Saturday, February 18, 2023

Today's News: Justified

TL;DR In October, I wrote that I hoped the Public Order Emergency Commission looking into Trudeau's use of the Emergencies Act to shut down the FreeDumb Convoy Ottawa occupation and border blockades should answer five questions: 
1. Whose side were the police really on? 
2. Whose side are the media really on? 
3. Whose side is the public really on? 
4. Conservatives, WTF? 
5. Are the hearings going to be a clown show? 
Paging throgh the POEC Final Report released today, I wanted to see if any of these questions were considered, either directly or indirectly. 
Commissioner Paul Rouleau found that Ottawa police were inept and unprepared, but I haven't come across any discussion of whether some police were acting as Convoy supporters or enablers. I couldn't find discussion of how many Canadians actually supported what the FreeDumb Convoy was trying to do. Pandering to the Convoy by Conservative politicians isn't mentioned, even though it is noted that the Ford government dropped the ball.  Also not discussed is whether Canadian media gleefully embraced the Convoy initially because it was an embarassment to the Trudeau government. 
But at least Rouleau ensured that the hearings were not a clown show, though Ford refused to testify. 
One point that Commissioner Rouleau does make clear in the report is that the outrage at Canadian border vaccine requirements - the rationale for the Convoy's entire existance - was based on a lie. Maybe the truth will never be believed by the Freedumbers, but at least the truth is in the report:
...on October 12, 2021, the government of the United States announced [emphasis mine] that, starting in January 2022, all inbound foreign national travellers crossing United States land or ferry ports of entry would be required to be fully vaccinated. This included those travelling for essential purposes, including commercial trucking. Then, on November 18, 2021, Canada announced that its border rules would also change ... 
The effect of these new rules was that foreign truck drivers would be barred from entering Canada unless they were vaccinated. Canadian truckers, who have a constitutional right to enter Canada, would not be barred from entry. However, if unvaccinated, they would no longer be exempted from the requirement to quarantine, which would have a significant impact on their ability to engage in commercial trucking. 
In practice, they were more impacted by the American rules that barred them from entering that country entirely. However, as I mentioned earlier in this chapter, several protest leaders believed that the American authorities decided to impose their vaccination requirement only after Canada did so. 
This was not the case [emphasis mine] but does go some way to explaining why protesters may have focused their anger toward Canadian authorities and believed that a repeal of the Canadian requirements would have allowed unvaccinated truckers to continue cross-border work ...
Rouleau continues:
In some circles, “the trucker” became a symbol for hard-working Canadians who, despite their contributions to society, were having their lives and livelihoods upended by government COVID-19 regulations. 
This narrative was a contributing factor that helped to animate the Freedom Convoy.  
(Volume 2, page 98-99)
Here are some media commentaries about the report:
Writing in The Globe And Mail, Shannon Proudfoot describes how several of the narratives that seemed most consequential during the hearings were actually not found to be credible. For example, the idea that the Convoy organizers were not aware of the violence: 
“I do not accept the evidence espoused by the organizers that they were never aware of harassment, intimidation, or other non-peaceful conduct by protesters,” he writes. “Their knowledge of actual and potential violence or harassment can be inferred from their own evidence.” 
And remember the buzz that followed RCMP commissioner Lucki's testimony she had a plan to end the protest but hadn't told anyone about it? Well, Rouleau wasn't distracted: 
“I accept that it would have been preferable for Commissioner Lucki to provide a further update on February 13,” he writes. “But I am not prepared to find that it would have made a difference.” Rather, his assessment is that by this point confidence in the police to execute any plan was so low, the protests so many-tentacled and the level of worry so high, that even if Commissioner Lucki had delivered her update, it wouldn’t have changed a thing. 
Also in the Globe and Mail, Marieke Walsh and Marsha McLeod summarize the report's conclusions: the protests were 'unsafe and chaotic', the emergency declaration was appropriate, it was justified by the policing failures and misteps, and by the political failures and the Ford government's absence. Writing in the Toronto Star, Susan Delacourt flags the "Freedom" cry: 
The commissioner has, in effect, attempted to depoliticize the word — taking away the political baggage it acquired during the pandemic, when vaccine mandates were seen as state oppression and lockdowns were viewed as infringement on basic rights. 
 “Tensions between order and freedom sit at the heart of our system of governance,” Rouleau writes. “The machinery of order — such as procedures, laws, police, and courts — create the conditions for the protection of freedom and the mediation of conflicting freedoms. While order constrains freedom — laws, for example, limit the range of permissible actions, without order’s constraints, freedom cannot exist.” 
Maybe that’s too long to put on a placard or a flag. 
Because freelance journalist Justin Ling did excellent work last winter in Ottawa, I was interested to see what he would say tonight -- he doesn't disappoint! At BugEyed and Shameless, Ling provides a lengthy analysis of Rouleau's findings about whether the Convoy was a threat to the country:
Rouleau points to the overwhelming evidence that right-wing extremist groups were present in the movement, to mounting calls to replace the government, to plans to hold a “Nuremberg Trials 2.0” coupled with plans to conduct “civilian arrests of those perceived to be involved with public health rules,” and to the fact that “the rhetoric of the protests also increasingly began to contemplate violence as part of a desire to achieve policy change over public health measures.” ...Rouleau found that there was absolutely grounded fears that the situation “was worsening and at risk of becoming dangerous and unmanageable.” .
.. While we can disagree with the argument put forward by pro-convoy types, that the Act was unwarranted because the occupations were peaceful and posed no threat, it is at least a coherent position. Many, including those with the opposition Conservative Party, tried to have it both ways: Recognizing the problems posed by the occupation, but insisting that the government did not have the legal basis to intervene. That’s an intolerable position. It basically asserts that the federal government is more of an advisory body on national security and public safety, and has no authority to intervene. 
While the POEC couldn't speculate about why the Conservative Ford government in Ontario dropped the ball so badly, Twitter knows exactly why:

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