“It was a veritable carnival of hate, endorsed and tolerated and even encouraged by some Canadian politicians, cowardly cowards, people who knew better but chose to exploit this volatile and dangerous moment for their strategic advantage,” the senator said. Paula Simons last week. during a debate over Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s invocation of never-before-used emergency legislation to stamp out convoy protests.
“When the time comes, we will also have to investigate the role of foreign interference in all of this, the role of foreign donors, foreign actors and foreign governments who were only too happy to pour oil on this fire, too happy to see Canadian democracy destabilized,” added Simons.
US figures such as former President Donald Trump have defended the convoy against what he described as the tough pandemic politics of “far-left crazed Justin Trudeau”. On Saturday night, Trump brought up Canada again during his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida. His attacks on Trudeau and the government drew roars of agreement and a standing ovation from the crowd. If Democrats want to fight for democracy overseas, Trump said, “they should start with the democracy that’s under threat right next door, a place called Canada.”
“The tyranny we have witnessed in Canada in recent weeks should shock and appall people everywhere,” the former president continued. “A line has been crossed – either you are with the peaceful truckers or you are with the leftist fascists. … We stand with the truckers and we stand with the Canadian people in their noble quest to reclaim their freedom.
It seems mind-boggling that a small protest by truckers opposed to cross-border vaccination mandates could have created this kind of political groundswell. Organizers of the convoy protests have sold their campaign as a response to Ottawa’s vaccination mandate for truckers and its Covid restrictions in general. They arrived with a “memorandum of understanding” requiring government officials to change their Covid rules or resign. But as the protests grew, the calls grew louder and the message became more obtuse and anti-government. Public Security Minister Marco Mendicino warned that a group organized within the so-called Freedom Convoy was “driven by an ideology aimed at overthrowing the government”.
Truckers may have parked their rigs at home, but Canada and the United States are grappling with what they left behind.
Trudeau’s name is on a long list of authorities — from Ottawa’s police chief to its mayor to the provincial premier — accused of taking too long to respond to protests that have overwhelmed the hearts of Canada’s capital and closed vital border crossings. But Trudeau is also in the hot seat with the Conservatives, who blame him for aggravating the impasse with emergency powers that have allowed, for example, the freezing of bank accounts. Their criticisms have been amplified and distorted to extreme levels in the United States, with high-profile figures comparing the prime minister to some of the most notorious dictators and war criminals of the 20th century. And now, despite the revocation of the Emergencies Act — which gave Trudeau and the federal government sweeping powers to end the protests — a polarizing political fight is just beginning.
As the crisis dragged on, an idea of what Canada might face seemed to dawn on policymakers.
Trudeau highlighted the dangers of the convoy’s outside influences last week as he defended his decision to give the state the extraordinary powers of the Emergencies Act.
“After a deluge of false information and misinformation swept through Canada, including from foreign sources, after these illegal blockades and occupations received disturbing amounts of foreign funding to destabilize Canadian democracy, it became clear that local and provincial authorities needed more tools to restore order and keep people safe,” Trudeau said last week before MPs voted 185 to 151 in support of using the measures.
Trudeau withdrew the act a few days later, arguing that the emergency was over while leaving the door open to employ it again in the future. His use of the act and the momentum of the convoy still fuel the coverage of right-wing Canadian media outlets, such as Rebel News. Canadian truckers were splashed almost daily across right-wing American media, such as Fox News and OAN. It took Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to eliminate Trudeau and the Canadian Convoy of Top Shows.
“This is what the collapse of democracy looks like,” Fox host Tucker Carlson said Feb. 21 during a 13-minute segment about Trudeau on his wildly popular show before seizing on the vice premier’s comments. Canadian Minister Chrystia Freeland. “You will notice that some of the toughest authoritarians, not only in Canada but throughout the West, speak in a light, singsong voice that rises on the last syllable. They don’t look like Mussolini, but they granted themselves greater powers.
Carlson used his monologue – one of many he’s aired in recent weeks on the Canadian Convoy – to warn American viewers why they should worry about what’s happening in Canada. “The Biden administration — you should know and remember — encouraged all of this,” Carlson said. “Vladimir Putin is the tyrant, we are told. Not Justin Trudeau. At this point, it’s pretty clear that if you want to know the future they’re preparing for us in the United States, look north to Canada. Carlson even sells t-shirts mocking Trudeau for $35 each.
The influx of prominent American voices into the Canadian political environment is something Canadians have never seen before, and certainly never with such intensity. Much of it was angry — and directed directly at the liberal Trudeau, who has become a punching bag for the American right.
Trump devoted much of his Saturday speech to Canadian truckers and the “tyranny” of Trudeau. “In an advanced Western democracy, the peaceful movement of patriotic truckers, workers and families protesting for their most basic rights and freedoms has been violently suppressed,” Trump said.
“Their assets and their savings have been frozen, they have been slandered as Nazis, racists and terrorists. These are the names they were called. They were arrested and accused of false crimes, they were falsely accused of loyalty to foreign powers. … They are hunted down as enemies of their own government and treated worse than drug dealers and murderers or rapists.
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a top Trump ally who wanted to comfort Canadian truckers with thousands of pillows, told POLITICO in a recent interview that Trudeau was “a horrible, evil dictator.” “He’s a monster, actually. A monster beyond anything in history,” said Lindell, a promoter of the 2020 election plot.
MAGA stirrer Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) also weighed in: “Trudeau shows the world what a dictator he is.” Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who has publicly supported the move, compared Trudeau to Adolf Hitler in a tweet which he later deleted. Other notable Americans who have supported Canadian convoys include Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Donald Trump Jr.
The Americans who cheered on Canadian truckers may be about to take a closer look for themselves. US authorities are preparing for a Canadian-inspired convoy experiment in Washington. On Wednesday, the Pentagon approved the deployment of 700 unarmed National Guard troops to DC as it prepares for truck convoy protests that could begin this week.
Back in Canada, the truckers left their tire tracks on the political scene.
Prominent Conservatives, Trudeau’s main opposition party, clearly saw the narrow but significant populist influence within the convoy movement and threw their support behind it. They did so despite widespread warnings about extremist elements within it.
The truckers’ arrival in Ottawa has also exposed divisions within the Conservative Party, which is still pondering its future after last fall’s election defeat. As the protest’s occupation of downtown Ottawa gained further momentum, Tory MPs pushed aside their moderate leader Erin O’Toole – who had taken heat for vacillating on whether to meet or not truckers.
Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre wasted no time after O’Toole’s departure before announcing his candidacy for the leadership. He voiced his support for truckers, a signal that he could reposition the Conservatives to regain the support they lost from their right flank in the last election to the right-wing People’s Party of Canada. Poilievre’s leadership bid quickly attracted the support of many of his fellow MPs.
In contrast, interim party leader Candice Bergen tried to have it both ways. After initially supporting the truckers, Bergen changed his stance a few weeks later and urged them to “tear down the barricades”.
On both sides of the border, the role of the media has been at the center of the convoy debate. Proponents of the trucking movement have forcefully accused the mainstream media of propaganda. Opponents warn it has brought to life the kind of dangerous misinformation that has torn apart American politics for the past five years.
Simons, a former journalist appointed to the Senate of Canada in 2018, warned that some media coverage was spreading lies about the police response to the truck convoy. She called out Fox News, for example, for repeatedly reporting that a police horse used to suppress Ottawa protests had trampled a protester to death.
“Even after Fox News pulled its outrageous story, it continued to metastasize online,” Simons said. “Are we really going to allow ourselves to be manipulated by hatemongers, confidence tricksters, trolls and foreign actors to tear our Canada apart?