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What is Canadian  »Freedom Convoy », and what should we do about it?

The Canadian  »Freedom Convoy » as had much media cover recently, even beyond the Canadian territory. Similar ‘’anti-sanitary measures’’ Convoy are forming in various countries after being inspired by the Canadian movement. But what is it about?

The following text gathers various sources in the aim to help people to better understand what is happening in Canada right now.

The organizers

Freedom Convoy is a retake of a 2019 campaign called United We Roll (UWR). It was organized by Canadian yellow vest movement.

It is important to underline that this Canadian group has nothing to do with the yellow vests’ movement in France. In Canada it is organised by white nationalist figures and far-right groups like Canadian Nationalist Party, Soldiers of Odin and Wolves of Odin, Proud Boys and Northern Guard, all mostly united around anti-muslim issues.

UWR convoy reclaimed pipeline construction and abolition of Carbon tax. It was a pro-fossil fuel movement. This first movement relatively failed, but succeed in threatening to run over striking oil refinery workers.

After the end of UWR, some people continued the same concept in 2021: the actual Freedom Convoy.

The most prominent figures that were involved in the creation of the Freedom Convoy are Pat King, Tamara Lich and Canada Unity president James Bauder. James Bauder is a born-again Christian known for his far-right conspirationist narrative aiming to overthrow the Canadian government… in the mean to himself take Trudeau’s place. He has also underlined the strategy of changing the anti-vaxx narative to a ‘’Freedom’’ narrative, much more unifier.

For a more complete portrait of the origins of the Freedom Convoy, Antihate.ca has made a very interesting overview of ‘’who’s who’’ behind the birth of the Freedom Convoy.

Meanwhile in Quebec, since the start of the pandemic there have been various anti-sanitary measures (anti-mask, anti-vaccine, etc) demonstrations. (1 ) (2)

They were organised by far-right Farfadaas and other conspirationists. Those Farfadass are a splinter group of anti-immigration La Meute group.

The most recent Quebec version of the Freedom Convoy was in front of the parliament. It was led by Bernard ‘’Rambo’’ Gauthier, another far-right leader in Quebec which happens to be also a unionist in the FTQ.

Far-right politician Maxim Bernier participated at various anti-sanitary measures demos across Canada, even receiving tickets for not wearing face mask.

The Freedom Convoy can be seen as the culmination of Quebec and ‘’rest of Canada’’ anti-sanitary measures/conspirationist far-right movement.

The money behind Freedom Convoy

Approximately 10 million dollars has been gathered by Tamara Lich on GoFundMe in order to organise the ‘’Freedom Convoy’’. GoFundMe later blocked the money after the demo became an occupation of Ottawa. This money is under investigation to know where it comes from.

Lich then turned to GiveSendGo, a Christian American funding platform known for funding other extremist groups. On February 14th, the GiveSendGo web site was hacked, and a list of donators was published in a video.

Following an analysis by LeDevoir, the majority of the donations came from the USA. However the total amount from Canada donations is bigger.

The supporters

Among the supporters of the movement, we find the following people:

Rebel News (Wikipedia) and its owner Ezra Levant

Jordan Peterson

Éric Duhaime – Leader of the Quebec Conservative Party and founder of Quebec Liberty Network (Proprietarian)

Elon Musk

Donald Trump

Maxime Bernier – Leader of the People’s Party of Canada (Proprietarian)

Maxime Bernier at Freedom Convoy on February 13th

Conversative party of Canada?

The federal conservative Party changed their leader during the Ottawa occupation because of the failed leadership of Erin O’toole. He was called a ‘’Fake Conservative’’ for having put away conservative social policies from his party politics. The new interim leader turned her back from the Freedom Convoy but pushed forward anti-sanitary measure agenda at the parliament.

On the social medias, we find various extremist activists supporting the Convoy such as Church militant.

And last but not least, we can count among the supporters…

the police

An injunction was ordered by a judge to end honking in Ottawa, but it was never applied by the police. (Same info in French)

Also it as been noted that ex-RCMP and Canadian armed forces members were part of the organisation of the occupation in Ottawa.

This is probably a significant contribution to the tactic and strategy capacities of the Freedom Convoy.

Individual Ontario cop was filmed supporting the movement.

Other Alberta policemen were filmed giving hands to demonstrators in the Albertan city where a Freedom Convoy was blocking Canada USA frontier. They had arms in a truck. The RCMP knew it but ‘’ waited for the right time to intervene’’.

Police low repressive attitude toward conspirationists is a reality since the start of anti-sanitary measures.

Those are not isolated events.

It shows how police relate to right-wing movements in general, just as it was the case with the January 6th Capitol Riot.

Massive repression during 2010 G20 summit in Toronto

Those interventions from the Police are a sign of their far-right leaning support. Nothing compared to what happened 12 years ago at the G20 summit in Toronto where a massive repressive arsenal was deployed, and illegal mass incarceration of protesters happened. The Ontario Ombudsman, later called the G20 management of demonstrations ‘’the greatest violation of civil rights in Canadian history’’. Of course, that doesn’t take in account the reality of indigenous people genocide by colonialist Canada.

Even before the summit started, demonstrators were already intimidated by the possibility of the use of Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD  aka sound cannon) by the Ontario police and RCMP.

For those who were there, a real feeling of tyranny and oppression was in the air as police was overwhelmingly present in downtown Toronto in 2010. This is a reality not equivalent compared to spa street party in Ottawa today.

Also let it be known that Justin Trudeau has done nothing against the Freedom Convoy until Biden as forced him to clear the Windsor Ambassador bridge on February 13th. And it was mostly under the USA auto industry pressure.

Le Droit Journal cartoonist  »Godin » showing his view of the different attitude of the police between 2012 student strike and Freedom Convoy

On February 14th, Trudeau government enabled the never used before Emergency act, the new Act on war measures (the one that was used in the 70’s during the October Crisis).

We’ll see if it works at pushing police to act against the Convoy. Meanwhile Ontario police has their  »thin blue line » badge on.

Again, all this inaction is worrisome when we see that the RCMP seized on February 14th firearms in a blockade by the Freedom Convoy blocking Alberta and the USA Coutts frontier.

Fact is that a truck full of arms disappeared in Toronto recently.

The only significative opposition against Freedom Convoy came from citizens organized in community.

Their mobilisation started even before the clearing of the Windsor bridge, showing that we can’t wait for the state to stop far-right.

Opponents

Ottawa demo

The Public Service Alliance of Canada organised a community demonstration in Ottawa against the Convoy.

Ottawa community demo organised against Freedom Convoy

Alex Silas, vice president of PSAC for Ottawa region organised a march against the far-right Freedom Convoy. He says in Le Droit Journal:

« I‘ve never participated in a demo where the city gave mobile toilets to the demonstrators and have been so much welcoming toward the demonstrators. They just opened the doors, opened the streets and said ‘’ come start your occupations and terrorize our communities”. It shows an iniquity.

Indeed, Silas isn’t wrong, demonstrators have been harassing citizens of Ottawa. In a precise case, demonstrators even attacked an Asian woman for being Asian and for wearing a mask.

Ottawa blocking

On the 13 of February spontaneous initiatives of citizens came up against Freedom Convoy

Edmonton blocking

Also in Edmonton a group of counter protesters blocked the Convoy for an hour.

Counter protesters block the Freedom Convoy for an hour before the police reopens the road

It is also noted that in Edmonton, citizens felt that the police were in favor of the Convoy.

“One thing I learned at this afternoon’s counter protest is that the EPS is perfectly capable of enforcing the law … but when it comes to the convoy they choose not to,” tweeted Mark Wells, one of the participants in the counter-protest. “What’s the difference between the two groups?”

“I have a legit question for all you Twitter lawyers,” tweeted Senator Paula Simons, an Edmonton resident. “At what point does the failure or unwillingness of a police service to enforce a court ordered injunction cross over to contempt of court?” The thread of responses to her query is interesting. 

Gay cowboy song

In a more creative way, a trolling campaign has been initiated around a gay cowboy metal song to perturbate Freedom Convoy communications and organising.

Montreal counter-demo

On February 12, the Montreal-based anarchist Jaggi Singh was an organizer of a counter demo at the Jarry Parc in Montréal.

Anti-racist demo organised against Freedom Convoy Parc Jarry gathering in Montreal

During this demo, police in riot gear had the ‘’thin blue line’’ badge on their uniform. A symbol prohibited by the RCMP and Ottawa Police for its anti-Black Life Matter Connotation.

Not all the Ottawa Police respect this order from their police chief. Who by the way resigned for failing to stop the convoy.

Is Freedom Convoy a working-class movement?

It is said that most participants don’t embrace the organisers’ ideology.

Pierre Mouterde, a left-wing author of the social democrat Quebec Solidaire Party in Quebec underlines his observations at the Quebec parliament Freedom Convoy: there were common/ordinary people with concerns about sanitary measures and not much far-right activists.

He suggests that left-wing groups have missed a chance to recuperate the tiredness of the masses against sanitary measures.

Sanitary measures criticism happens outside a far-right context of course.

It is the case of Jonquière ‘’Vite des péchés’’ pastry shop. The owner disobeyed by staying opened while all non-essential businesses were supposed to be closed. However she respected all other sanitary measures. The owner didn’t accept to be recuperated by Eric Duhaime and far-right conspirationists. Her disobedience was against the incoherence of Quebec policy makers, not against sanitary measures as a whole.

Left-wing Alain Denault author and Moncton university professor criticizes the confidence crisis between large fringe of population and the science community, the big pharmaceutical capitalist corporation, the mass media, and the State management of the pandemic. He says there should have been a democratic debate over sanitary measures and scientific freedom in favor of a debate over sanitary measures instead of letting the government put forward top-down sanitary measures.

Between those legitimate critics and the Freedom Convoy, there is a line that the organised worker movement hasn’t cross.

Bernard ‘’Rambo’’ Gauthier asked without success money from FTQ leadership to fund his Quebec Freedom Convoy.

Teamsters union denounced the Convoy.

90% of the truckers are vaccinated and don’t support the Freedom Convoy

It is also noted that the Freedom Convoy was distracting attention away from serious labor issues within the industry of truckers. Like it is said in the Jacobin magazine:

The Freedom Convoy has plenty to say about vaccine mandates but little about predatory recruitment scamsinadequate training, lack of rest stops and highway safety infrastructure, worker misclassification, and the “billion dollar scam” of employer wage theft.

Also, a union delegate trucker talking on an anarchist podcast denounces the  »working-class Freedom Convoy » as a myth.

There should be concerns about either or not ‘’ordinary people’’ want or not to be affiliated or recuperated by far-right organisers and politicians.

The biggest structures backing the movement is the far-right, therefore people should be concerned and make sure their voice isn’t a far-right window and should organize otherwise than with the Freedom Convoy.

Furthermore, the sole presence of working-class people in a movement doesn’t make it a ‘’working-class movement’’. Even Trump plays the card that the American workers are with him. A working-class movement is organised as a class. It isn’t party led, and is self-organised, which is not the case right now with Freedom Convoy.

Let’s see what anarchists proposed as a form of fight during the pandemic.

Anarchists during the pandemic

During pandemic, initiatives were various from the part of anarchists, from neighbour solidarity networks to Rent Strike campaign.

A demo was organised on January 9th 2021 under the slogan of ‘’No police based solution to health crisis’’ with the following statement. Extract:

Police isn’t the solution to sanitary crisis – Montréal

The radical left must not leave this fight in the hands of the right and its anti-scientific and individualistic discourse. In times of health crisis, we don’t have the luxury of blindly agreeing to repressive and counterproductive measures while contenting ourselves with preventive half measures. We have wasted too much time; it is now more than necessary to act in order to make sure that such a critical discourse is heard. We cannot afford complacency. In the face of the security overbid, it is our duty to propose another political project, one that leaves no one behind and which is based on rigorous scientific data.

However nothing happened much in that way. At least in Montreal.

April 11th anti-curfew riot in Montreal

Afterwards, an anti-curfew riot happened on April 11th 2021 in which some Montreal anarchists participated. Here is an account of the riot:

The vultures from Rebel Media produced a laughable and pathetic report that blamed ‘antifa’ for the property destruction and looting that happened that night, rather than showing how a real cross section of Montrealers respond with legitimate rage and a desire to be heard in a world that marginalizes their voices.

We felt we lacked the numbers to deal with Rebel Media, and it seemed likely if we did attack, the crowd may have taken their side, because no one knows who Rebel Media is, let alone that they were being used to create far-right propoaganda. It was a frustrating situation.

The following text against the curfew underlines that the movement is so weak because of isolation.

The confusion around the Freedom Convoy hits the world

Some activist groups at the international level might be confused about the situation of the Freedom Convoy in Canada, and they don’t wait for Canadian anarchists to tell them what to think about it.

In France

In France, Nantes Révoltés talks about Canadian Freedom Convoy, while ignoring that far-right hasn’t been infiltrating Canadian Freedom Convoy but is at its origin. They continue by saying that they support France’s Freedom Convoy while they state that there’s a need to stop the far-right in its ranks.

Like with Yellow vest, it is useless to denounce the impurity of this mobilisation, it is rather important to ensure that it goes toward anticapitalism and defence of liberties.

In France, conscious of potential recuperation by far-right movement, demonstrators have to separate their convoy from far-right convoy

As it was the case with Yellow Vest movement in France, an antifascist stance was clear in the mind of the people. In Paris, France, there were three different Convoy. So that people are not recuperated by far-right Convoy of Philippot.

In Russia

The Confederation of revolutionary anarcho-syndicalist ( CRAS is Russian Section of International Workers Association) decided to align themselves with the conspirationist NEVERMORE Canadian journal narrative. CRAS has indeed published an opened letter to Trudeau written by Margaret Anna Alice published on NEVERMORE journal website.

In this letter, the author supports the truckers and talks of the Great Reset, a conspiracy theory embraced wholly by the NEVERMORE journal

In a text criticizing Ottawa anarchist collective ‘’Punch up’’, NEVERMORE confirms their adherence to conspiracy theory of the Great Reset.

We have now endured two years of the Great Fascist Reset spearheaded by Klaus Schwab and his World Economic Forum and we might imagine that the sight of rebels occupying a capital city and demanding an end to the nightmare would spark stirrings of solidarity and support in the hearts of genuine freedom-lovers.

Given their obvious instinct to side with power against ordinary people, maybe Punch Up ought to consider changing their name to Punch Down?

Little surprise, perhaps, that these “anarchists” regard the Canadian people who are rising up against the Great Reset as their “enemies”!

Conclusion

Let’s have a look at the 1885 anti-vaccine Montreal riots: eastern Montrealers, influenced by ultramontane church ideology, tried to destroy what was related to modern medicine in downtown Montreal. The author of a short text on the subject, Jaouad Laaroussi, underlines another reason why people were upset against the government during this Smallpox epidemic: the authoritarianism of the State.

This tension between the critique of the modern state and its authoritarian conception of public health, on the one hand, and the reactionary content of the ideological program of the anti-sanitary measures mobs, on the other, is still active today in the « trucker » movement.

As anarchists it is legitimate to question the top-down implementation of sanitary measures that most of the time answers economic pressures from capitalists. However, a good answer to anti-vaxx that see vaccine as oppressive would be an extract from this ‘’Blind Disobedience’’ text from Slovakia:

Mass vaccination has therefore become the main strategy of states, often supported by employers’ associations. However, this does not at all mean that it is contrary to the interests of workers. Capital is interested in labor power as a commodity to be bought cheaply and squeezed efficiently – and it is only in this context that it is concerned with protecting its quality. But for workers, the commodity “labor power” is inseparable from their own bodies. Protesting against vaccinations and other public health measures designed to protect labor power is like refusing to wear welding gloves because the foreman asked you to.

In the end, anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists have the most interest to adjust their organizing in order to split the Convoy movement between critical citizens and the actual far-right and conspirationist Freedom Convoy. Exposing those groups presence and role in the movement is a good start.

Also in order to be coherent, it might be a good idea to take a collective stance similar to ‘’Vite les péchés’’ and Alain Denault: for a science-based and transparent and democratic collective management of the pandemic.

It would be a good interest to criticize individualism in the anti-sanitary movement ‘’my freedom as my irresponsible choice to not wear a mask’’ shared with the libertarians/propertiarianists in North America. Anarchist freedom isn’t about individual glorification of selfishness, but about collective autodetermination.

Larger coalitions could also be organised to wage campaigns against the patenting of vaccines so that scientific community’s discoveries benefit the whole humanity.

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