Now’s your chance, Freedom Convoyers, to fight for Ukraine

Supporters of the Freedom Convoy that paralyzed Ottawa for three weeks are passionate about freedom.

Now’s the chance for those supporters to demonstrate their commitment to freedom and join the 20,000 people from 52 counties to stop the indiscriminate Russian shelling of schools, hospitals and ambulances in Ukraine.

Ordinary people like Lola Parsons felt moved by the Freedom Convoy. The 54 year-old began the 31-hour drive to Ottawa from St. John’s, Newfoundland; her journey was filled with “crying and laughing,” she said, as she traveled with her friends and their dog Monty in the East Coast Convoy towards the nation’s capital.

“That will tell you what kind of movement is happening in Eastern Canada right now,” said Parsons, this drive is a “journey to freedom.”

One Freedom Convoy supporter stood in front of the Ambassador Bridge and said in a video that she would she was prepared to die for the cause of freedom.

freedom fighter on Ambassador Bridge. Image: CTVNews.ca

Other supporters are ready to face physical harm. Truck driver Jacobo Peters, said he planned to lock himself in the cab of his semi and lay on the horn whenever police try to remove him. He said that they’ll have to smash the cab window and pull him out to remove him.

“Who knows, I might go home with some broken bones or go to jail with some broken bones depending on how much force they use,” said Peters. “We just want our freedoms back, and we’ve been peaceful.”

The courageous supporters of the Freedom Convoy who rallied against the tyrant Prime Minister Trudeau will have their now have a chance to go against Vladimir Putin.

Freedom Convoy fighters will have the support of Former U.S. President Donald Trump. He condemned Trudeau during a rally in Texas.  “We are with them all the way,” he said. “They have really shown something.” He said that the protesters are “resisting bravely” vaccine mandates that he called “lawless,” and “are doing more to defend American freedom than our own leaders, by far.”

Freedom fighters that supported the convoy will join other courageous Canadians who are answering Ukrainian President Zelensky’s call for fighters around the world to join in the defence of Ukraine.

Freedom fighters like Canadian Yaroslav Hrytsiuk, only 18 years old and a high-school student from Toronto. He hopes to join his father in Ukraine who is preparing to fight Russians invading their home city of Lviv.

“Today, I’m going to Ukraine to stand with my family and fight for my country,” said the teenager. “The hardest thing was to convince my mother that I should go. As any mother, she says: ‘Are you nuts? Why are you going there? It’s war and you’re young,’ ”

In Victoria, Mark Preston-Horin, 43, said he has been writing his will and completing his taxes in anticipation of getting on a flight overseas to volunteer for Ukrainian forces in whatever capacity he can.

When a people’s freedom is at stake, the battle becomes deeply personal. It always surprises tyrants to discover that people can care about other people’s freedom as much as they care about their own.

The brave men and women of the Freedom Convey have demonstrated their commitment to freedom. The world is watching to see the depth of that commitment.

Freedom’s just another word for anarchy

The word “freedom” has been co-opted by the Ottawa occupiers as a rallying cry. Like many words that become politicized, it’s lost its original meaning

image: The localreport.in

The meaning of freedom is fluid. Janis Joplin sang; “Freedom‘s just another word for nothing left to lose” in the song Me and Bobby McGee. I think she meant that the accumulation of useless stuff is a burden and you’re better off being free from consumerism.

More significantly, freedom has been used historically by civil rights movements to liberate slaves and the oppressed.  Martin Luther King said: “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”

But whose freedom is being promoted by the Freedom Convoy of Ottawa. Just who do they imagine are the oppressors and the oppressed?

I asked a Kamloops’ Facebook user, a supporter of the occupation of Ottawa, what the issue was? She replied: “Freedom to choose”

The use of the word freedom has been subverted. It now means the right to do as you please regardless of the harm to others through the spread of disease and the clogging hospitals with vaccine deniers; regardless of the harm to the economy through the shutting of boarders; regardless of the harm caused to the mental health of Ottawa citizens though the occupation of Ottawa.

The right to spread disease and clog hospitals is not exactly what Martin Luther King had in mind.

The truckers and their anarchist supporters want an end to “vaccine mandates” but no such mandates exist. No one is being hunted down and forcibly vaccinated. Rather, if you want to work in certain professions you must be vaccinated.

The Ottawa occupiers represent a grab-bag of grievances. Some want to overthrow the Liberal government. Others believe the COVID-19 virus is not real and that the media is propagating a lie. Others are simply vandals who want to do their dirty work under the cover of “freedom.”

Canada has gained global notoriety under the banner of freedom. Protesters around the world imagine Canada’s freedom fighters descending on Ottawa to overthrow a tyrannical government. What a joke.

The drive-in protest is a new low in demonstrations. It’s the lazy man’s protest. Real protesters don’t sit in the comfort of their cars and trucks and hold tailgate parties.

Real protesters walk shoulder to shoulder, arm in arm, in solidarity.  The couch anarchists should study how genuine demonstrations are held, like in 2006 when thousands of protesters in 40 Canadian cities and towns walked, rallied, and stood in opposition to Canada’s participation in the war in Afghanistan.

Under the slogan “Support our troops, bring ’em home”, 500 real demonstrators marched through downtown Ottawa to Parliament Hill to protest the military mission and demand the return of Canadian troops.

Then they went home.

The federal Conservatives have jumped on the freedom bandwagon. Conservative leader candidate Pierre Poilievre’s said he would make to make Canadians the “freest people on Earth,” with “freedom to make your own health and vaccine choices, freedom to speak without fear.”

“Freedom over fear,” Poilievre tweeted.

During the last federal election, People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier, the far-right’s current standard-bearer in this country, was greeted with chants of “freedom, freedom,” at his campaign stops.

What the anarchists don’t seem to understand is that their freedom to swing their fist ends where my nose begins.

Convoy of the deluded

As Yogi Berra once said: “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”

Here we go again with another truck convoy to Ottawa by the misguided fuzzy-thinkers.

Three years ago, it was the “yellow vest” movement that inspired a convoy of trucks to leave Edmonton and head for Ottawa.

image: Pinterest

I spoke to one yellow vest protestor back then who had brought her vest to Mexico and intended to wear it on the beach as a symbol of solidarity against PM Trudeau and immigration. Wearing it would have been puzzling to the Mexican tourists, who were in the greatest numbers by far. She never did.

In 2019, the “Stand Up Canada Yellow Vest Pipeline Rally” began a truck convoy that was supposedly inspired by the French yellow vest protests. But much was lost in the translation.

Other than the wearing of yellow vests, named after the fluorescent garments that French motorists must carry in case of emergency, the Canadian version was a mishmash of slogans and vague anger.

Unlike its unclear Canadian counterpart, the French yellow vest movement was actually about something.  In France, on Nov. 17, 2018, hundreds of thousands of people occupied roads and tollbooths, blocking traffic around the country to protest a fuel tax hike. They vented anger at the broader economic policies pursued by centrist President Emmanuel Macron, who is seen as favouring the rich.

The Canadian yellow vest movement raised about $100,000. According to the group’s gofundme page, its cause was:

“Our goal is to put Western Canada’s oil field workers back to work, end the useless and redundant carbon tax, end the dependency on foreign oil and stop shipments from Saudi Arabia, see pipelines constructed to tidal water.”

However, the cause was muddled elsewhere. Yellow vest protestors in Calgary carried signs reading “Quebec please separate,” “Build pipelines” and “The UN is a scam.”  The protest against Canada’s acceptance of immigrants referred to a move by the United Nations to deal with the migration crisis out of Syria which was on a scale not seen since the Second World War.

Then Conservative leader Andrew Scheer said that signing of the UN motion would mean that “foreign entities” would be able to dictate Canadian immigration policies.  Scheer’s characterization of the pact’s legal authority was later dismissed as “factually incorrect” by a former Conservative immigration minister, Chris Alexander.

Fast forward three years and here we go again with an ill-defined “freedom convoy.”

Now Andrew Scheer tweets that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is “the biggest threat to freedom in Canada.”

Some Conservatives are falsely claiming that vaccine mandates are leading to empty grocery store shelves.

Protesters are carrying “F–k Trudeau” flags, harassing journalists and staff a homeless shelter, and desecrating national monuments.

And straight out of Trump’s la-la land, convoy organizers have written a “memorandum of understanding” calling on the Senate and the Governor General, to repeal all vaccine-related restrictions.

In shades of the January 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol a year ago, one organizer called Trudeau a “criminal” and said the goal of the convoy is to “compel the government to dissolve government.”

Like groundhogs, Canadian dark-web dwellers emerge every few years. Blinking and confused in the bright daylight, they regurgitate the slogans and vitriol seething inside them. They jump on whatever bandwagon is passing by.

By the time the trekkers got to Kamloops

In April of 1935 they left their miserable camps and made their way to Vancouver. The camps had been set up in the middle of nowhere. Young men worked in the military-run camps for 20 cents a day under deplorable conditions in dead-end jobs with no end in sight.

Canada’s History Magazine

The camps were designed to harsh. Prime Minister Bennett had reluctantly set them up as a concession to the unemployed victims of the Great Depression. He was opposed to anything that looked like a handout, including even the appalling camps. He told a labour delegation in 1930: “Never will I or any government of which I am part put a premium on idles or put our people on the dole (Canada’s History magazine, August-September, 2016).”

The camps didn’t have to be that way, says historian Bill Waiser of the University of Saskatchewan. “In contrast to the American Civil Conservation Corps, a popular federal work-for-relief program across the border, the make-work projects and isolating conditions of the Canadian relief camps aggravated the gloom of the men who were in them.”

About fifteen hundred desperate men arrived in Vancouver and were warmly received. Huge public rallies and parades were held. On Mother’s Day in Stanley Park, three hundred women circled the men in the shape of a heart.

As is typical, provincial and federal governments wrangled over who was responsible for the men. Finally the men decided to take matters into their own hands and trek to Ottawa aboard boxcars. About one thousand left Vancouver in June of 1935. Governments made no attempt to stop them –convinced that the trekker’s tenacity would dissolve in the cold trip through the mountains.

By the time the trekkers got to Kamloops they were cold, hungry and dispirited. Unlike Vancouver, no warm reception awaited them. Nothing had been done to prepare for their arrival: Mayor W. J. Moffatt and the chief of police flatly refused requests for help.

Kamloops had problems of its own with hordes of desperate, unemployed men in formal camps and informal “hobo jungles” says Mary Balf, former curator of the Kamloops Museum, in her book Kamloops 1914-1945. In one case, on May 1, 1931, men flocked into the city to complain about the poor conditions in these camps. Police closed the bridge from North Kamloops to limit the numbers.

“The work camps continued rather haphazardly until the summer of 1936,” says Balf, “but never really worked well. . . frequently they were so badly managed that even the promised wages were not forthcoming.”

After 300 men joined the trekkers from Kamloops, they were revitalized. As word of the trekkers spread, they were soon regarded as folk heroes. Washtubs of stew awaited them when they arrived in Golden in June. Calgary citizens were struck by the youthful innocence of the men.

More men joined the trek in Alberta but not my father. He was in a camp in Jasper at the time building the national park. He never told me about the camp conditions in Jasper. Perhaps he preferred to forget the depression and the stigma of unemployment. Perhaps, like some of the projects in the U.S., the building of parks gave purpose to his work.

As the popularity of the heroic trekkers grew, the federal government began to worry that they might actually get to Ottawa. By the time they got to Regina, the feds decided they would go no further. On Dominion Day in 1935, Regina police and RCMP raided a rally attended by thousands of trekkers and supporters. A riot ensued with hundreds of injuries and two deaths.

The trek ended but not without a cost to the feds. In October of 1935, Bennett’s government was defeated. A year later the camps were closed down.

Uber Apploitation

When I fly to Los Angles next week, I was going to take an Uber taxi. Now I’m not so sure after reading Andrew Callaway’s article in the CCPA Monitor.

George, 35, protests with other commercial drivers with the app-based, ride-sharing company Uber against working conditions outside the company's office in Santa Monica, California June 24, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT TRANSPORT CIVIL UNREST) - RTR3VKJ9

George, 35, protests with other commercial drivers with the app-based, ride-sharing company Uber against working conditions outside the company’s office in Santa Monica, California June 24, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson 

“Oh, Canada! I’m writing you from Berkeley, California to warn you about this thing called ‘the sharing economy.’ Since no one is really sharing anything, many of us prefer the term “the exploitation economy,” . . . Whatever you want to call it, the basic idea is that customers can outsource all the work or chores they don’t want to do to somebody else in their area.”

Since phone apps can be used to order just about anything you want from groceries and restaurant food to laundry pickup and house cleaning, the exploitation economy might be better labelled as the “apploitation economy.”

On the surface, the sharing economy seems ideal. Independent workers can pick up jobs whenever and wherever they want. But dig deeper and you find that drivers are not so independent. They certainly are not employees. If they were employees, they would receive fixed wages and benefits, deductions for employment insurance, Canada Pension Plan, and taxes.

If Uber drivers were truly independent, they could control their rates and  conditions of work. Callaway soon found out some of the drawbacks when he worked for a company similar to Uber called Lyft. He found out that, without warning, ride-sharing companies will lower drive wages. By the time drivers notice the cut, they have invested in cars and are stuck in the job.

Ride-sharing companies are careful not to send drivers to pick up specific passengers because that would make them employees. Instead, drivers are given red zones which supposedly indicate where passengers will likely be. But by the time that other drivers move to the zones, the likelihood is reduced. It’s inefficient for the drivers but avoids the company’s responsibility.

If drivers don’t like the arrangement, why do it? “Realistically, people aren’t driving around strangers because they love it. The most common defence of the sharing economy I hear is, ‘if it’s so bad, why are so many people doing it?’ Many do it out of desperation. I’ve talked to a number of drivers who will work over 30 hours every weekend in addition to a full-time job just to have enough money to pay rent and take care of their kids.”

And if drivers like conditions so much, why do they want to organize unions to protect themselves? Seattle City Council recently approved a bill that would allow drivers for ride-sharing apps to form unions. The vote is a victory for the App-Based Drivers Association (ABDA) of Seattle, an organization of on-demand contract workers that lobbied for the legislation. Union organizers in California have said that the Seattle vote could influence actions taken in their own cities.

Ottawa recently joined Edmonton as the second Canadian city to legalize Uber. The move will put pressure on others. Canadian cities need to pay attention to the American experience and get ride-sharing right by easing restrictions on taxis and reducing apploitation. If Uber really wants to provide a useful service, it needs to treat drivers fairly by allowing greater rate control and working conditions.