By Sam Ord
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State of emergency starts in Canada as far right protests

Swastikas and confederate flags are proudly displayed and racist hate crimes have been reported
Issue 2791
Multiple trucks parked blocking the street

Trucks sit parked on Wellington Street near the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa, Canada (Picture: Alamy/ Patrick Doyle)

Canada’s capital Ottawa has declared a state of emergency after more than a week of protests against Covid restrictions.

Mayor Jim Watson claims the city is “completely out of control” with vehicles and tents blocking roads, as protesters centre around Parliament Hill.

Since 22 January long convoys of lorries and trucks have protested in opposition to vaccine mandates and restrictions. The “Freedom Convoy” began new measures were brought in requiring truckers to be vaccinated in order to cross the US border.

A flurry of nationalists, ­conservatives and far right groups have been organising convoys and protests since. A significant number of fascist and conspiracy theorist activists have capitalised on the discontent. They denounce the mandates as “fascism” and talk of liberty while swastikas and confederate flags are proudly displayed. Racist hate crimes have also been reported and so have assaults on people choosing to wear a face mask.

Socialist Worker newspaper in Canada said, “None of the convoy organisers were truckers. They were people with long records of racist and Islamophobic statements, and connections to far-right organisations.” It says the convoy’s aim “first and foremost is to raise funds and draw recruits to far right organisations and parties”. 

The Canadian Trucking Alliance bosses’ group says that a large number of protesters have no connection to trucking. It estimates that 85 percent of truck drivers are already vaccinated. Around 26,000 truckers would be affected by the restrictions—and could lose their jobs. 

The Freedom Convoy organisers ignore other issues facing truck drivers, such as poor pay and dangerous conditions. They only want to whip up discontent and funnel it in a far right direction.  

The rise of a fascist movement is a danger in Canada. Protesters have attacked journalists and media teams. And many workplaces have closed due to associated health concerns. Groups such as the Nazi Soldiers of Odin have been shared to official Freedom Convoy social media groups.

As well as fascist street ­movements, mainstream political parties were given a platform to echo Islamophobic and anti-migrant rhetoric. They include the likes of the racist People’s Party of Canada and the Conservatives. And numerous Q-Anon conspiracy theorists have been building the protests. 

One leading figure, Romana Didulo, has been present in Ottawa with her supporters. In November last year she told her 73,000 followers on the Telegram messaging app to shoot healthcare workers.

There is opposition to the ­protests. Many have flooded city councillors with complaints that they feel trapped in their own homes. Complaints were also aimed at cops for seemingly welcoming the protesters in a sharp contrast to how Black Lives Matter, climate and indigenous rights protests are handled. 

Granting police more repressive powers isn’t the solution. And neither is allowing genuine ­concerns over vaccines and lockdown restrictions to be hijacked by the far right. Only a mass movement from the left can kick fascists off the streets.

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