Watching the evolving press coverage and online discourse around the antivaccine-mandate trucker convoy for the past week has been fascinating. It’s also been extremely frustrating.
The convoy, which is a cross-country parade of truck drivers opposed to the new rule requiring all truckers crossing the Canada-US border to be vaccinated against COVID-19, is a repeat of so much of the reactionary anti-vax rhetoric we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, fuelled by disinformation and wrapped up in right-wing, anti-science sentiment.
Dubbing itself the “Freedom Convoy,” the group is steeped in far-right, racist and anti-Semitic sentiment. Many online were quick to point out that several of the protest’s organizers are familiar to people who monitor neo-fascists in Canada. One of the most prominent, Pat King, was the founder of the Alberta branch of the separatist Wexit party and has organized violent counter-protests against anti-racism demonstrations.
One of the convoy’s organizers, Tamara Lich, has said that the Freedom Convoy doesn’t condone extremism among its members. But Lich herself is the current secretary of the former Wexit party, which has been renamed the Maverick Party.
The typical goons of right-wing Canadian media have come out of the woodwork to voice their support, including the dependably ghoulish Rex Murphy. In the Winnipeg Sun, Ryan Stelter condemned the convoy’s obvious racism, saying it’s “lost the plot on the original purpose of its protest.”
But even putting aside the racism, the problematic far-right politics, and the fact that this overwhelmingly white protest is not representative of the majority of Canada’s truckers (60 per cent of whom are Punjabi), it’s important to remember that the “original purpose” of this protest was already very bad and very stupid.
Don’t forget that even if the Freedom Convoy wasn’t a deplorable carnival of the worst of Canadian racism (which it very much is), it would still be dedicated to anti-science nonsense.
Published in Volume 76, Number 15 of The Uniter (January 27, 2022)