Maybe it’s the stark contrast that makes the event seem so ominous. In a city where politeness reigns and the phrase “Canada Nice” is seen as a sign of strength, hundreds of big rig truckers have blockaded Ottawa’s capital district and intimidated passers-by in a protest that has shocked the nation and caused international ramifications.

Beginning as a protest against vaccine mandates for truckers who cross the border into the US, the incident has devolved into a catch-all opportunity for dissent and disaffection. Most of the thousands who gathered (peacefully) in the opening days of the protest have long since gone home, leaving a core group of truck drivers who have parked their vehicles with motors loudly idling and aggrieved drivers threatening those they encounter on the street. The protest is now approaching its third week, putting an emotional strangle hold on the citizens of Ottawa.

Catherine Porter writes in the New York Times: “This is not my city,” said Ellie Charters, 45, crossing the street before a line of shoulder-to-shoulder tractor cabs, their metal grills festooned in flags, handmade signs and stuffed toys. Ms. Charters, a local resident, called the party scene a “sanitization” of the protest’s darker motives.

“But there is a definite edge — like that end-of-the-night feeling at a tailgate party, when some of the crowd might have had too much to drink, and things could go sideways. In part, it is the trucks: giant lumbering machines that offer more esprit de roadkill than peace.

“Local residents say it is far more than perception. They have been harassed on the street, and recount being frightened, even chased. The police are investigating a potential arson attempt in the lobby of an apartment building downtown.”

The truckers’ grievances have become less clearly defined. Their ranks have been swelled by disaffected right-wing nationalists, including white supremacists from the US. The blockade in Ottawa has become a festering cauldron for disaffection, attracting a wide variety of grievances against the Canadian government.

And this is not just a local issue that impacts a few square blocks in the Canadian capital district. It has become a focal point for larger, global issues as witness to the back-up at the famed Ambassador Bridge that connects Detroit to Windsor, Ontario, the busiest cross-border entry in North America, which has been effectively shut down for days. US auto manufacturers, already reeling from supply chain woes, have been forced to cancel shifts because shipments of parts have been slowed or stopped altogether.

The demonstrations have also captured the imagination of far right and anti-vaccine groups around the world, raising millions of dollars in online campaigns and inspiring protests in at least two countries — New Zealand and Australia — with talks of a third in the works in the United States.

Further, I would argue, this incident is emblematic of a deeper sense of worldwide foreboding. Whether it be in Ukraine, where the decidedly power-hungry Vladimir Putin continues to threaten invasion, thereby securing his preeminence in the panoply of international “strongmen” (on one level, it doesn’t matter if the Russians invade Ukraine or not, Putin has accomplished his objective—to bully his way into the center of the international spotlight), or the persistence of gun violence in the US which seems to trap ever-younger random victims in its web, I sense a pervasive feeling of foreboding—both intellectually and viscerally—that we are not okay.

In this space, I have often quoted my good friend Sam Simon who says the most important question we can ask ourselves at any historical moment is, “what are we right before?” He roots this question in the experience of Germany in the 1930’s where the whole world refused to ask that question with intention. Our lack of collective curiosity led us to the horrors of the Third Reich and its impact on a global society unprepared for the devastation of World War II.

What is happening in Ottawa right now seems to be a harbinger of things to come. Our loss of civility and mutual respect has become so intense that violence, it seems, is poised to erupt anywhere—even in unexpected places like peaceful Canada.     

6 thoughts on “Ottawa and Us

  1. “In a city where politeness reigns and the phrase “Canada Nice””

    Thank you Rev. Chase for a topic that is dear to my heart, “Gov & FREEDOMS.” We talk about the will of the People which ignored on daily by the elected officials who take the liberty to act for and on our behalf as we are disabled and we need them to assume The Custodianship over us. “We the People” is written on the top of one of the most wonderful constitutions ever, our constitution.

    The Polite & Nice can change when People’ Freedoms are being abolished day after day under whatever pretenses. If you review the world’ current status, you will see that acts like the Canadian Defiant are the future.

    I think, returning to the meaning of “We The People” is the real answer, after all the framers were smarter than those who claim to know and understand “We The People”.

    Excellent job Rev.

  2. I can’t get past the hypocrisy. When protesters from the left — for example the BLM protesters on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn last year, or Occupy Wall Street — block traffic, you would think there was no greater crime and that the protesters are getting exactly what they deserve when they’re beaten, hit by police cars, kettled, tased, etc. But when it’s a protest from the right it’s an expression of human freedom that we should all cherish.

  3. As a Canadian it strikes me as a loss of innocence. Our constitution entitles us to “ Peace ,Order and Good Government “. The situation appears at this point beyond the government’s ability to solve the problem which is far greater than the issues being protested.

    The likes of Trump , Cruz, and Fox News are stirring up anger, the result being, millions of dollars in donations being raised flowing north to support the overthrow of a stable democracy. How is this even possible? So much money for anger and hate. 🥲
    I am deeply involved in refugee sponsorship – The 8 million raised to overthrow the Canadian Government by the Christian – Givegetgo funding site could support a lot of newcomers to Canada. Why would this site even allow this activity to be sponsored ? A bigger question perhaps ?

    So when this ends there will be barricades in place and police patrolling the streets around Parliament Hill. I guess there was a time in the US before metal detectors and barricades at the capital

    It will never be the same here

    🥲 Paul

  4. Bob: I feel that opportunists are taking advantage of a situation that they feel might benefit them. If citizens could just clear their heads and practice common sense, perhaps we could be in a better situation. There seems to be a lot of reactionary responses to anything that is going on now.

  5. Bob, thank you for putting this strange event of the rruckers’ protest in Canada in context with what seems to be worldwide discontent. These truckers are acting out like those who actually do cross the line to commit violence, letting us know that something is wrong – that ‘we are not okay’. They are among such “lethal mine canaries” that are warning us that these pervasive crises need to be dealt with comprehensively. Michael Moore has often laser-focused on systemic evils. ‘Capitalism: a love story’s in particular, suggests to me where the root problems are – and how to address them: the vote.

    When the 72 returned from their missionary adventures, they were filled with stories of driving out the evil spirits of fear, deception, and hatred ; healing people in their distress of body, mind, and spirit; and planting seeds of beloved community. Jesus rejoiced that Satan the Enemy was being thrown down from power, because now Jesus’ followers were doing what he had been doing. They were *voting* to work in concert for s better world.

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