If Trudeau orders the police to drag the freedom convoy, he will tear Canada apart: TARA HENLEY

If Trudeau orders the police to drag the freedom convoy, he will tear Canada apart: TARA HENLEY

Tara Henley is a former producer, writer and podcaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

The rainy streets of Toronto, Canada’s largest city, are eerily quiet, with police cars blocking intersections and helicopters circling overhead.

It doesn’t feel like the safe and stable country I grew up in.

On Monday, the prime minister invoked the Emergency Situations Act, which became law in 1988 and has never been enforced – and it is not yet clear what he will do with those powers.

Moods heat up as we all watch events unfold over 250 miles away in Ottawa, where the anti-vaccination convoy of truckers is still entrenched.

The application of the Emergency Act added fuel to what was already a raging fire.

I fear that Canadians are heading towards an unsustainable, protracted, unresolvable conflict that is tearing societies apart.

The same kind of “take no prisoners” merciless discourse that has turned America into an endless political battlefield where opponents can never reach an agreement and, it would seem, nothing is ever decided.

The law replaces the War Measures Act, last enforced by Trudeau’s father, Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, in 1970, and is widely known as the nuclear option.

I fear that Canadians are heading towards an unsustainable, protracted, unresolvable conflict that is tearing societies apart.  (Above) People with opposing views fight as protests continue on February 17, 2022 in Ottawa, Ontario.

I fear that Canadians are heading towards an unsustainable, protracted, unresolvable conflict that is tearing societies apart. (Above) People with opposing views fight as protests continue on February 17, 2022 in Ottawa, Ontario.

It gives the government broad powers, including the ability to freeze bank accounts of protesters.

Trudeau Attorney General David Lametti justified targeting the finances of supporters of the non-violent Freedom Convoy in Ottawa by equating them with terrorists and criminals.

There is debate about whether the prime minister followed the legal rules to apply the act.

Noah Mendelsohn Aviv, executive director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, told me yesterday that she didn’t think that was the case.

She argued that its use circumvents the democratic process and threatens civil liberties.

“We should not normalize the use of emergency measures to solve local, specific problems that can be solved with the help of the law,” she told me.

Mendelssohn-Aviv is right. And indeed, this afternoon, the CCLA announced that it was taking legal action.

When Freedom Convoy protesters blocked the Ambassador Bridge connecting Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency and police cleared the bridge without incident.

There was no need to resort to extreme measures.

Trudeau demonized nonviolent protest and encouraged Canadians to rise up against each other.  (Top) Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talks about the implementation of the Emergency Act February 17, 2022 in Ottawa.

Trudeau demonized nonviolent protest and encouraged Canadians to rise up against each other. (Top) Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talks about the implementation of the Emergency Act February 17, 2022 in Ottawa.

Members of Parliament will argue today about the specific powers and scope of the law, but until any amendments are made, the measure remains in place.

At the same time, there is no escaping the fact that Justin Trudeau’s use of the Emergency Act has caused deep tensions.

He demonized nonviolent protest and encouraged Canadians to rise up against each other.

This tension will not be contained by simply pushing back protesters. They will only fester if not addressed, and so far Trudeau has refused to listen.

I worry about what will happen to my country if our citizens are not allowed to be heard.

As a journalist, I have never seen such polarized news. And as a citizen, I have never seen my country so divided.

For the past two weeks, most of the conversation has revolved around the protests in the capital.

I talked about it with family, friends, neighbors, strangers on the street, people I interviewed, and acquaintances in the park.

I got messages from old friends, and from people I haven’t spoken to since high school, and from family friends, and from the general public.

It is painful and confusing, according to most, to see our society so deeply – and so disgustingly – divided.

Only from my inner circle, one person told me that they had to stop talking about truckers with loved ones in order to maintain a conversational relationship.

It is painful and confusing, according to most, to see our society so deeply – and so disgustingly – divided.  (Above) Police are followed by screaming protesters as they try to hand out notices to protesters in Ottawa, February 17, 2022.

It is painful and confusing, according to most, to see our society so deeply – and so disgustingly – divided. (Above) Police are followed by screaming protesters as they try to hand out notices to protesters in Ottawa, February 17, 2022.

Families are being separated, including the family of the Prime Minister of Ontario.

Ford said at a press conference Monday that “the whole thing has polarized us in ways we couldn’t even imagine.”

One of his daughters publicly supported the protests.

Our political class is also divided.

Several Prime Ministers have spoken out against the application of the Emergency Law; political parties quarrel in parliament.

And the prime minister recently witnessed pro-bench Joel Lightbound publicly break with the Liberal Party over its handling of health restrictions and a truck escort.

What caused this outbreak of explosive conflict in our society?

A few months ago, Justin Trudeau began using divisive language to describe Canadians who choose not to get vaccinated.

He said they were misogynists, racists and science deniers; he warned that they were taking up space and asked aloud if they should be tolerated.

In recent weeks, he has called truckers a “marginal minority” with “unacceptable views” and “a few people shouting and waving swastikas.”

He also denounced “anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, anti-black racism, homophobia and transphobia” on display.

There is little evidence to support such claims. Calling extremists all the many people supporting these protests, cheering them from the side of the highway and attending mass demonstrations across the country, is at best inaccurate and at worst insulting.

In a heated discussion in parliament yesterday during the question period, the prime minister doubled down on that rhetoric, responding to criticism from Jewish Conservative member Melissa Lanzman by accusing her and her party of supporting people who brandish the swastika.

Lanzman and the conservatives demanded an apology. Trudeau refused to accept it back.

Some members of the media also adopted Trudeau’s tone.

This is not a protest, but a rebellion, a threat to democracy, sedition.

This hysterical rhetoric also surfaced on Twitter, of course, with breathtaking displays of contempt from members of the press.

I’ve been worried about this dynamic in our press for a long time.

The inability to tolerate, let alone explore and reflect, the diversity of perspectives is deeply disturbing.

That’s a big part of why I left mainstream media in January, working as a current affairs radio producer for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. (Actually, the turning point was when we covered vaccination mandates.)

I’m not the only one leaving the mainstream media. Last week, a radio host from Vancouver spoke out on the air in support of the protests and is now unemployed.

In my twenty years as a journalist in this country, I have never seen a public conversation that was so obviously venomous and destructive.

The U.S. example has already shown how counterproductive it is to label a section of the population as “deplorable,” as Hillary Clinton once called half of presidential candidate Donald Trump’s supporters.

This only infuriates this part of the electorate, fuels political polarization and activates the extreme right.

Canada imported culture war from America, it’s true; but there is an even more significant factor here.

The resentment grew and grew, and now it has reached its limit.  (Above) A protester in Ottawa, Ontario on February 17, 2022

The resentment grew and grew, and now it has reached its limit. (Above) A protester in Ottawa, Ontario on February 17, 2022

During the pandemic, Canada has become a less equal country.

Billionaire wealth has increased by a staggering 68 percent. Many, many people struggle to make ends meet.

The government’s COVID policy has defended the laptop class and exposed the working class time and time again.

As the elites comfortably worked from home, ordering takeout and amassing wealth, the working class lost savings, housing, business and childcare (due to widespread school closures), contracted the virus and lost more jobs, money and security. .

The resentment grew and grew, and now it has reached its limit.

These demonstrations were presented as extreme right-wing and extremist, and while I believe the threat is exaggerated, it would be naïve to think that this element is missing.

If we take the threat from far-right extremists seriously, as I certainly do, then the Emergency Law is the worst possible way to deal with this crisis.

This risks radicalizing peaceful demonstrators and confirming their worst fears about the government.

This risks driving citizens to more and more extreme positions as legitimate concerns go unheeded and legitimate democratic dissent is suppressed.

We must step back from the edge, starting with our prime minister.

Justin Trudeau must seize the moment, affirm humanism and address our common good. He must listen to truckers’ concerns about our country and its politics.

The prime minister must be a leader for everyone, not just those who agree with him.

Let America’s slide into an ever-politicized nightmare be a lesson. It’s time to lower the temperature for the benefit of all Canadians.

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