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Angus calls for end to blockades

'We have sacrificed too much to throw it all in a bonfire of rage,' he says
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Charlie Angus

Editor's Note: Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus released the following statement today calling for an end to the truck blockades. This morning, Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency and said he'll convene cabinet in order to enact orders that would make it "illegal and punishable to block and impede the transportation of goods, people and services along critical infrastructure." 

I was in Ottawa for much of the last two weeks witnessing an unprecedented occupation of the nation’s capital. What started as protest on Parliament Hill has degenerated and I have seen firsthand the harassment, intimidation and total disregard for the rule of law. Over the last few days the campaign has begun targeting schools and jamming 911 phone lines. Another protest has shut the international border causing massive disruptions to industry and to our grocery stores. This is not acceptable. It is time for Prime Minister Trudeau and Premier Doug Ford to take steps to restore the rule of law and the rights of citizens to go to work without harassment.

I have no problem with protest. It is a fundamental principle of democracy. If the protesters want to protest every day on Parliament Hill I welcome them. But I will not stand for protesters harassing people who wear masks or jamming emergency phone lines that are needed for fire and ambulance. 

The protesters say it’s about their “freedom”. And yet they came to Ottawa demanding the duly elected government of Canada to be deposed and replaced by a group of protesters, senators and the Governor General. That’s not freedom. 

So let’s talk about the policies that they oppose. The convoy is demanding Prime Minister Trudeau end all health measures that have been in place to keep people safe. The fact is, the health policies are developed at the provincial level — 10 provinces, 10 sets of rules. In Ontario, mask rules, vaccination rules, etc are decided by the provincial government working with the provincial health authorities. 

The protest is demanding an end to “lockdowns” and yet the restaurants are now open and the students are back in school. Thus for the vast majority of Canadians who have done their part, life is getting back to a level of normalcy.

It is also a fact that despite a very high death rate this past month from Omicron the wave appears to be receding. And we know it could have been much worse. Fortunately, Canadians came out in a big way for vaccines and boosters. Canadians have been incredible in following the health guidelines. This is how we “get our lives back.” And thanks to the high level of social solidarity Canada came through the pandemic with one of the lowest death rates in the western world. 

This is something to be very proud of.

The occupiers claimed their protest was to force the government to allow unvaccinated truckers to cross into the United States. Those rules are set in Washington. I note that the Truckers’ Alliance of Canada has condemned this convoy and boasts very high vaccination rates among the drivers. The anti-vaxx crowd also claimed that if the small number of unvaccinated truckers weren’t allowed into the United States the store shelves would soon be empty. Their claims were soon proven false. And so now we witness the anti-vaxx group targeting the national border in an effort to stop the trucks that are bringing supplies. This is not right.

The pandemic has upended all our certainties and our lives. We are all very tired. But I will stand with the health workers who have carried the heaviest loads and often faced some of the ugliest of threats. We have sacrificed too much to throw it all in a bonfire of rage. 

Democracy is a fragile thing. It can only survive if the right to protest is balanced with protection of citizens through the rule of law and the willingness of police to do their job. Democracy can only be maintained when health workers, journalists and public officials can carry on their duties without the threat of intimidation or violence. 

As for the pandemic? COVID doesn’t care how long some angry guy sits in his truck honking his horn. The pandemic is not leaving until we as a society take the collective steps needed to push it to the margins. This is what we as a nation have been doing and must continue to do. 

When I hear someone tell me “I want my life back,” I respond with the simple fact, “It is about all of us getting our lives back.” That’s why we wear masks. That’s why we respect medical advice. 

Facts matter. 

As frayed as our nation is right now, we have to remember that we are in this together.

Charlie Angus, 
Timmins-James Bay MP