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Protests, Encampments, and the Growing ‘Freedom Movement’ in Canada

The world has been shocked, and in turn, transformed by the novel coronavirus, in ways that we cannot even fully describe yet. Starting in the Asian continent and moving to other parts of the world in February and March, the disease spread like wildfire: on February 26th there were just 12 reported cases in Canada, on March 25th there were 2792, and to date, there have been a total of 156,322 (many of whom have recovered). Governments around the globe were forced to take action.

Although what was meant by ‘taking action’ was unique to each country, most followed certain guidelines.

  • Social distancing recommendations, mask mandates, business and public institution closure were common policy.
  • Here in Canada, both provincial and federal governments have taken very serious steps to reduce and contain the spread of COVID-19, such as implementing the policies previously mentioned and closing the border to our southern neighbours, who are being particularly negatively affected.

These decisions have massively affected Canadian society, and like any other world-changing event, the Coronavirus has produced strong societal side effects.

One very noticeable side effect has been the rise of anti-government fervor. 

The Big Picture

Ever since COVID-19 spread throughout the population in March, a growing number of people across Canada have become antagonistic towards the government’s strong protective measures.

  • On April 25th, a coalition of citizens gathered in front of the Ontario legislative building in Toronto to protest the government’s policies.
  • This continued every Saturday for several weeks.
  • Similar protests have happened in BC, Alberta, and other parts of Ontario, and there’s no sign of them coming to a halt.
  • This was made evident on August 29th, when at least a thousand protesters gathered in front of Parliament in Ottawa, and in Montreal on September 12th, where ‘thousands of people’ showed up for an anti-mask march through town.

Clearly, there is frustration among citizens, so how is Canada going to solve this intense disagreement on public health and policy? What can we do to resolve the differences between our fellow citizens? To answer these questions, I decided to investigate exactly what this movement is, what their goals are, and how the government has responded to it. 

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Q&A with “The Canadian Revolution”

As of today, if you walk down Wellington Street in Ottawa and glance at the famous war memorial, you will inevitably see a grassy area where a group of people have created an encampment with several tents and other living arrangements.

All along the encampment they have surrounded themselves with signs making claims such as “Ordered 37 million needles + attempted to mandate vaccines’‘ and “Helped CCP and W.H.O cover up fraudulent findings” in reference to the Canadian government.

With Ottawa being the capital city of Canada, where some of the major protests have taken place, I figured that talking to this group would give me a great deal of insight into what is going on. I approached a woman at the front of the encampment named Miranda on September 6th, and asked her several questions:

(Questions and Answers are paraphrased)

Q: What do you call your movement and when was it created?

A: We are not part of a single organization. The three main groups here are The Canadian Revolution, Hugs Over Masks, and Storm The Hill, but some of us are here independently. The Canadian Revolution was created before Covid, I think around the 2019 election. We are here not only protesting the Covid measures, but everything on these signs. As far as this encampment goes, we started here on July 1st (Canada Day). 

Q: What are your goals?

A: We want to unite the people. This is a cause worth fighting for, and if we can duplicate this encampment in other parts of the country, and stand up to power, then we can achieve that goal.

Q: Do you have any demands, or specific policy propositions for the government?

A: Most of us here and across Canada that are associated with The Canadian Revolution are demanding that governments at all levels step down. We want to see a revolution in this country, one that gives the power back to the people where it rightfully belongs, hence the name “Canadian Revolution”. When this happens we want a new constitution to be written. If the government remains how it exists today, we want to see an end to fraud and corruption. 

When talking about the alleged fraud and corruption, she was referencing the several signs the group had, showcasing the broad range of crimes supposedly committed by the government. When asked about what the government would look like after the revolution, she said that The Canadian Revolution just wants the power in the people’s hands, and that seeing into the future to see the specifics of what that would look like would be impossible. I continued my questioning:

Q: What inspired you to join or create this movement?

A: I woke up to the lies of the media. They were fear mongering about COVID, all while our rights and freedoms were being taken away. This isn’t just about COVID though. There are children being murdered and sold into sex trafficking. 5G is being forced on the population, even after international appeal. This information can all be found online. 

Q: Have you reached out to try to voice your concerns to government officials?

A: We already have, several times, but no response. Not a single MP or cabinet member, let alone Trudeau, has responded to us. This is not surprising, though, after the Little Child case in 1990  found that MPs don’t have a responsibility to represent their constituents. 

Q: What does the flag represent? 

A: The flag represents the end of oppression, in all its forms, especially government tyranny. 

Q: Do you identify with any political party or ideology?

A: No. We don’t label ourselves ‘left’ or ‘right’, and we aren’t partisan. There are certain principles we stand for, and we welcome anyone who shares our principles to join us. 

Miranda also informed me that there was a protest scheduled for the following day on September 7th at 11am on Parliament Hill. To gather more information, I decided to go.

Storming the Hill

At 11am, there were no more than 75 people who had shown up at Parliament to ‘storm the hill’ (which was the name of the group who organized the protest). The protest ran in an open mic format, where speakers took turns talking, and sometimes yelling to the crowd.

At the beginning, there was a man speaking into a microphone, located right beside the temporary wall that surrounds Parliament.

When he spoke, he railed against the crimes of the government and the supposed ‘Marxist subversion’ taking place in Canada. That went on until more people showed up. At its peak, there were approximately 150 people. 

A very visible element to this particular protest was the diversity of opinions and ideologies in attendance. The 3 groups involved in organizing it, Hugs Over Masks, The Canadian Revolution and Storm The Hill were not alone.

The protest attracted many bystanders who were walking on Wellington Street, as well as a couple counter-protesters. There was also a small socialist group who came with posters displaying quotes from an early 20th century Irishman named James Connolly, railing against the supposed evils of capitalism.

“This protest is a perfect place to convert people, with all the anti-status quo sentiment,” they told me.

 An older man wearing a MAGA hat was also participating in the event. I asked one woman in support of Hugs Over Masks why she thought there was so much diversity of thought in attendance.

“People are fed up with the Trudeau government. It really doesn’t matter what else you believe when corruption is so widespread and visible,” she told me.

When asked about specific corruption, she referenced the signs outside the encampment, and the infamous WE scandal

Throughout the day there were several speeches on a variety of topics, ranging from sexual assault, child trafficking, media, and freedom, just to name a few.

“I’m here for freedom,” an especially passionate man shouted.

One women spoke about her childhood experiences with sexual assault and child trafficking. It was a long speech that left most of the crowd silent afterwards.

The open mic lasted for another 2-3 hours after that.

Overall, the protest was peaceful, where the only disagreements were verbal ones.

I asked a police officer nearby to comment on the protest.

“Legally speaking, I should stay impartial,” he said.

People started to disperse around 4pm, and by 5pm, the protest was over. 

No Acknowledgement from MPs

The leaders of the movement have made it very clear that the encampment and protests won’t stop until justice is served, “even if it means continuing into the winter,” they said.

  • What justice will look like, with the extremity of their demands, is hard to tell. Judging by The Canadian Revolution website, and by what they told me, bringing ‘justice’ will be a complicated process, unless the government chooses to voluntarily investigate itself.

Discourse between the government and protesters seems to be lacking.

The group at the encampment told me “they have never responded to us,” and after looking online, very little response can be found.

  • Jim Watson, the Mayor of Ottawa, told me to contact the MP of the Downtown Ottawa region because the encampment is on ‘federal land’.
  • Catherine Mckenna, the MP of the region, did not respond through email.

Back in April, Ontario Premier Doug Ford commented on the April 25th protest in Toronto, calling them “a bunch of yahoos“. Besides that, not much else has been said publicly. 

The Final Word

At this point, “the evidence is clear”, according to public health officials: masks and social distancing are important and effective measures in combating the virus. As a potential second wave of COVID-19 in Canada intensifies, it will be all the more crucial for Canadians to follow them.

However, for these anti-government protests, the Coronavirus is only one factor.

  • Some claims outside the encampment (out of the 37 total signs visible) like “shut down parliament”, are founded in reality.
  • Other claims, like arguing there is “purposeful division of all Canadians” and that the government “allowed 5G to develop with no study of health risks”, range from the subjective to false, with the latter being at odds with what the government has said to the public.

Taken as a whole, the anti-government fervor is very broad, ranging from mainstream political issues to unproven theories of government pseudoscience.

Yet, unless something is done, members of the 3 groups have made it clear that protests and demonstrations will continue. Heading into a winter of political uncertainty, the tensions brought about by the protests, the encampment, and the growing ‘freedom’ movement in Canada will only put more stress on the Trudeau government.