Monday February 7, 2022 | NATIONAL [Updated 10:45 am]
by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
The anti-government convoy is an urgent situation facing this country, and the prime minister should be developing a plan to deal with it.
That was NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s message this morning, speaking in a Zoom press conference from Ottawa.
“This is the nation’s capital and this is a crisis that demands leadership. There should have been an early-on offer to work with the municipality,” said Singh.
“We’ve been in this crisis for 10 days, and the prime minister needs to be present,” the NDP Leader said. Truckers began leaving locations from across Canada ahead of the protest, to arrive in Ottawa on the first day, January 29.
The NDP is calling for an Emergency Debate in the House of Commons to “work on a plan to end convoy blockades, save our health care system on the brink, and get Canadians through to the end of this pandemic”.
“The solutions are not simple, but national leadership is needed,” said Singh.
Ottawa and across Canada:
Protests (occupations) started two weekends ago, focussed primarily in the downtown Ottawa core near the parliament buildings, but also have been happening in other cities across the country.
“This isn’t directed toward the government, it was directed toward people,” said Singh. Harassment of people with the idea of getting citizens to rebel against their own government is the obvious strategy of this group supported by foreign funds and Trumpian-style actions.
Some leadership among Conservative MPs appears to be missing that core element, seeming to allow if not inflame the impacts on residents and businesses in Ottawa. In an email last week, Conservative Interim Leader Candice Bergen wrote that this “needs to become Trudeau’s problem”. That shows no evidence of hoping or being part of any facilitation to seeing the occupation of Ottawa come to a rapid close.
Not a normal protest:
“This is not a normal protest,” said Singh. He describes a protest as raising a grievance in an effort to ask a government to stop making that ‘bad decision’. “That’s a vibrant part of democracy. You focus on that decision and focus on the government.”
“A normal protest targets the government, not the people. This is clearly problematic. Civil disobedience is one thing, when directed toward the government to raise concerns about a specific government policy or legislation.”
“This is a group of people that are trying to overthrow the government. They’ve made that very clear.” He said the convoy “is targeting people”, noting truckers stuck at the Canadian/USA border in Coutts Alberta in what has become an activity in various locations across the country.
“But to just terrorize people and break laws to terrorize the community and citizens, and threaten people and have acts of violence and try to burn down a building — these aren’t just one-offs, there are so many examples of this, that it’s clearly depicting a group of people and a culture that is allowing and emboldening this type of behaviour. That’s my problem with trying to mediate with folks like that, that is emboldening the wrong sort of behaviour.”
Stopping the foreign aid to the occupation forces in Ottawa would be a good start to ending the standoff in the nation’s capital, said Singh.
Time to go home:
“Working class people are directly being hurt… being harassed, verbally assaulted, stay at home because of risk of violence. Health care workers are told to not wear their scrubs.
“These folks need to go home. Folks at the municipality to help this,” he said, referring to the city of Ottawa, and their police force.
Violence, intimidation and directing it toward citizens are among the signs that this is not a normal protest.
Singh — himself a lawyer — said that the occupiers’ website presents “legal gibberish” that they want to overthrow the government with a committee of unelected people.
“All of this points to a very problematic and wrong series of actions they’ve been taking. It’s wrong, hurtful, terrorizing and intimidating people,” the NDP leader said today.
“Flagrantly breaking laws has been allowed to happen for these folks.”
The NDP summary today emphasized the need to stop the foreign money coming in that is supporting the occupation.
The NDP urges Trudeau to “be more present” and to stem the frustration of Canadians and develop a plan with next steps toward getting beyond the pandemic.
That includes addressing the housing crisis, the increasing cost of living, and dealing with a health-care system “that is crumbling due to decades of underfunding”.
Last week all the Canadian premiers met to discuss their plan to ask for an increased health-care funding transfer from the federal government in order to deliver reliable health-care services in their provinces and territories
Now what. How do we get through this? How do we get out of this and back to normal?
Singh acknowledged people’s frustrations in Canada. He said most Canadians have done their part in the pandemic by getting vaccinated and following the rules, and are looking for what solutions to the pandemic come next.
As well, many Canadians are directly impacted and worried about the cost of living, particularly housing. Those are problems that were “bad before the pandemic and that got worse during the pandemic”.
“We need to be working together to solve those problems,” said Singh, whose party with currently 25 MPs effectively serves as the voice of compassion and has enough seats to be the balance of power in the House of Commons, which props up the Liberal minority government.