I wasn’t always this way.
Pre-pandemic - like many others I suspect - I lived a quiet, comfortable, relatively apolitical existence. My days were filled with activities and certainty – a life of carefully established routines ingrained into my being over the years. I wasn’t an activist. I wasn’t a researcher. I wasn't a writer. I wasn’t anything of any consequence, really. Of course, in 2020, that all changed.
My mother passed away during lockdowns. A brief remote farewell was granted to me over a video call to a body already devoid of life, followed by a quick cremation in absence of a proper funeral. That was my goodbye. Rules were rules, not to be broken.
I realized then how wrong we all were, but I had yet to realize just how wrong we could be.
The more that I reflected on the panicked insanity building to a frenzy around us, the more I felt it. The wool was being pulled over our eyes. I had a growing awareness that something awful was happening. Nonsensical mandates, regulations, restrictions. Firings, school closures, taped-off playgrounds, snitch lines to tell on your neighbours. Headlines threatening arrest if you failed to comply. A fear-mongering media delivering a never-ending news stream of anxiety-ridden stories, browbeating us into reclusive submission for “the greater good”.
Days became weeks which became months which became years. Precious little changed for us under lockdowns circumstantially - we were in a never-ending loop it seemed, frozen in time. It was always the next wave, the next variant, the next something. I became a mere shell of my former self. We never seemed to quite reach the carrot dangled just in front of our noses by our government. We never had our freedom restored, not absolutely. No matter what we did, the promised return to the land of normalcy remained a pie-in-the-sky dream, close enough to almost taste, but just out of grasp. I don’t think they ever intended allow us to regain it, really. We were fearful, meek, complacent, and utterly reliant on government handouts for our very existence. A winning recipe for a government with a penchant for control and overreach that holds extreme disdain for any sort of oversight.
“Things aren’t so bad,” our government assured us. “Trust us,” they said – “they are much worse in other places around the world. We are relatively free and unrestricted here in Canada. We've got your backs."
The habitual claiming of consolation prizes has left us sadly apathetic towards higher achievements. There is no “relatively” free in freedom. We had ought to be the freest nation on the planet. Liberty is an absolute, not something to be placed on a sliding scale dished out in designated dabs by our government as we jump through the appropriate hoops, and other countries aptly picked up on this democratic backslide and sounded the alarm as we watched our civil rights slowly circle the drain.
The feeling of wrongness, the knowledge deep inside of me that something was desperately amiss in our country grew and ballooned and festered, until I could handle bystander status no longer. I wouldn’t be here, writing to you right now, had our government just relinquished their iron-fisted control over our population and allowed us to be. In a way – they made me.
It begs the question – what else have they made?
They made Tamara Lich.
We didn’t speak for very long, but we didn’t have to. It was the early days of the convoy back then. She - like me - knew something was going wrong. It was a spark. Something I wanted to help nurture and kindle into a flame that would perhaps light a fire under the apathetic inhabitants of our country. Something that could awake the nation from its slumber. I don’t think either of us fully comprehended what would transpire next, or that she would go on to lead one of the most powerful, successful protests ever seen against discriminatory government measures, one that captured the hearts and minds of a shell-shocked people all over the world. For the first time in a long time, a sense of rightness was restored within me. I had hope again. She gave it to me.
Now, she’s back in jail, mere days before the celebration of our national holiday, but sent a brief message from her cell out to all ahead of the weekend – a gentle plea to remain peaceful. Indeed - it was the inherent innocence and peacefulness of her protest that made it such a wild success, and I believe we will do everything in our power to honour that and keep them so going forward.
They made James Topp.
As law enforcement cracked down on demonstrators in the streets of our capital, smashing glass and dragging determined Canadians from car windows to be cuffed and tried for fighting for what they believed in, quietly, without much ado at all, a man named James Topp departed from Vancouver in the dead of a harsh Canadian winter.
A war veteran who served twenty-eight years in the Canadian Armed Forces, dishonourably discharged for speaking out against mandates whilst in uniform, the soldier marched across our vast country with almost no attention given to this incredible feat by our media at all.
Like Tamara and I and many others – he knew something was wrong.
The more I learned about James and his team, the more I came to admire them. The spark within me that was extinguished was rekindled. Composed and calm, he is a steady, likeable character, gathering a following as his march across the country proceeds. Arguably almost as successful as the truckers were, he hosted a series of meetings in Ottawa recently attended by Members of Parliament, in the hopes of opening a respectful line of dialogue, one where the fringe group of unacceptables – a group actually encompassing millions of Canadians - finally had a seat at the table and a say.
As he closes in on Ottawa, the old crowds are coming back I see. People are once again lining the streets, waving their Canadian flags with pride. I’ll be out meeting him on the road, to document the last legs of his incredible journey, and to see if once again, we can nurture that spark, that feeling that we all sorely miss – hope for a return to normal - and ignite a flame once again.
They know we are coming – we told them as much, and the lengths the City has gone to prevent any of that old fire from returning has been nothing short of extraordinary. New troops and recruits, fences and concrete blockades, along with signs, notices, warnings and releases stating there will be “zero-tolerance” - the bombardment has been nonstop. They respond to our messages put out on social media almost immediately, leaving no doubt in my mind that the surveillance state is well and alive and already here. The nervousness of twitchy officials is palpable, and the harder they frantically push back in aim of subduing demonstrations, the smaller and more pathetically desperate they appear.
What are they afraid of, exactly?
The former claims ring hollow of economic damage caused by the convoy protest, as there were to be open borders, no blockades, and no impediment of traffic, businesses, or people over the Canada Day weekend – not at our hands, in any event. It seems indeed that they are terrified of the very concept of liberty itself. This isn’t about economic damage. I doubt it ever was.
It’s about quelling dissent.
They say hard times create strong men, and weak men create hard times.
As Justin Trudeau’s popularity plummets and he loses the confidence of the country to govern, and his policies create rough times for the good people while the cost of living skyrockets to levels not seen since his father was in office, I would unarguably agree that weak men do create hard times.
And, if the government continues to hold fast to the god-like powers bestowed upon them by the pandemic, and continues to descend deeper into the ever-provocative pit of authoritarianism, those hard times will inevitably only create more of us.