One year ago, the Canadian truckers of the Freedom Convoy rolled into Ottawa, Ontario, their swelling ranks cheered on by people all along their cross-country journey. Protesting Canada's draconian COVID-19 restrictions, they were joined in the capital city by supporters from just about any demographic you can think of. Thanks to everyday folks with cell phone cameras, and indefatigable citizen reporters like David Freiheit* (Viva Frei), we observed the event moment-by-moment, live, unscripted, and unedited. The dissonance between the peaceful, joyful, unifying protest that we saw, and the horrific event portrayed on Canada's national media—picked up, of course, by our own major news sources—was staggering.

(As one who grew up with the seemingly-constant threat of Quebec to secede from the country, one of my strongest memories is of the Québécois at the protest, who declared, "We were Separatists, but after this we are no longer!")

As I watched the days unfold, from the hopeful beginnings to Prime Minister Trudeau's extraordinary invocation of the Emergencies Act, I was moved as I haven't been since 1968, which saw the rise and fall of hope and freedom during Czechoslovakia's Prague Spring. It may not have been Russian tanks rolling through Ottawa as they did through Prague, but the intent was much the same. It took Czechoslovakia another twenty years to win their freedom from Russia; is it better or worse for Canada that their oppression comes from within, instead of from an external enemy?

I've grouped my own posts on the subject here under the topic "Freedom Convoy." If you follow that link you'll see them listed in reverse order (scroll down for the oldest). There you can also see for yourself a selection of Viva's on-the-street videos.

Russia's invasion of the Ukraine obscured both the protest and the issues that provoked it, taking the heat off Prime Minister Trudeau. But I will not let the heroic Freedom Convoy be forgotten—at least in my very tiny corner of the Internet. This beautiful 14-minute tribute by JB TwoFour (about whom I know nothing but this) still moves me to tears.

 


*After his live coverage of the protests, Freiheit's modest YouTube channel analyzing current legal issues skyrocketed, and grew to the point where I can no longer keep up with him, even at double speed.
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, January 29, 2023 at 3:06 pm | Edit
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Amongst the devastating consequences of the Russo-Ukranian War is the disappearance from public eye of the power grab by Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and his tyrannical handling of the Freedom Convoy protest in Ottawa.

Actually, a few European politicians did make note of it, calling out Trudeau for his hypocrisy in condemning Russian president Putin while trampling the rights of his own citizens back home.  But largely that is yesterday's news.

So today I remember.

This beautiful 14-minute tribute by JB TwoFour (about whom I know nothing but this) bought tears to our eyes as we saw the familiar scenes replayed: the love, the joy, the unity of Canadians in all their diversity, and the support from other nations.  Followed, alas, by replacement of the friendly interactions with local law enforcement by an irrational show of force from the government and imported police agencies. 

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(Yes, the misspelling of "Israel" also brought tears to my eyes, but that's just me.)

May history remember the Freedom Convoy as the turning point in Canada's return to sanity, respect for basic human rights, and constitutional protection for its citizens—instead of the minor footnote Prime Minister Trudeau and his supporters are counting on.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, May 8, 2022 at 2:52 pm | Edit
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This interview with GiveSendGo co-founder, Jacob Wells was so uplifting I have to share it. I'd written about GiveSendGo briefly before, and what little I knew about it induced me to listen to the whole interview, despite it being nearly two hours long. The advantage of unedited interviews is that you get them uncensored; the disadvantage is that they are l-o-n-g.  But this one does very well being played at 1.5x speed, as long as you're willing to overlook the fact that it makes everyone sound overly and artificially excited. While there are a couple of places where it is better to be watching, for the most part just listening is fine, so you can exercise, wash the dishes, or drive and enjoy it without feeling guilty.

Those who followed the Freedom Convoy story in Canada will appreciate information about the legal consequences for GiveSendGo of the Canadian government's threat to seize assets without benefit of court order, as well as the malicious hack they suffered and how they have responded. Others might find this tedious, but anyone can enjoy hearing about Wells' early life (he grew up in New Hampshire and has 11 siblings), his adventures testifying in front of a Canadian parlimentary committee, and the reasons why GiveSendGo does not discriminate against people or organizations (including the Church of Satan) as long as the projects involved do not violate a few minimal conditions (such as legality).

Rarely have I seen such a positive integration of a person's business, life, and faith. As I said: uplifting. I hope those of you who have time to listen enjoy it as much as I did.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 8, 2022 at 5:57 am | Edit
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I know many of you think I have better things to do than follow the protests in Ottawa, and you're right. You can blame my 10th grade World Cultures teacher. You can also blame him that I graduated from high school with near-zero knowledge of world history. But he was one of my favorite teachers.

Instead of giving us a broad general knowledge of the world, Mr. Balk chose to lead us deeper into a few limited areas of particular importance in the late 1960's: Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and the American civil rights movement. He also encouraged us to follow the unfolding of current events, in particular the Prague Spring. That's a lesson I never forgot.

Plus I love David-and-Goliath freedom stories.

Will this really come to be seen by future eyes as an important historical event? Time alone will tell what impact the Ottawa protests will have on the restoration of the rights of Canadian citizens. But watching the cross-cultural camaraderie of this diversity of Canadians who, despite the seriousness of their grievances, maintained for three weeks the peace and joy of their protest, has done my battered and cynical heart much good. If we had not put in the time to watch hours and hours of live, boots-on-the-ground coverage, and relied simply on general news stories, we would never have known the truth.

I have loved Canada since I was a child. Where I lived in upstate New York, crossing the border was not exceptional, and stores both accepted and gave out Canadian change.  (The two currencies were closer to par back then.)  At one point I could sing the Canadian national anthem in both English and French, along with most of the other songs on my record of Canadian folk music. Canada and Switzerland were the two places I had declared myself willing to live if I had to live somewhere other than the United States.  Sadly, as time went on Canada's social and political policies, like those of my long-beloved home state of New York, convinced even this life-long Democrat that it would take a major change to make me willing to live there.

Whether or not they turn out to be historically significant, the past three weeks have restored my hope for our northern neighbors.  True, the governmental responses, plus the realization that their Constitutional rights are not nearly as robust as ours, makes me even less inclined to move there.  (That and the weather.)  But if the strength, love, joy, and unity demonstrated by these protesters is infectious, I have hope.  Despite the genuinely outrageous actions taken by Prime Minister Trudeau and other leaders, I'm actually more optimistic in general than I have been in over a year.

(But really, even those peaceful people sure could learn to clean up their language.)

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, February 21, 2022 at 9:13 am | Edit
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It's nearly an hour long, but if you want to know the truth behind the origins, organizers, goals, and strategies of Freedom Convoy 2022, this Viva Frei interview with Ben Dichter is well worth your time, even if you don't watch it all. No rants, no anger, just a calm, informative interview with a well-spoken official representative of the Convoy.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, February 19, 2022 at 8:51 am | Edit
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I fully intended to post something lighter today, but history has no pause button.

Anyone receiving a cancer diagnosis, or answering the phone to learn of a loved one's fatal auto accident, or having his home and belongings destroyed by fire, flood, or storm, knows how suddenly the world as he's always known it can be obliterated.

In the past two years, much of the world has experienced a lesser version of this lesson. Here in Florida, we have been greatly blessed by a less-heavy-than-most governmental hand on our pandemic response, but we've still suffered business closures, job loss, postponement of essential medical procedures, educational disruption, supply chain problems, and a whole host of mental health issues. It's been a disaster that took everyone by surprise, though other states and other countries have suffered much more. 

In the blink of an eye, a simple executive order at any level of government can take away your job; close your school; shut your church doors; kill your business; deny you access to health care, public buildings, restaurants, and stores; forbid family gatherings; lock you in your home; stop you from singing; and force you and your children to submit to medical procedures against your will.

It astonishes me how many people are okay with this. At one point I was even one of them.

Canada has now taken this to a higher level.

It is clear from watching about 20 hours of livestream reports from Ottawa (there's a lot more if you have the endurance to watch), that the anti-vaccine-passport protest called Freedom Convoy 2022 is most notable for its peaceful unity-in-diversity—along with keeping the streets open for emergency vehicles, allowing normal traffic to move in areas away from the small immediate protest site, keeping the streets clean of trash and clear of snow, complying when the court ordered them to cease their loud horn blowing, and having a happy, block-party-like atmosphere.

Elsewhere, the unrelated-except-in-spirit protest at the Ambassador Bridge border crossing in Windsor, Ontario had already been ended peacefully by court order and the bridge reopened.

Why, at that point, did Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decide he needed to invoke, for the first time ever, Canada's Emergencies Act, designed to give the government heightened powers in the case of natural disasters or other situations of extraordinary and immediate danger? Here are some quotes from a BBC article about it

[Trudeau] said the police would be given "more tools" to imprison or fine protesters and protect critical infrastructure.

Just what this means is not detailed, but the following is crystal clear. Bold emphasis is mine.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said at Monday's news conference that banks would be able freeze personal accounts of anyone linked with the protests without any need for a court order.

Vehicle insurance of anyone involved with the demonstrations can also be suspended, she added.

Ms Freeland said they were broadening Canada's "Terrorist Financing" rules to cover cryptocurrencies and crowdfunding platforms, as part of the effort.

You can hear Freeland's speech here—if you can stomach it.

Let that sink in.

As someone said, "Justin Trudeau does not sound like Adolph Hitler in 1936. But he sounds an awful lot like Adolph Hitler in 1933." Nazi Germany did not get to extermination camps in one step.

I have funds in a local bank that is based in Canada. I have written positively about the Freedom Convoy. Does that mean Canada now thinks it has a right to my money? Can they reach into Florida and grab it, much as Amazon can, if it wishes, reach into my Kindle and yank an e-book I have purchased? We've made an inquiry with the bank's lawyers, but have yet to hear back.

Also from the BBC article:

The Emergencies Act, passed in 1988, requires a high legal bar to be invoked. It may only be used in an "urgent and critical situation" that "seriously endangers the lives, health or safety of Canadians". Lawful protests do not qualify.

And finally,

Critics have noted that the prime minister voiced support for farmers in India who blocked major highways to New Delhi for a year in 2021, saying at the time: "Canada will always be there to defend the right of peaceful protest."

Hypocrites much?

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, February 15, 2022 at 9:44 pm | Edit
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Charitable giving is a tricky thing. It's not enough to be generous; it's also important to be sure your money is going where you intend it, and is doing actual good instead of lining the pockets of drug pushers, thieves, and/or tin-pot dictators.

As a society, we're not all that good at giving to recognized, established charities, but let some new cause or tragic event take our fancy, and we pour out money like water, generously and carelessly. Recent events have been an object lesson in why it's not only foreign dictators who stop charitable gifts from getting to the intended recipients.

I had, of course, heard of the organization GoFundMe, which is used to organize fundraising campaigns for various causes. I have never had any dealings with them, myself—and now I think I never will. Trust, once broken, is very difficult to recover.

A GoFundMe project was set up to support the Freedom Convoy 2022, and quickly raised over 10 million dollars (Canadian). After releasing about a tenth of that, however, GoFundMe pulled the plug, claiming the organizers had violent intentions and as such violated their Terms of Service. (Never mind that after watching some 20 hours of unscripted, unedited livestream video from the protests, I've seen no evidence at all for such a claim; indeed all the evidence points to the contrary.)

You know those Terms of Service that we never read? It turns out they matter. GoFundMe, apparently, can pull the plug at their own discretion, without recourse.

[With my propensity for word play, it is SO tempting to switch out two of the letters in GoFundMe. But I will refrain. Obviously I have been listening to too much Gordon Ramsay. Besides, I know I'm not the only person to have thought of that one.]

Initially, GoFundMe said that donors had 14 days to request a refund (or until the 14th, I'm not certain anymore, and the site has changed since I first read it); otherwise all the money donated would be given to a "recognized charity" acceptable to both GoFundMe and the organizers of the blocked account. After an uproar, however, they changed that to automatically refunding all donations. So that's as good as we can expect, I guess. But it leaves me with zero faith that I can trust GoFundMe with my money.

Next chapter: Enter GiveSendGo.

I'd never heard of GiveSendGo, but they are an established fundraising platform that offered to step into the breach.

Viva Frei, my much-mentioned favorite Canadian lawyer, spent some time looking into GiveSendGo and gave it this review.

 

Almost immediately, the Freedom Convoy campaign on GiveSendGo garnered even more money than they had raised on GoFundMe.

From this point on, the story gets fuzzy, as rumors fly, and I'm not sure what to believe, but this is what I can make of it:

The Canadian government obtained a court order to freeze the campaign's assets. GiveSendGo is an American company and did not take kindly to that action, responding that the Canadian court lacks proper jurisdiction.

GiveSendGo was then hit by a Denial of Service attack, but still managed to continue to take in funds for the work of the truckers.

This was followed by an attack by hackers who redirected the GiveSendGo URL to a bogus site, and allegedly stole donors' personal information.

Then a Canadian bank (TD Bank), which was holding some of the money that had been released, froze the account.

And that's all I know so far.

Not true. I do know one more thing—lawyers are going to win big, whoever loses.

I've heard some complaints that there is a lot of "foreign money" in those accounts. While that may conjure up images of shadowy Russian or Chinese espionage, my impression is that the foreign supporters are much closer to home: cheerleaders from the United States, New Zealand, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Europe supporting their Canadian brothers and sisters in a campaign close to their own hearts.

Charitable giving is a tricky thing. That's no reason not to give, but it is sobering to know that even in a Western, democratic, and supposedly civilized society, governments, governmental agencies, and large private corporations are misappropriating our gifts.

Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, February 14, 2022 at 8:48 pm | Edit
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Only a few times in my life have I felt this close to history-in-the-making. The Apollo 11 moon landing. The fall of the Berlin Wall. Those were great events.  Others were both great and heatbreaking, like the Prague Spring of 1968. I sure hope the Freedom Convoy 2022 ends better than that did.

We're finding Viva Frei's live broadcasts from Ottawa both fascinating and fun. And incredibly encouraging. The only sad part is how much misinformation is out there in the ordinary news media, giving a negative impression of the protest. But we have watched a lot of Viva's unscripted, unedited, livestream from the streets of Ottawa, and I've never seen such a happy, peaceful, clean, friendly, and respectful protest. These people are angry, right enough, but the anger does not show in their behavior or their attitudes. Well, except for the "F-Trudeau" signs, which is literally the only objectionable thing I have seen in all our hours of watching. 

Most wonderful to see is the people from all over Canada, of multiple races, ethnic origins, religions, socio-economic groups, and occupations interacting so happily together. I've observed more hugs than in a week of visiting our grandchildren. I absolutely loved the report of some Québécois who declared, "We were Separatists, but after this we are no longer!"

Personally, I would go absolutely crazy from all the noise, but even so they have a good deal of support from local Ottawans, with reports of people bringing the truckers not only verbal encouragement but fuel, food, water, and offers of hot showers.

Social media, news media, and reading public comments on about anything can bring me to the brink of despair for society. This has been an amazing antidote. 

Here's yesterday's 3+ hour stream.  He's planning another livestream today, this time with his family.  I'll post that link when I see it; you can also check out his YouTube channel to see when it goes live.

And here's a much shorter 13-minute video including interviews with a couple of Indigenous protesters.

The world is watching. A Kiwi who currently can't go home because of coronavirus restrictions reported that even New Zealanders are feeling that they've been pushed too far. They're watching Canada, they're supporting the protest, and hoping it spreads around the world.

It was 20 years after the Prague Spring before Czechoslovakia was free again. It has been over 30 years since the Tiananmen Square massacre, and the Chinese people still live under tyranny. Canada, you can do better.

Stay strong, stay peaceful, and remember to vote when you get the chance!

UPDATE: Here's the 2/5 stream.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, February 5, 2022 at 9:40 am | Edit
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You will hear soon about our wonderful trip to Chicago, but current events are taking precedence today.

I hate crowds. All my senses are hyper-sensitive, and I'd go crazy in one of those cultures where people like to be close to your face and touch you frequently. So—not a good candidate for the thrill of the crowd. Times Square on New Year's Eve is not for me.

More than that, I have a healthy fear of the mob mentality. People do stupid things in groups that they would never do without the urging and peer pressure of the mob. You will not be surprised that I am very leery of participating in any kind of political demonstration, child of the sixties though I may be.

Actually, I'd brave the crowds to show my support for a good cause, and I have done so once or twice, but even the most peaceful demonstrations these days are vulnerable to infiltration by those whose goal is to cause trouble. Whether from fringe "friends" of the cause, enemies determined to discredit the demonstrators, or mere opportunistic looters, things can go bad quickly, and the risk of getting caught up in them is real.

All that said, part of me would really like to be standing in Ottawa with Canada's truckers and their Freedom Convoy.

It started in British Columbia, sparked by Canada's new rule that any truckers crossing the border from the United States must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

You really shouldn't mess with the people who transport food and other essential goods, especially when your country is already having supply chain issues.

The fed-up truckers started a convoy from British Columbia, across most of Canada to the capital city of Ottawa. Along the way the convoy grew, as more and more truckers, and other supporters, joined. It turns out that truckers aren't the only ones who are "mad as hell and not gonna take this anymore" (3.5 minutes, language warning).

Despite that appropriate clip (from a movie I know nothing about), these "mad as hell" protesters are incredibly friendly and peaceful. I don't know what you may have heard about the Freedom Convoy, but the reaction of the media has been ... interesting. First they ignored the protest, and when it finally got so large they couldn't ignore it, they tried to demonize it, calling the participants "racist, misogynist, white-supremacist, insignificant radical fringe elements," and accusing them of all sorts of objectionable behaviors.

So on Monday, David Freiheit (Viva Frei) drove from Montreal to Ottawa to see for himself, and document his experience in a livestream. Yesterday, I made it through 2.5 hours of video, to the point where his camera gave out. Then I went to bed, figuring to write this post in the morning.

I awoke to another three hours of video, because his camera had merely run into a brief issue that was soon fixed. That was more than I could handle, but I did watch the beginning, the end, and several samples in between.

It's a livestream, unscripted, unedited, simply showing his experiences as he walked the streets of the city and interacted with the people. He specifically sought out evidence of the negative reports. According to the news, there had been Confederate flags (in Canada?) and swastikas, along with desecrations of memorials.

Freiheit found no such thing, nor had any of the people he interviewed seen them. He did find one person who said someone had let the air out of her tires, and a report of a window accidentally broken by someone's waving flag. And one of the memorials spoken of had had some flowers put at the base, and a bouquet of flowers put in the statue's hand. The only objectionable thing I saw was a number of signs expressing a rude sentiment all too familiar in demonstrations when Donald Trump was president, with Prime Minister Trudeau's name substituted for Trump's. I did see a rather clever twist on the "Let's go Brandon" theme: Let's go Brandeau.

Speaking of signs, here's my favorite.

It shows how young Freiheit is—he was born in 1979—because he said he didn't understand it. None of us who were adults in the 1980's can forget the atrocities of Romania's infamous dictator, Nicolae Ceaușescu. These are, no doubt, the sentiments of a Romanian refugee shocked by the situation in "free, democratic" Canada.

It's also my favorite sign because someone noticed and corrected "then" to "than."

As far as I could tell, people may be angry about the government's policies, but they mostly seemed thrilled to get together with like-minded citizens and express their opinions. It could have been a block party. Smiles, hugs, excitement. Mutual respect between the demonstrators and the police. No litter on the street—the protesters made an effort to keep it clean. And they also shovelled the sidewalks! No rioting, no looting, no violence, no evidence of the bitter hatred so prevalent in recent protests south of the Canadian border. I knew there was a reason I've always liked Canada. They deserve better politicians, and certainly better policies.

You don't have to take my word for it; you can sample the streams yourself.

Part 1 (2.5 hours)

Part 2 (3 hours)

I found it exciting to watch, to be a part of it if only virtually, and to know that the event has been nothing like the news reports have portrayed it. May it stay the happy, if determined, protest that it is, as time goes on and people get more tired, cold, and frustrated.

If I had to live or work near Parliament Hill in Ottawa, I would quickly get tired of the sound of blaring truck horns, which sliced through my head even on the video. And no one can be happy about the traffic jams, even though long lines of trucks have been blocked from entering the city, in order to keep roads open for emergency vehicles.

I hope Canada's politicians quickly come to the realization that these people are also Canadian citizens they are sworn to serve, and learn to listen with respect. It's time to let the truckers—and everyone else—get on with their business.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, February 1, 2022 at 10:08 pm | Edit
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