By derek Swartzlander, Guest Writer
Canadian Prime MinisterJustin Trudeau and his Canadian government’s response to the trucker protests has been nothing short of totalitarian.
While I don’t agree with the protests, I believe in the principle that they have a right to gather and make noise for their cause. But it looks like some powerful people don’t agree with me.
The Trudeau administration recently announced that it was broadening its anti-terrorism legislation to include crowdfunding platforms. That way, it could target the Canadian trucker protesters who received small dollar donations via the crowdfunding platform GoFundMe. The Canadian government also threatened to seize the assets and bank accounts of people who were spotted at the protest, essentially threatening to destroy their livelihoods. At a press conference, the police chief of Ottawa stated that they would use surveillance footage to retroactively prosecute people who were involved.
The protestors are being treated like terrorists even though they are not. These people are not using violence as a political tool; rather, they are peacefully protesting what they view as overreach in government power. As someone who has supported other protests against excessive government power with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, I have to feel for how these people are being treated.
Many of the same criticisms that they used against BLM are being levied against the trucker protests. Many people have pointed to the fact that some of the protestors have been arrested for minor property destruction as evidence that the entire movement is full of violent, ill-intentioned people. We’ve all seen this movie before; it is the same exact line that they used against BLM.
The BLM movement was openly called a terrorist organization on Fox News, a mainstream political news channel. The BLM organization, separate from the movement, also used crowdfunding platforms to raise money for their cause. How absurd would it be if this money was withheld from them after pressure from the federal government was applied? We would all see this as an obvious overreach of authority. But since this movement is not as popular, people are indifferent about it or are openly supporting the move.
At least from my perspective, BLM is a much more justified movement. But whose call is that to make? The Canadian trucker protestors have a legitimately-held conviction that their position is right. They have every right to have their voices heard, no matter how inconvenient it is for the people of Ottawa or car manufacturers in the U.S. Being disruptive is literally the entire point of having a protest, and as long as they do not rise to the level of wanton acts of violence, their civil liberties need to be protected.
Being able to look at issues like these while still being objective and sticking to your principles is the reason why we have principles in the first place. Letting the Canadian government decide whether the truckers have a right to peacefully protest is a slippery slope.
It is in moments of discomfort where we need to refuse our most totalitarian impulses. We must have faith in our most fundamental values as a society, especially the values of free speech, expression and protest. These are the values that gave us the civil rights movement, Occupy Wall Street, the women’s march and BLM. They cannot be discarded so casually.
All it takes is for the winds of public opinion to shift just a little too far to see your favorite social justice cause be stomped out in the same way. Make no mistake — they will use these tactics on leftist causes and with much more force. I feel so disappointed in what our neighbors to the north have been doing, and I pray that this destruction of democracy does not get to the U.S.