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Ottawa Imitates Authoritarian Regimes With Violent Crackdown on Canada’s Freedom Convoy Protests

Neil Campbell
Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
Published: February 23, 2022
Methods employed by the Trudeau administration to quash Canada's Freedom Convoy trucker occupation protest were too similar to those used in Hong Kong in 2019, say some personalities
Police prepare to crackdown on the Freedom Convoy trucker occupation protest on Feb. 19, 2022 in Ottawa, Ontario. Many pundits have compared Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s usage of the Emergencies Act and tactics deployed by the police to those used in authoritarian regimes such as the 2019 Hong Kong anti-Chinese Communist Party protests. (Image: Alex Kent/Getty Images)

As Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his ruling Liberal Party minority government decided to invoke the never-used-before successor to the War Measures Act, the Emergencies Act, to quash the Freedom Convoy trucker occupation protest in the nation’s capital, Ottawa, some warned the country’s image has been downgraded from that of a bastion of freedom and peace to one reminiscent of authoritarian regimes.

Although the opinion is rare among Canada’s establishment, publicly-funded media outlets, multiple popular independent journalists and podcasters spoke out.

One of the most prominent was Rebel News Australia journalist Avi Yemini, who spoke to his 245,000 followers, contrasting his organization’s experience in covering the 2019 anti-Chinese Communist Party protests in Hong Kong, which at times brought as many as two million citizens opposing the violation of the “One Country Two Systems” model to the streets, against their time in Ottawa.

‘Canada is dying’

“MSM who relentlessly condemned China for their shocking treatment of democracy protesters in Hong Kong, are now CONGRATULATING Justin Trudeau for exactly the same thing,” Yemini said on Feb. 20. “Canada is the new China.”

“Rebel News covered both but were only assaulted by police at one,” he added.

The incident Yemini refers to occurred on Feb. 19 when Rebel reporter Alexa Lavoie, who while recording a frontline confrontation between police and protestors, was struck multiple times by officers and had a tear gas canister fired into her leg at point blank range.

Rebel wasn’t the only independent journalist to speak out. Founder of website The Counter Signal, Keean Bexte, reported on Feb. 16 that he was “followed through downtown Ottawa” by authorities. 

Bexte, who also covered the Hong Kong protests, stated, “It happened to me in Hong Kong, and it is happening in my home country too. Canada is dying.”

On Feb. 20, Rupa Subramanya, a columnist for Postmedia keystone National Post, also drew the contrast in a tweet responding to threats made by the Ottawa Police against protest participants that the force would “actively look to identify you and follow up with financial sanctions and criminal charges.”

Subramanya stated, “During Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests in 2019, just like the cops in Ottawa, the authorities there treated every assembly as illegal. They used mass surveillance to track protestors and went after them. Wonder what China thinks of what’s happening in Canada…”

‘Never take freedom for granted’

Lauren Chen, a vlogger with nearly 320,000 Twitter followers, similarly spoke out on Feb. 17 when she said, “I have two nationalities: Canada and Hong Kong. Sadly, both places are now shockingly less free than when I was born. Never take freedom for granted, it’s painful how fast you can lose it.”

The personalities’ assertions are not without merit. During the weeks before the government finally initiated the crackdown, Canadian police threatened to seize children belonging to Freedom Convoy participants and confiscated large amounts of firewood and diesel fuel amid sub-zero winter temperatures.

As the blitz drew closer, Canada’s federal law enforcement agency, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) directly and admittedly sabotaged a trio of excavators held on private land near the Alberta-Montana border blockade.

During the Ottawa clearance amid the employment of the Emergencies Act, the RCMP’s mounted unit trampled several protest participants, including one indigenous elder who suffered a broken collarbone.

The RCMP was given a black eye of its own when the attitude of officers towards their fellow Canadians was made public shortly afterwards. 

On Feb. 19, screenshots of a social WhatsApp group for officers comprising the agency’s Musical Ride mounted unit revealing disturbingly unprofessional conduct and statements were leaked to Rebel News.

While some members shared videos of the trampling in the group and others applauded and cheered the violence, several officers sent photos of themselves dining while uniformed at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier, a five star hotel in the region.

Another was bold enough to openly state, “Time for the protestors to hear our jackboots on the ground.”

The week prior, one of Canada’s largest unions, the Public Services Alliance of Canada (PSAC), organized a “counter-protest” in Ottawa against the Convoy where multiple instances of individuals carrying the Hammer and Sickle Flag, the symbol of communism and the Communist Party, were sighted.

The events were nonetheless characterized by both elected officials and newspapers belonging to the Postmedia network as “Ottawa’s silent, impatient majority” who allegedly organically self-organized in order “to urge police to put an end to the occupation of the city’s downtown.”

PSAC is especially notable because the Alliance, either directly or via a “component union,” represents a massive range of government employees in sectors spanning customs and immigration, national defense, health and environment, and public transportation. 

The organization also represents the RCMP’s civilian staff. 

Leftist political rhetoric delivered a hot take when no less than Attorney General and Minister of Justice David Lametti stated during a nationally broadcasted segment on CTV News that “if you are a member of a pro-Trump movement … you ought to be worried.”

Lametti’s statements came in response to a question about whether individuals who donated to the Convoy’s GiveSendGo campaign should be concerned about suspension of access to banking functions under the Emergencies Act.

The Minister was not bluffing. Reports by multiple Conservative Party Members of Parliament revealed that some constituents had their bank accounts frozen over as little as the purchase of a $20 t-shirt in support of the Convoy.

The Chinese Communist Party itself took advantage of the dissonant response by the Trudeau administration against its own citizens to parrot anti-democracy propaganda on Twitter.

On Feb. 22, the communist Chinese Embassy in Ottawa’s account stated, “In the eyes of some people in Canada, similar protests and demonstrations should be referred to differently in different places. In Hong Kong, they are ‘human rights movement’, [sic] but in Canada they are ‘a threat to democracy’. Such stark double standard [sic] is unacceptable.”