CELEBRATED CANADIAN NOVELIST SUPPORTS TRUCKERS WITH PASSIONATE NOTE TO POEC
This is a must read.
Recently, on the podcast, I read novelist Colin McAdam’s thoughtful observations on the Freedom Convoy and many of you responded with a request that I publish it. Colin submitted it to the Commision and has given me his permission to post it here. In light of all the nonsense at the hearings recently — his observations feel even more poignant. Colin’s latest novel, Black Dove, is published by Penguin/Random House.
To Whom it May Concern,
I am writing as a member of the public in order to voice my opinions, my dismay, about the declaration of the Emergencies Act in response to the convoy last February.
I live in Chelsea, Quebec, a short drive from Parliament, and last February I drove to the Hill on the day the convoy began arriving. I was curious. My family, like millions of others, had endured some of the most stringent, intrusive, authoritarian measures over the previous two years (especially in Quebec) of anywhere in the world. I had lost income, my wife and I were isolated and depressed, our daughter, normally a force of energy and enthusiasm was lonely, despondent, angry. She couldn't see friends, couldn't go to school, was told to cover her face and view her friends not as people but as vectors of disease.
Over those two years I had done my best to inform myself of the nature of Covid-19 – whom it killed, how and why. A disease that overwhelmingly harmed only those who were already very ill, whose mortality rate is comparable to that of the flu; a disease which, it is now abundantly clear, withstands whatever benefits these mandated vaccines were meant to impart to those who are healthy and eager to contribute to society. Many people I knew had been infected, my family and I had been infected, all while doing our best to 'obey' rules and forfeiting our natural need for company, for friends. Our experience was by no means unique.
What I saw play out in Canada was an alarming division between those who could continue to work, to draw income, to stay at home and enjoy more time with their families, and those, like me, who could not 'pivot'. People who owned gyms and restaurants, musicians, people who relied on entrepreneurialism, on creativity, on service, on the individual energy that makes cities and countries interesting, found themselves the victims of arbitrary decisions about what was 'essential'.
It is a division that has only increased, and will no doubt continue to. I have a PhD from Cambridge University, I am an award-winning novelist, I have lived all over the world and have been a student of history for decades. Like many I was disheartened to see my Charter rights completely ignored or trampled: freedom of assembly, freedom of movement, and perhaps most importantly freedom of speech.
After two years of miserable and unnecessary restrictions and mandates, a group of 'truckers' rallied to have their voices heard. We were told that these were ill-informed, bigoted, anti-science ignoramuses who did not deserve our tolerance.
On that first day I did not see these caricatures I was meant to expect, I saw people. People, like me but from all walks of life and from many different places across the country, who had endured two very long years of divisive and ineffective mandates. People I may not have had a lot in common with in superficial ways, but people whom I, as a human being and Canadian, have an inescapable connection and a social obligation to. We speak all the time in Canada about tolerance and diversity, about caring for the vulnerable, and these are things I believe in deeply. None of this language was at play as these trucks began to arrive. Were these not the people who most deserved our tolerance? Those who lost their livelihoods because of arbitrary and mostly inappropriate calculations about a respiratory virus? The man who opened a yoga studio when the pandemic began, forced to close it because it was not 'essential', forced to sell his house to support himself. The mother whose son died because he couldn't join his hockey team without being vaccinated, who was killed by the vaccine and would likely have otherwise experienced Covid as a cold. Is it not our role as Canadians to 'tolerate' these people, to be curious about their stories, to listen?
The reality for me, as I walked down Wellington Street on that first day, was a sense of uplifting joy. Of course there was an element of protest, of frustration, but people were overwhelmingly and openly connecting, shouting words of love - perhaps not to the Prime Minister, but to each other. It was a sunny day, minus 30, and it seemed to me that this was actually summer, a day of hope after a two-year winter. The atmosphere was so joyful, so energizing, that I brought my wife and daughter the next day, when thousands more people gathered - people of every description, families, groups of indigenous singers, many races, and, of course, drunk and Carhartt-wearing 'truckers' who were shouting 'I love you!' to everyone.
Tellingly, I noticed no media that day. No one reporting on this crowd of thousands, no one looking for stories. At night I watched coverage on CBC and CTV and the angles they chose, the 'facts' and incidents they reported, were sickening to me. Completely unrepresentative of what my family and I had seen with open eyes. Completely ignorant of the irrefutable ethos of those days which was one of joy, of people wanting to connect again.
And, of course, it played out as it did. The divisions deepened, the misreporting grew, and all of it culminated in this upsetting act of government overreach, the use of the Emergencies Act and the freezing of bank accounts. That last act alone should send chills through every thinking Canadian: if we support a cause that a government declares 'unacceptable' our bank accounts can be frozen and our reputation ruined. I find that terrifying.
Was it disruptive, were some of the protesters unseemly, were there moments of discomfort and voices that some didn't agree with? These are inescapable consequences of democracy, of acknowledging that the world, our country, truly is diverse, and that from that diversity come voices we sometimes don't like to hear. I deeply believe that a government does not have the right to decide which of us has the right to speak. We have the right as private citizens to plug our ears or summon the fortitude to listen. I no longer feel able or comfortable making my voice heard in this country, for fear that my life and livelihood could be ruined. That is a deep and real assault to my Charter rights. Putting these very words down, regardless of their inconsequence, has been an act I've thought twice about. And I find that pitiful.
Thank you for your attention,
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