Poets Against Fascism
In solidarity against the fascist demonstrations currently taking place in Canada, in Ottawa, as well as in Vancouver, Regina, Toronto, Quebec City, Fredericton, and others, a combined effort of poets to collaborate on an ad hoc zine to be published online in PDF format as soon as possible is proposed.
This is to denounce, in writing, every form of harassment, bigotry, hatred, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, ableism, Nazism, terrorism, and the promotion of anti-vaccination rhetoric taking place in Canada. Furthermore, the zine provides resources to direct donations to grassroots causes, local businesses and shelters (such as Shepherds of Good Hope, and Cornerstone Housing for Women) impacted by the convoy, among other valuable resources such as health and safety guides for local residents and counter-protesters.
To download, click here.
For more information on the first weekend of events as they happened, I cite an excerpt from the Pulitzer-Prize winning publication Boston Globe (February 2, 2022):
Over the weekend, thousands of protesters converged on the Canadian capital to call for an end to pandemic restrictions and vaccine mandates they denounced as government overreach, a demonstration that grew raucous at times with some participants harassing soup kitchen workers, brandishing flags and signs with Nazi symbols, and desecrating a war memorial.
The protests began as a convoy of truckers rallying against a new vaccine mandate for truck drivers crossing the United States-Canada border, and those taking part were generally peaceful as they traveled across the country. But the loosely organized convoy garnered additional support and picked up speed along the way, morphing into a broader challenge of public health restrictions designed to combat the pandemic and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada before it eventually congregated in Ottawa on Saturday. Trudeau has strongly condemned their actions.
Here is what we know about the unfolding situation.
Who is involved and what are they saying?
Dubbed the “Freedom Convoy,” the movement began with a coalition of truckers aiming to challenge a regulation implemented this month by the Canadian government that requires truckers returning from the United States to show proof of vaccination. If not fully vaccinated, those traveling across the border will face testing and quarantine requirements. The United States has imposed the same mandate on foreign nationals.
But the driving purpose of the convoy eventually shifted to adopt a wider focus: a total repudiation and denouncement of restrictions and lockdown measures. Much of the frustration felt by pandemic-weary citizens who joined in on the protests was directed specifically at Trudeau.
The protest received widespread attention and raised concerns about the potential for violence among both Trudeau and local law enforcement, who warned that extremist and far-right groups might become involved to exercise their own agenda, despite organizers rebuking them. The Canadian Anti-Hate Network, a nonprofit that monitors and researches hate groups, said some of the leaders of the demonstrations and those promoting crowdfunding initiatives are “previously known figures in Canada’s far-right ecosystem.”
The protests have attracted the attention and approval of those including Donald Trump Jr. and Tesla billionaire Elon Musk. The convoy also received the support of some conservative and right-leaning politicians in Canada. Meanwhile, Canadians have largely criticized those taking part and some of the cruder actions that took place over the weekend.
What is happening with the protests?
Thousands of demonstrators gathered around the Parliament on Saturday, kicking off a series of protests, some of which have sparked widespread outrage. According to the New York Times, private vehicles outnumbered the big rigs that first made up the convoy, clogging the streets, while protesters marched on foot. Because the House of Commons was not in session over the weekend — it resumed sitting on Monday — many lawmakers were out of town.
By Monday, the demonstrations had evolved to the point that Trudeau was prompted to lash out against the actions of protesters and multiple criminal investigations were said to be underway in connection to various incidents that occurred. At least two people have been charged with crimes, Ottawa police said on Tuesday.
Shepherds of Good Hope, a homeless shelter in Ottawa, said staff members were harassed for meals and that a service user and security guard were assaulted. But the organization expressed its gratitude to those who made donations in response.
“It’s been an incredibly difficult weekend for our downtown shelter and soup kitchen programs,” the center said in a statement. “While we are not certain of exact numbers, the demands for meals and verbal altercations continued for several hours over the dinner period.”
Meanwhile, the Rideau Centre, a major shopping mall downtown, has closed its doors until Feb. 6 after it was reported that a sizable number of protesters were maskless in defiance of public health orders and were also engaging in confrontations with employees.
But many Canadians were most incensed by the use of Nazi symbolism on protest signs and reports that war memorials had been desecrated.
“The use of Nazi symbols as a means to compare anything in our lives today here in Canada to the experience of Jews living under Nazi rule is a heinous form of Holocaust distortion,” the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center said in a statement.
While some urinated, parked, and climbed on the National War Memorial, according to the Associated Press, others danced on the Tomb of Unknown Soldiers, the CTV News Ottawa reported.
In a separate incident, demonstrators placed an upside-down Canadian flag onto the statue of Terry Fox, put a protest sign in its hands that read, “Mandate freedom,” and lodged a baseball cap on its head. Fox is widely viewed as a national hero. After he lost his leg to bone cancer when he was young, he then proceeded to set off in 1980 on a “cross-Canada run to raise funds for cancer research,” according to the Terry Fox Foundation.
Since then, the situation has developed. CBC writes on February 5:
Ottawa police deploying more officers, counter-protest held at city hall
The latest protest developments:
- Thousands return to streets for second weekend of truck convoy protest.
- Police investigating more than 50 offences, including 11 hate crimes.
- Macdonald-Cartier Bridge reduced to two lanes.
- Ontario Premier Doug Ford says it’s time for occupation of Ottawa to end.
- The University of Ottawa vaccine clinic is closed for the weekend.
- City council will hold a special meeting on Monday.
The crowd in downtown Ottawa has grown by thousands of protesters as the second weekend of demonstrations against COVID-19 public health mandates is now underway.
The Ottawa Police Service (OPS) has said it is deploying more officers and traffic controls this time around.
The force said Saturday it had responded to more than 400 calls since the start of the demonstration — which both Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson have called an “occupation” — and was investigating more than 50 criminal offences.
Eleven of those investigations involved hate crimes, with four people already charged, OPS said.
Some protesters appear to have settled in, with bouncy castles, barbecues, wooden shacks and piles of food and fuel appearing in downtown streets and nearby parks.
An encampment has gone up at Confederation Park, including a wooden shack, a large stockpile of wood and a tent.
Downtown Ottawa remains a risky place to be, police said, and authorities are asking everyone to avoid the core if they can.
City ‘under siege’
At an emergency meeting of the Ottawa Police Services Board on Saturday, board chair Coun. Diane Deans said the city was “under siege” and demanded a “concrete plan” to bring the demonstrations to an end.
“This group is emboldened by the lack of enforcement by every level of government. They are terrorizing our residents, torturing them with incessant honking, threatening them and preventing them from leading their lives,” Deans said.
Protesters’ numbers dropped to a couple hundred during the week from what police estimated was around 8,000 people the first weekend.
They anticipate the protest will get a bump over the weekend of about 300 or 400 trucks and about 2,000 people on foot.
University of Ottawa political scientist Regina Bateson, who studies collective violence, has warned there will be a tone shift this weekend with fewer families and people concerned about vaccine mandates among the crowd.
Two men were seen on horseback at the protest this weekend, one holding a Canadian flag and the other holding a “Donald Trump 2024” flag. In a tweet, the Ottawa Humane Society said it had received reports of dogs and horses being brought to the protest.
The organization warned that prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures, loud noises and lack of adequate water or food could affect an animal’s well-being. Road salt can also harm their hooves and paws, it said.
After urging from police and politicians, many who’d planned counter-protests chose to call them off to avoid confrontations — but not all.
A crowd did gather in front of Ottawa City Hall regardless, with people carrying signs with slogans like “Bullies go home” and “We are not afraid.”
Police had initially expected around 1,000 counter-protesters.
Community support urged instead
At a town hall Friday night, Joel Harden, the NDP MPP for Ottawa Centre, urged people to direct their energy to community support for the city’s residents.
“When I hear people talking about the high price of housing, lack of employment, how much people suffered in the last two years. I feel that and we empathize with that,” Harden said.
“What we do not empathize with are people shutting down our communities or attempting to make other people not feel safe.”
Harden and a few city councillors had planned to walk the streets this weekend to patrol for bad behaviour and accompany people who felt unsafe walking alone, but the patrols were called off due to safety concerns.
Regardless of when the demonstrations end, not only will the myriad fringe groups continue to operate, but fascism, too, will still threaten our communities, our neighbours, our society and our democracy. And it doesn’t end there. We have to change. This is unfortunately Canada. This is humiliatingly Canada. This is atrociously Canada.