Much to the relief of many in Ottawa, the large crowds expected to descend on the city this weekend will admire tulips rather than blocking streets, honking truck horns and protesting pandemic restrictions and vaccination mandates.
But that does not mean that the blockades and occupations of Ottawa and various border crossings with the United States in February have completely disappeared. An independent inquiry is being set up to look into the government’s use of the Emergencies Act to suppress protests, and a joint Senate-House of Commons committee has held its own hearings. Ottawa has yet to permanently replace its police chief after the force was overwhelmed by truckers, and Peter Sloly, who had been brought in from Toronto to lead the force, has resigned. The street in front of Parliament remains barricaded and will most likely be closed to traffic forever. And courts have yet to rule on criminal charges against four men arrested after a large weapons cache was discovered during the border protest in Coutts, Alta.
Then there is the perhaps surprising influence that the blockade and its supporters have had in the campaign to find a new leader for the Conservative Party. I investigated this particular problem recently. My findings were published this week.
[Read: Long After Blockade, Canada’s Truckers Have a Political Champion]
As always, there was no room for all my reporting in the article. One of the things that didn’t make the cut was my follow-up story with people who participated in the blockade that shut down downtown Ottawa.
I note in my article that Pierre Poilievre, the frontrunner for the now vacant party leadership, regularly speaks about the blockade during his campaign appearances and echoes the protesters’ constant call for a restoration of what they claim to be freedoms. lost to Canadians.
“Freedom, freedom, freedom is our nationality,” Poilievre chanted to applause at a rally I attended near the Ottawa airport. (Coincidentally, the campaign rally took place in a small convention hall which, in February, was used by police officers brought in from across Canada as a rallying point before finally breaking the blockade.)
Many in the crowd were the kind of people I’ve often seen at urban conservative rallies in the past: well-dressed couples who’d arrived in luxury SUVs. But around the edges were several men wearing high-visibility jackets, steel-toed work boots and worn-out baseball caps – the unofficial trucker’s uniform.
Some of them weren’t interested in talking to me. Many said they still feared arrest after participating in the blockade in February.
One, who declined to give his last name, Jon, told me he goes to protests every night after work. He also said it was the first time he had attended a Conservative Party meeting of any kind. In the last election, he voted for the People’s Party of Canada.
He was at the rally, he told me over the din of a DJ, to see if Mr. Poilievre really shared his point of view.
“I want to know more about what Pierre stands for – I want to know if I can trust him,” Jon told me.
Later, when Mr Poilievre shouted at truckers who opposed mandatory vaccinations, Jon clapped back, raising both fists in the air.
Nick Belanger, who said he was an inoculated trucker who took part in weekend protests in February, is a strong supporter of Poilievre, saying his candidacy was a turning point for the Conservative Party.
“It’s the Conservative uprising,” declared Mr. Bélanger while awaiting the appearance of the candidate, adding: “Ten years ago, what did you think of the Conservative Party? They were rich, crisp old whites. I’m looking at the crowd right now and I see a lot of young, working class people.
Not all Tories approve of Mr Poilievre joining the protests.
When a much smaller demonstration of motorcyclists arrived in Ottawa recently, it drew several people who said they had come out regularly to join the truckers in February.
But Mark Davidson, a retired civil servant and member of the Conservative Party, emerged from his neighboring house to condemn the rally. Like Jean Charest, the former Quebec premier who is also a leadership candidate, Davidson said he believed meeting the needs of truckers and people who identified with their blockade would be heavy on the party.
“I find it really dangerous and scary,” Mr Davidson said, referring to Mr Poilievre’s support for truckers. “But obviously he has support and he has a lot of enthusiastic supporters.”
Echoing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, a report released this week by the United States Department of the Interior describes the abuse of Indigenous children in public schools, including beatings, refusal to food and solitary confinement. He also identified burial sites at more than 50 of the former schools and said “approximately 19 federal Indian boarding schools accounted for more than 500 Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian child deaths.”
A website that shaped youth hockey in the United States and Canada in part by ranking thousands of teams in both countries has announced that it will end the practice at the youngest levels of competition. Neil Lodin, the founder of MYHockey Rankings, described the practice as potentially dangerous. Still in hockey, David Waldstein, my colleague in the sports office, wrote an excellent portrait of Louis Domingue of Mont-St.-Hilaire, Quebec. Once the Penguins’ third-string guard and now its starter, he’s become a cult hero in Pittsburgh during the current playoffs.
The first Italian Open for Bianca Andreescu, the 21-year-old tennis star from Mississauga whose career was hampered by injuries, ended in the quarter-finals of the tournament. But Christopher Clarey, the Times tennis expert, writes that “three tournaments into his latest comeback, Andreescu is clearly in a better place and will head to Roland Garros with a red-clay momentum that suits his varied game. .”
Martha Wainwright, the Montreal singer-songwriter, has a new memoir, in which the member of the famous musical family says she’s happy to “drop this stuff of being No. 4 on the totem pole.”
In The New York Times Book Review, reviewer Nathaniel Rich writes that the latest book by University of Manitoba polymath and professor Vaclav Smil “is essentially a plea for agnosticism and, believe it or not, humility — the rarest earth metal of all. His most valuable statements concern the impossibility of acting with perfect foresight.
Originally from Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported on Canada for The New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.
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