BY SISTER PAULINE LALLY
As my sister would say, when she heard ridiculous over-the-top honking, “So you got a horn! What else did Santa Claus give you for Christmas?” For the past few weeks Liz’s remarks have echoed repeatedly in my brain. With the potential for violence, these protests have been far more frightening of late than annoying, in my opinion.
What seems to have been an excuse for these protests was the governments’ ordering of vaccines in workplace situations. “I have my freedom and no government or agency is going to tell me what to do, or put in my body.” OK then, why does one stop automatically at a red light? To save lives – mine and others on the road. It’s simply for safety and good order. Makes common sense. So why are we being asked to get vaccinated? To save lives – mine and others, especially those in our families, those with whom we work and those for whom we work. Makes common sense. It is for the common good. And when the common good is respected and attended to, individual rights are also respected and attended to within it. They go together. Just like freedom and responsibility.
On February 12, 2022, a convoy of trucks and cars, sympathetic to the so-called Freedom Truckers that are now occupying Ottawa and many border crossings across Canada, entered Kingston. Late the night before, I received a very short email from a PeaceQuest friend, “A counter protest is being organized to meet them.” No real plans. Few details. Nevertheless about 20 people gathered in front of City Hall around noon to strategize.
I arrived at one about the same time as the noisy convoy. By then the demonstrators may have numbered about 100. They had set up a resistance stance to meet the truckers head on preventing them from gathering in front of city hall for their rally. The police had set up orange barriers for our protection. The trucks stopped. Some got out of their vehicles and met face to face with the demonstrators. From where I was standing the conversation though heated was civil each stating their reason for being there.
In half an hour or so the standstill was over. The drivers retreated, got back in their vehicles and drove up Brock Street to the cheers of the demonstrators. I wanted to stay, rejoice and de-brief but I also wanted to attend Bishop Remi de Roo’s funeral via zoom. So I proceeded up Princess Street in a hurry. Half way home I noticed that some cars and trucks had turned around and were proceeding again down Princess Street toward City Hall. Oh no!
However, later I learned the demonstrators held their ground and the convoy fizzled out. A victory for us? Perhaps, but a small one in light of what we are learning about these demonstrations of freedom truckers, the shutdowns of borders and the occupation of our capital city. They have the potential for more danger than any protest of which I have been part.
This phenomena is no longer about vaccine mandates, though that might have attracted some. Actually it is about a white supremacy movement which believes they are above democratically elected governments. This movement has been developing since the 90’s. It is well fortified with money and infused with conspiracy theories. My Jewish friends, as well as myself, were so very alarmed when yellow stars and swastikas appeared openly in Ottawa last week.
I arrived home in time to attend the funeral of Bishop Remi de Roo, the last surviving Canadian bishop of Vatican II and Canada’s most prophetic bishop outstanding for his courageous stance on social justice issues such as women’s, indigenous’ and environmental rights. During the funeral I asked that his spirit awaken us Canadians to the real situation in our country and the world today and instill in us and our elected leaders deep wisdom and courage to address these issues summoned by the events of our times.