What was once labelled as a “small fringe minority” with “unacceptable views” by Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the “Freedom convoy” has evolved into a large-scale movement with independent protests across Canada, including Waterloo Town Square last weekend.
There were some legitimate concerns on both sides of the political spectrum, but there’s been one commonly cited criticism that seemingly dismisses the movement as a whole. The blanket statement that the “Freedom Convoy” is a white nationalist movement is inflammatory and problematic. Here’s why.
The broad labelling of a movement denies the legitimate criticism or positive aspects of what’s happening and seemingly silences the voices of even the ethnic minorities within it.
“A lot of people have this perception that a trucker is this white guy who smokes a pack a day and drives his truck, but growing up in Brampton that’s not what a trucker is to me,” said Amarah Dawood, a Brampton resident. Dawood said she knows a lot of truckers in Brampton who are of varied ethnicity and some support the protest while others do not.
In comparison to other large-scale protests such as Black Lives Matter (BLM), we often did not label the whole group as homogenous because of a few arguably upsetting viewpoints.
While some claim that Tamara Lich, a known member of the Maverick Party, is a “racist” and therefore the whole movement is labelled as such, we often do not apply this criticism to the Marxist connection of the BLM cofounders and organizers Patrisse Cullors and Alicia Garza. They have said before that they are “trained Marxists” that have studied Mao, Stalin, and Lenin, all of which are controversial figures in history who have led to the deaths of millions of people.
Labelling all of BLM as “Marxist” is inflammatory, problematic, and ignores the movement’s original purpose. It seeks to silence the movement as a whole which was done several times on Fox news. But we cannot be hypocrites who generalize vast movements because of one or two problematic viewpoints. Just because we flip the political spectrum doesn’t mean our principles change too. We give everyone the right to assembly, and the right to be heard.
“The protest itself is not a white nationalist movement, but I can also see why some choose to believe that it is. Yes, predominantly the protesters are white, but that in itself does not justify it as a white nationalist movement,” said Biplov Ramal, another Brampton resident who doesn’t support the goals of the convoy but supports their right to protest.
Legitimate arguments against the truckers have cited that ending mandates comes from the provincial level (arguably the Canadian Federal Government can constitutionally override this) and requires collaboration with the American government. Meanwhile, elements like hygiene, logistics, public disturbance, serve as real concerns about this movement for both protestors and residents of demonstration areas.
Agreeing to disagree is an important part of Canadian democracy and our ability to unite as a whole. It is critical that in these divisive times we seek to understand and converse with our ideological opponents to see where they are coming from and why they value what they do. Dismissing an entire movement on an ideological claim will never heal the divide in our great country, but talking to one another with humility and civility will.
Ryan B Chan