There was another so-called freedom convoy in Ottawa this week, this time called Rolling Thunder; hundreds, if not thousands, of motorbikes roaring into the nation’s capital. It was far better controlled and much more peaceful than the trucker’s convoy. Nevertheless, the message is a dangerous one.
Some of these folks were no doubt good old guys and gals, out for a road trip on a sunny day after a long winter. But the agitators were well represented among them, stirring things up cloaked in a message of freedom, spewing hatred and conspiracy theories, and disrespecting Canada’s National War Memorial which is dedicated to those who actually gave or risked their lives to protect our freedom and our ability to live in one of the most envied countries in the world.
Here is what Catherine Clark, daughter of former Conservative Prime Minister Joe Clark, thought about what took place in Ottawa on the weekend: “Honestly. Civilians are dying in Ukraine. Children are starving in Yemen. And the people protesting in downtown Ottawa still have the guts to demand ‘freedom’? In a country with health care, public education, social services and a democratically elected government?”
Catherine McKenna, a former federal Liberal cabinet minister, put it more succinctly. She wrote, “It’s time to retake the Canadian flag and the word freedom from folks who spread hate, preach violence, and vow to overthrow the state. Whatever your politics, we are very fortunate to live in a free & democratic society. Far too many people around the world don’t have that privilege.”
McKenna, in another tweet, doubled down writing, “While I applaud the efforts of the Ottawa Police to deal with these folks now, we need a rebrand here. These aren’t freedom supporters. It’s a complete bastardization of the word. Hate, violence, breaking the law & working to overthrow govt – that’s not supporting freedom.”
Both of these women have a point, and it is one we should listen to. As these so-called freedom rallies grow around the country, as some politicians gleefully hitch a ride on that bandwagon, what does it all really mean?
Clearly, there is a growing movement here to undermine democracy as we know it with a false claim of fighting for our freedom. But how many people across this country really believe they are not free? How many would trade their place here for any other place in the world? Not many, I would guess.
Jim Coyle, a former Toronto Star reporter, put his finger on the problem when he wrote this: “The word ‘freedom’ has been twisted and abused beyond recognition. In the mouth of PP [Pierre Poilievre] and the ears of convoyists, it appears to mean flight from all responsibility, abdication of all duty to the common good, and the ability to do whatever the hell one wants.”
I do not know if Pierre Poilievre, a candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada, believes totally in Coyle’s definition of the “freedom fighters”, but I do believe he has hitched his wagon to this movement and encouraged many of those sentiments because he recognizes a momentum that could make him the next prime minister of Canada. Scary for me, because those principles of that movement, as they are defined by Jim Coyle, are not Conservative principles—no matter that there are some who would like to portray them as such for their own partisan purposes. For that reason alone I could never vote for Pierre Poilievre.
It is high time, in my view, that we tone down the rhetoric in this country instead of ratcheting up the anger and frustration brought on primarily by what all Canadians have endured during the past two years. We have all, to one degree or another, become easy fodder for those with a vested interest in sowing discontent. Politicians have taken advantage of that and so have special interest groups with their own agenda for changing our way of life.
Scott Aitchison, also a candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada, said in a National Post interview, “The majority of Canadians are incredibly reasonable people who just want their government to do what it does well, get on with life and stop the screaming.” I think he is right about that, especially now in a post-pandemic period, and I believe that is what we should strive for.
We need to take back our flag from those who would use it to promote anger and disunity. Are there things in this country we can do better? Of course there are. Are there times we wish government would be less intrusive in our lives? Sure. Do we need militant groups who promote insurrection and civil disobedience to achieve that? Certainly not. That is why we have elections. That is true freedom. It is a freedom we should celebrate and not allow to be hijacked.
We need only look as far as China, Russia, and indeed to the ongoing, unstopped genocide in Ukraine to recognize how precious the freedom we enjoy in Canada is.
We have that freedom now and we are incredibly fortunate. We should not be fooled by those who attempt to convince us otherwise.
Hugh Mackenzie has held elected office as a trustee on the Muskoka Board of Education, a Huntsville councillor, a District councillor, and mayor of Huntsville. He has also served as chairman of the District Muskoka and as chief of staff to former premier of Ontario, Frank Miller.
Hugh has served on a number of provincial, federal and local boards, including chair of the Ontario Health Disciplines Board, vice-chair of the Ontario Family Health Network, vice-chair of the Ontario Election Finance Commission, and board member of Roy Thomson Hall, the National Theatre School of Canada, and the Anglican Church of Canada. Locally, he has served as president of the Huntsville Rotary Club, chair of Huntsville District Memorial Hospital, chair of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, president of Huntsville Festival of the Arts, and board member of Community Living Huntsville.
In business, Hugh Mackenzie has a background in radio and newspaper publishing. He was also a founding partner and CEO of Enterprise Canada, a national public affairs and strategic communications firm established in 1986.
Currently, Hugh is president of C3 Digital Media Inc., the parent company of Doppler Online, and he enjoys writing commentary for Huntsville Doppler.
Don’t miss out on Doppler!
Sign up here to receive our email digest with links to our most recent stories.
Local news in your inbox three times per week!