Stefan Klietsch grew up in the Ottawa Valley outside the town of Renfrew. He later studied Political Science at the University of Ottawa, with a Minor in Religious Studies. He ran as a candidate for Member of Parliament for Renfrew-Nipissing-Pembroke three times from 2015 to 2021. He is currently a Master of Arts student in Political Science at the University of Carleton.
Lawless Ottawa occupiers cannot be negotiated with or continue to be tolerated
February 2, 2022
Photo credit to CTV News Ottawa.
There was a point in time during which largely-ordinary and respectable Canadians could and did support the so-called "Freedom Convoy", a convoy including both truckers and non-truckers opposed to vaccine mandates. Just as a mainstream segment of Canadians voted for the People's Party of Canada for its opposition to all vaccine mandates, so too did mainstream Canadians laud the "Freedom Convoy" on its trek across Canada and its eventual rally in Ottawa. Many of these respectable supporters might have innocently missed the loathsome character of the organizers, from their white supremacist backgrounds to their barely-literate call for installing themselves as the new Government of Canada.
But now, with many Ottawa residents, workers, charities, and businesses having been harassed by the protesters, with the constant and incessant loud honking that is disrupting life in Ottawa's downtown, and with the core protesters having made clear their intention to continue plugging up core city streets until their impossible demands are met, there is no reasonable basis left for any respectable Canadian to support the continued presence of the "convoy". And any reasons for showing the protesters still present either tolerance or sympathy are quickly vanishing. The time is now due for police to make clear to the protesters that if they will not leave willingly and peacefully, they will be made to do so by force.
But would forcibly clearing out the protest group be anti-democratic? Does the freedom to protest not include the freedom to engage in lawless civil disobedience? Rishi Maharaj's article for The Line argues that our anger can be justified without being a justification for violent retribution. However, I contend that his core argument against a police crackdown is mistaken.
While we as a society ought to be wary of being overly-harsh in responding to the incoveniences and disruptions of protest and civil disobedience, neither should we as a society bend over backwards to tolerate any and all law-breaking in the name of politics. What remains of the "Freedom Convoy" is committing indiscriminate violence against the citizens of Ottawa, not as much through actual incidents of physical assault as through the constant and never-ending threat thereof. Neither the protesters being white nor their being political actors ought to be of relevance to deciding upon the necessary consequences.
Canadians and residents of Ottawa would generally see themselves as patient people who are willing to give second chances to those who do them wrong. However, the limits to one's patience can and will be tested, and sometimes those limits will need to be demonstrated.