U.S. border. While I think everyone should get vaccinated, the rule made little sense in an 80 percent vaccinated country or for an occupation that involves almost no human interaction. Truckers aren’t nurses or schoolteachers. Solitude comes with the job. Besides, Canadian truckers are already 90 percent vaccinated. 

Of course, the protesters’ passion came from the built-up frustration with two years of lockdowns and mandates. And, as often happens with mass protests, the demands metastasized over time. Now they want Justin Trudeau’s government to dissolve and hold new elections. The demand is merely impractical—the protests were never particularly popular in Canada. But illegally blockading streets and bridges as a kind of political extortion is indefensible—whether it’s Canadian truckers or Black Lives Matter protesters or any other group. 

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