Does Supramaya’s use of the term “class warfare” seem extreme? Perhaps not, when you consider how quickly the Ottawa protest story morphed into an assault on the character of the truckers.
On reflection, it’s hardly surprising that the Liberal government chose never to meet with Convoy representatives to discuss the truckers’ concerns. How do you argue in favour of a vaccine passport that discriminates against unvaccinated service workers, given that the research now unequivocally shows that the vaccinated can spread COVID just as easily as the unvaccinated? As for the claim that the unvaccinated are clogging up the hospitals, recent data from both Canada and the UK indicate that that too is inaccurate.
Knowing that, Government needed a different story, and Justin Trudeau was up to the task. Our prime minister gave quite the performance in portraying the truckers as racists. It was a caricature that rapidly became a dominant theme in the media.
Then there were the innuendos that foreign agents (i.e. the Kremlin) were behind the movement. The Russia threat has since been retracted by the CBC along with the claim that one third of the donations to GoFundMe were foreign. It turns out the figure was more like 12%.
As for Government's insinuations that the Convoy organizers represent a danger to democracy, take a look at their profiles. Right wing some of them may be, but I don’t see any capacity there to organize a coup d’état.
The Middle Class Perspective
But, this blog posting is not about government’s response to the Convoy. Instead, it’s about the enthusiasm with which middle class, civil society groups and those on the left embraced the government story. Think Jagmeet Singh and the NDP. Think the unions, the alternative press and a lot of NGOs. These groups all have one thing in common. Their financial base, whether it be through fees or donations, is largely derived from middle class contributions.
What the middle class conveniently forgets is that we have endured the pandemic in very different ways than the working class. First and foremost, we’ve been able to sit out the most difficult parts at home, either because we were already retired or because we were able to do our job digitally. For many in the working class, particularly those in the service sector, it’s been a radically different, and much more difficult, experience.
Remember the early days of the pandemic when the fear was that COVID might be as serious as the Spanish Flu or worse. It was the supermarket and delivery workers that kept the food circulating, the health care workers in retirement and care home that took care of our elderly at significant risk to themselves. Many, if not most, of these jobs were low paying, but these workers did it for the greater good and we were all grateful.
Fast forward two years. All of this seems to have been forgotten. The rapidity with which Canadians embraced the portrayal of Convoy participants as racists was amazing. To be clear, I’m not denying that there may have been some racist elements in the Ottawa protest. It is the nature of protests that opportunistic fringe elements choose to participate. But to suggest that racism was at the heart and core of the movement is frighteningly simplistic.
Fortunately, not everybody has bought into our prime minister’s version of the protest movement. Indeed, it’s been most interesting to look at those that didn’t. They include:
- many church groups, who both through GiveSendGo funding initiatives and active participation in the protest indicated their support. Are we to conclude that these groups are either racist or misguided?
- different ethnic and racial groups who right from the start were a part of the protest. I strongly recommend watching this short three-minute video where some of them speak.
- a few intrepid individuals of political and media fame, who almost always came, not from the left of the political spectrum, but from the right. Here in Newfoundland and Labrador that would include Brian Peckford, Rex Murphy and Ches Crosby.
So, is this the beginning of class warfare as Rupra Supramaya suggests? Let me end with a quote from her article in the National Post.
“The protests and the government’s crackdown have shattered myths about Canada, whose elite have a self-image of the country as egalitarian and caring, in contrast to the supposed social Darwinism that characterizes the United States. Class divisions, hidden beneath the surface, have come to the fore, revealing class privilege, which often goes unrecognized by those who enjoy it, in a way not seen in recent times. It was routine to see politicians and even journalists denigrate the truckers and protesters as “those people” who sought to “occupy” the nation’s capital, without any acknowledgement that these were fellow Canadians exercising their right of peaceful protest and civil disobedience in the seat of government power, which had so affected their lives in a profoundly existential sense. Rather, the protesters were dismissed as rednecks from the fringes of society whose presence in the capital upset an established social order.”
If that seems a harsh assessment of our society consider that a web based media poll found that nearly two-thirds of Canadians who responded believe the Convoy truckers are a “small minority” who are “selfishly thinking only of themselves”.
Is there not irony here?