How Canada became America’s new culture war


Canada never realized its trucker protests would catalyze the way they did – into rocket fuel for MAGA warriors in America’s cultural fight.

The diesel fumes, horn blasts and bouncy castles may have disappeared from downtown Ottawa, but Canadians are only beginning to come to terms with the lingering effect of the “Freedom Convoy.”

The country got shoved into the red-hot middle of a global anti-government, anti-establishment movement, with millions in cash flowing in from abroad. And many in Canada are still trying to comprehend how a country accustomed to being ignored ended up as the hottest topic on Fox News.

“It was a veritable carnival of hate, endorsed and condoned and even cheered on by some Canadian politicians, craven cowards, people who knew better but chose to exploit this volatile and dangerous moment for their strategic advantage,” Sen. Paula Simons said last week during debate on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s invocation of never-before-used emergency legislation to stamp out the convoy protests.

“When the time comes, we must also investigate the role of foreign interference in all of this, the role of foreign funders, foreign actors and foreign governments who were all too happy to pour gasoline on this fire, all too gleeful to see Canadian democracy destabilized, ”Simons added.

American figures such as former President Donald Trump have championed the convoy against what he’s described as the harsh pandemic policies of “far left lunatic Justin Trudeau.” On Saturday night, Trump brought up Canada again during his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Fla. His attacks on Trudeau and the government drew roars of agreement and a standing ovation from the crowd. If Democrats want to fight for democracy abroad, Trump said, “they should start with a democracy that is under threat right next door, a place called Canada.”

“The tyranny we have witnessed in Canada in recent weeks should shock and dismay people all over the world,” the former president went on. “A line has been crossed – you’re either with the peaceful truckers or you are with the left-wing fascists. … We stand with the truckers and we stand with the Canadian people in their noble quest to reclaim their freedom. ”

It seems mind-boggling that a small protest of truckers opposed to cross-border vaccine mandates could have created this kind of political groundswell. Organizers of the convoy protests sold their campaign as a response to Ottawa’s vaccine mandate for truckers and its Covid restrictions in general. They arrived with a “memorandum of understanding” demanding that government representatives change their Covid rules or resign. But as the demonstrations grew, the calls became louder and the message became more obtuse and anti-government. Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino warned that an organized group within the so-called Freedom Convoy was “driven by an ideology to overthrow the government. ”

The truckers may have parked their rigs back home, but Canada and the US are grappling with what they left behind.

Trudeau’s name is on a long list of authorities – from Ottawa’s police chief, to its mayor, to the provincial premier – accused of taking too long to respond to protests that overwhelmed the core of Canada’s capital and shut down vital border crossings. But Trudeau is also in the hot seat with Conservatives, who blame him for escalating the standoff with emergency powers that enabled, for example, the freezing of bank accounts. Their criticisms were amplified and twisted to extreme levels in the US, with high-profile figures likening the prime minister to some of the most notorious dictators and war criminals of the 20th century. And now, despite the revocation of the Emergencies Act – which gave Trudeau and the federal government sweeping powers to end the protests – a polarizing political fight is only just beginning.

As the crisis dragged on, a sense of what Canada might be dealing with appeared to dawn on decision-makers.

Trudeau highlighted the dangers of the convoy’s outside influences last week as he defended his decision to give the state the extraordinary powers of the Emergencies Act.

“After a flood of misinformation and disinformation washed over Canada, including from foreign sources, after these illegal blockades and occupations received disturbing amounts of foreign funding to destabilize Canada’s democracy, it became clear that local and provincial authorities needed more tools to restore order and keep people safe, ” Trudeau said last week before MPs voted 185-151 to support the use of the measures.

Trudeau withdrew the act days later, arguing the emergency was over while leaving the door open to employing it again in the future. His use of the act and the momentum of the convoy is still driving the coverage of Canadian right-wing media outlets, such as Rebel News. Canadian truckers have been splashed almost daily all over American right-wing outlets, such as Fox News and OAN. It took Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to knock Trudeau and the Canadian convoy from top shows.

“This is what the collapse of democracy looks like,” Fox host Tucker Carlson said in Feb. 21 during a 13-minute segment about Trudeau on his massively popular show before seizing on comments by Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland. “You’ll notice some of the harshest authoritarians, not simply in Canada but across the West, speak in light lilting voices going up on the last syllable. They don’t sound like Mussolini, but they’ve awarded themselves greater powers. ”

Carlson used his monologue – one of many he’s broadcast in recent weeks about the Canadian convoy – to warn US viewers why they should worry about what’s happening in Canada. “The Biden administration – you should know and not forget – has encouraged all of this,” Carlson said. “Vladimir Putin is the tyrant, they tell us. Not Justin Trudeau. At this point it’s pretty clear that if you want to know the future they’re planning for us in the United States – look north to Canada. ” Carlson is even selling T-shirts mocking Trudeau for $ 35 a pop.

The influx of prominent US voices into Canada’s political environment is something Canadians have never seen before, and certainly never with so much intensity. Much of it has been angry – and directed squarely at the liberal Trudeau, who’s become a punching bag for the American right.

Trump dedicated a lot of his speech Saturday to the Canadian truckers and Trudeau’s “tyranny.” “In an advanced western democracy, the peaceful movement of patriotic truckers, workers and families protesting for their most basic rights and liberties has been violently put down,” Trump said.

“Their assets and life savings have been frozen, they have been slandered as Nazis, racists and terrorists. These are the names they’ve been called. They’ve been arrested and charged with phony crimes, they’ve been falsely accused of loyalty to foreign powers. … They’re being hunted down like enemies of their own government and treated worse than drug dealers and murderers or rapists. ”

MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, a top Trump ally who wanted to comfort the Canadian truckers with thousands of pillows, told POLITICO in a recent interview that Trudeau is “a horrible, evil dictator.” “He’s a monster, fact. A monster beyond anything in history, ”said Lindell, a 2020 election conspiracy promoter.

MAGA agitator Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) Has also weighed in: “Trudeau is showing the world what a dictator he is.” Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who publicly supported the movement, compared Trudeau to Adolf Hitler in a tweet he later deleted. Other notable Americans who have backed the Canadian convoys include Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Donald Trump Jr.

Americans who have cheered on the Canadian truckers may be about to have a closer look for themselves. US authorities are bracing for a Canadian-inspired convoy experience in Washington. On Wednesday, the Pentagon approved the deployment of 700 unarmed National Guard troops to DC as it prepares for trucker convoy protests that could begin this week.

Back in Canada, the truckers have left tire tracks on the political scene.

Prominent Conservatives, Trudeau’s main opposition party, clearly saw the narrow but meaningful populist influence within the convoy’s movement and threw their support behind it. They did so despite widespread warnings about the extremist elements within it.

The truckers’ arrival in Ottawa also exposed divides within the Conservative Party, which is still contemplating its future following last fall’s election defeat. While the protest’s occupation of downtown Ottawa was still picking up steam, Conservative MPs turfed their moderate leader Erin O’Toole – who had taken heat for oscillating on whether or not to meet with truckers.

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre wasted little time after O’Toole’s departure before announcing his leadership bid. He voiced his support for the truckers, a signal he might reposition the Tories to win back the support they lost from their right flank in the last election to the right-wing People’s Party of Canada. Poilievre’s leadership bid has quickly attracted the support of many of his fellow MPs.

In contrast, interim party leader Candice Bergen has tried to have it both ways. After initially supporting the truckers, Bergen changed her position a couple of weeks later and urged them to “take down the barricades.”

On both sides of the border, the role of the media has been at the center of debate about the convoys. Supporters of the trucker movement have been forcefully accused of the mainstream media of propaganda. Those opposed warn that it gave life to the kind of dangerous disinformation that has torn apart the American polity during the past five years.

Simons, a former journalist named to Canada’s Senate in 2018, warned that certain media coverage was spreading lies about police response to the trucker convoy. She called out Fox News, as one example, for repeatedly reporting that a police horse used to quell Ottawa’s demonstrations had trampled a female protester to death.

“Even after Fox News retracted its outrageous story, it kept metastasizing online,” Simons said. “Are we really going to allow ourselves to be manipulated by hate-mongers, confidence tricksters, trolls and foreign actors into tearing our Canada apart?”





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