It’s quite something to think that a year ago today Ontario was still under a hard lockdown. Premier Doug Ford, who had presided over some of the harshest COVID-19 policies in the free world, only ended the province’s fourth lockdown on Jan. 31, 2022.
These outrageous policies happened despite the fact that in most comparable jurisdictions—including the Democrat-governed American states immediately adjacent to Ontario—had abandoned these restrictions months before.
Yet Ontario and other parts of Canada operated in a sort of information silo, where a population that usually prides itself on being worldly became willfully ignorant to the more evolved way other parts of the world were responding to the virus.
As Canadians look back on what happened then, one can only hope that people who were at first OK with these measures are now willing to admit that government went too far.
Because that’s what the Freedom Convoy, which began a year ago, was ultimately saying: Enough is enough. Things have gone too far. Just leave people alone and give them a little breathing room.
Did we really need to lose our marbles if one person, for whatever reason, didn’t want to wear a mask in Walmart? Did you need to ban your cousin from family gatherings because she didn’t get a vaccine?
It’s all very shameful, the maelstrom of animosity that people allowed themselves to get wrapped up in and that politicians and doctors on TV goaded on.
The initial focus of the convoy was that its participants were grieving a newly introduced national vaccine mandate for truckers crossing the border. It soon became clear though, based on the diverse array of people who made the pilgrimage to Ottawa, that people’s concerns went far beyond that new mandate.
Bringing in yet another mandate right at the bitter end, when most sane jurisdictions were dismantling all of their mandates, was the straw that broke the camel's back.
The undeniable truth is that the Freedom Convoy was, as they say in "King Lear," more sinned against than sinning. Yes, bylaws were broken and all-night honking must’ve been maddening and—here’s the worst of all!—convoy participants weren’t of the same social class as the well-paid senior civil servants in Ottawa who never leave their own little bubble.
But they weren’t wrong in telling government that it was time to back off. It was the federal Liberal government that was wrong to vilify them and refuse to meet with them.
The weeks and months after the Freedom Convoy also exposed that a lot of their supposed crimes were simply falsehoods. Like how it was claimed participants tried to burn down a residential complex. Or how they had united at the foot of Parliament Hill to overthrow the government.
The fall inquiry into the use of the Emergencies Act, which will deliver its report in February, saw senior police officers testifying that they never urged the implementation of the Act. The over-reaction to the peaceful convoy was all zealousness on the part of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland, who had grown accustomed the past two years to thinking it was their job to micromanage the every movement of Canadians.
Everyone should now see clearly how outrageous it was to put convoy organizer Tamara Lich in jail without bail for so long (and then revoke her bail once again over a technicality). Canada is currently engaged in a national conversation about how and why it is so many violent repeat offenders are out on bail and committing crimes. It’s troubling that Lich, who was charged with non-violent offences, was treated as public enemy number one while real, hard criminals were running amok.
The Freedom Convoy should have never happened because the conditions that gave rise to it—the over-the-top restrictions on our lives—should have been repealed long before the first trucks began their cross-country journey.
The question though, one year later, is did government learn anything? Have they engaged in any serious self-reflection?
The sad answer is that they still seem to believe every choice they made was the right one. Such is the culture of politics now, where you almost never admit an error.