What Canadian truckers know – WSJ

When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last month that truckers protesting his Covid-19 vaccination mandates in Ottawa held “unacceptable opinions”, he accentuated the real reason drivers decided that they had no choice but to take to the streets. Their government, led by the Liberal Party, has become decidedly illiberal.

The truckers, largely engaged in peaceful acts of civil disobedience, call themselves the Freedom Convoy. But they are not an organized group with a leader. Some flew out of western Canada last month to oppose a vaccination mandate. Along the way, others have joined the original peloton in person, in spirit, and even in solidarity. On February 8, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. noted that “tow truck operators under contract with the City of Ottawa [were] overriding requests to transport vehicles out of protest areas, according to the city’s top official.

Note that Mr. Trudeau did not say that the blocking of the Ambassador Bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, was unacceptable. On the contrary, he declared trucker ideals beyond paleness.

Intolerance is ugly. But for Mr. Trudeau, who proudly supports Black Lives Matter, it’s okay in this case because it’s the politically correct variety: he’s denouncing the views of a bunch of yahoos.

Coming from a prime minister sitting atop a powerful administrative state, that goes a long way to explaining what has gone from a protest to a movement.

Polls suggest that most Canadians do not support disturbing the peace or blocking international crossings. Still, a majority favor the truckers’ mission, which is to end Covid-19 restrictions and mandates that they say go beyond the state’s own power.

A moving speech in November by former Royal Canadian Mounted Police Corporal Daniel Bulford, once assigned to Mr Trudeau’s personal security detail, described the conflict between government Covid-19 orders and the oath that Mounties ready to defend Canadian freedom.

Mr. Trudeau likes to invoke “science”. Yet the virulence of the virus is declining, natural immunity is on the rise and, by the Prime Minister’s own estimates, about 90% of Canadian truckers are vaccinated. If there were ever reasons to take extraordinary government action to protect public health, they have also faded.

On Tuesday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney lifted his province’s vaccination proof requirements. “Now is the time to start learning to live with Covid,” he said. “These restrictions have led to a terrible division.” Saskatchewan did the same earlier last week and Ontario said it would move in the same direction.

In the meantime, Mr. Trudeau is claiming police powers as if the nation were in the grip of a catastrophe. No wonder the already simmering resentments over the federal government’s overreach boiled over.

Canada is presented as a modern democracy that respects pluralism. It involves differences of opinion peacefully coexisting on a variety of topics ranging from health risk assessment to parenting and child-rearing to political philosophy. Individuals, even minorities, retain their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

Yet, in practice, Canadians who oppose big government are increasingly realizing that they are living under an awakened, progressive majoritarianism that believes it has the truth. Dissidents are chased from the public square and even the Prime Minister cancels opponents without flinching.

The reach of Canada’s administrative state rivals that of its southern neighbour. Ottawa and the provinces have their own versions of health departments and agencies with “experts” who wield enormous power but are not answerable to the electorate. On both sides of the border, chief medical authorities are referred to as “top doctors”, but that is a misnomer. They are more likely to be senior government officials, people like Anthony Fauci, who has headed the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984.

In theory, the 1982 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is part of the Constitution, should protect civil rights. But the Canadian justice system has been drifting ideologically to the left for decades. Courts today interpret the constitution through the prism of social justice rather than individual liberty. The state enjoys broad powers to crush dissent.

The government says its Covid-19 restrictions don’t limit freedom, but that’s a bogus argument. As Bruce Pardy, managing director of Rights Probe, a Toronto-based think tank, explained in the November 3 Financial Post: “By claiming that people have a real choice between being vaccinated or being out of work, from their studies, social interactions, and travel, governments seek to coerce and manipulate without triggering charter protections.

Mr. Pardy told me by telephone last week that he believed that “the instinct of conservatives in small c is to protect institutions. But they do not realize that these institutions have disappeared. They still have faith in an already compromised system of governance.

Truckers know best.

Write to O’Grady@wsj.com.

Journal Editorial Report: Why is President Biden waiting to declare the end of the pandemic? Images: AP/Zuma Press Composer: Mark Kelly

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