“Cause we got a little ol’ convoy rockin’ through the night. Yeah, we got a little ol’ convoy, ain’t she a beautiful sight? Come on and join our convoy, ain’t nothin’ gonna get in our way.” These are some of the lyrics of the 1975 C.W. McCall novelty song called “Convoy,” which went to number one on the pop charts that year. The song spawned a 1978 movie called Convoy, starring Kris Kristofferson, in which truckers rebel against heavy-handed law enforcement and form a destructive convoy. The movie is a true 1970s piece of cinema fiction that I enjoyed watching as a kid.
However, fiction has now become reality throughout Canada and on the U.S-Canadian -border. On January 15, Canadian and northern cross-border truckers organized the Freedom Convoy to oppose Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s and various provinces’ COVID-19 requirements for truckers to re-nter Canada by land, which were implemented the same day as the event.
Although the protest was arranged to last one day, it stretched into weeks. Truckers from all over Canada formed convoys blocking bridges and roads. In certain Canadian cities, they assembled downtown with their rigs paralyzing economic activity. In Ottawa, the nation’s capital, they parked in front of government buildings, blocking the flow of traffic.
In addition to shutting off key byways, truckers flashed their lights and incessantly blared their horns rattling residents who could get no relief. Some truckers and passenger vehicles were stranded in places such as northern Montana because the convoy blocked the delivery of fuels. Food shortages occurred in other areas.
In the midst of all this chaos, other elements jumped on board. Right-wing groups opposed to various policies joined the truckers to make the experience as miserable as possible. Hooligans who just wanted to cause disruptions and mayhem also joined in the fray. They amused themselves by setting off fireworks, throwing objects in the street, and driving on sidewalks.
During my career and experience I don’t think I have met a Canadian of whom I formed a negative opinion. Canada is a country that has a reputation of being accommodating and hospitable. It is not a country that constantly generates news about riots, excessive gang activity, murders, or insurgencies. And this is what is really disconcerting. If this kind of rogue behavior in response to the vaccine mandates, a proven way to fight the pandemic, can occur in Canada, it can occur in any democratic country. Would you have ever imagined that a state of emergency would be declared in normally peaceful Ottawa, and extra anti-riot personnel would have to be moved in to try to take control of the situation? Well, that is exactly what Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson did on February 6.
As Canada is a politically democratic country, citizens have the right to protest government policies. However, they do not have the right to disturb the peace or to cause misery in regular citizens’ lives. It is clear that a small percentage of the Canadian population is responsible for the bedlam. Polls show that approximately 70 percent of Canadians support a vaccine mandate for adults in one form or the other.
The behavior of the truckers and sympathizers is exactly the kind that is not needed in a pandemic. Concentrating unvaccinated people in close quarters – and I imagine that a large portion of the protesters do not believe in wearing masks either – is recipe ripe for an outbreak. It also exposes people to danger who are practicing diligence.
Blocking traffic and using semi rigs to impede the flow of goods and services exacerbates the already serious disruptions in supply chains that have been ongoing during the pandemic. Truckers have been hailed as heroes because they are responsible for getting food, medicine, and consumer products to all of us. Manufacturers, distribution centers, and logistic firms are desperately trying to catch up with demand and manage the supply chain disruptions that we are experiencing in most industries. Disrupting the supply chains even more will have the effect of making protesting truckers not heroes, but villains.
The behavior being displayed in Canada by rogue forces doesn’t help, but actually hurts their case. By disrupting the everyday Canadian’s life, the protesting truckers are making enemies of the very people whose support they need. Canadian citizens who are affected by the blockades and sick of the mess are appealing to their officials to use force to restore order.
We are all tired of the pandemic. I don’t know a person who doesn’t want this misery to end. However, for us to get through this pandemic, logic and civility must prevail, especially in Canada, a nation that in the past has set the standard for these two elements.