Jody Thomas, the Prime Minister's Security and Intelligence Advisor, declared on March 10 that "there's no doubt" that the people who organized the peaceful protest in Ottawa in February "came to overthrow the government." Oddly, Ms. Thomas then goes on to express grave doubt about whether the protesters had the ability to do this, or even knew how to do it. Indeed, the truckers brought neither guns nor tanks, did not storm the Parliament buildings, and made no effort to occupy even one government building. Some individuals called on the prime minister to resign, but nobody used force to try to make that happen.
Ms. Thomas credits the Emergencies Act with empowering the federal government to freeze bank accounts without a court order or oversight, and to have police horses trample unarmed protesters, "in a way that we would have not otherwise been able to do." It appears that, for Ms. Thomas, no measures can be too harsh when suppressing what she describes as "domestic ideologically motivated violent extremism."
Ms. Thomas refers to the February protest as the "occupation" of downtown Ottawa, although Members of Parliament (and many others) have stated publicly that they had no trouble walking through the city centre each day to get to their place of work. Article 42 of the Hague Convention of 1907 states: "Territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army. The occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised." When the Romans occupied Britain, they were effectively in charge of Britain, to the exclusion of another empire or a local sovereign. When the Germans occupied the Netherlands and other countries during the Second World War, the Germans ruled. A large gathering of people in one area does not constitute an "occupation."
Ms. Thomas also referred to the peaceful protest as a "blockade," when in fact the downtown was not in any way sealed off to prevent goods or people from entering or leaving. It was the police, not the protesters, who eventually erected a fence around the downtown core, after the Prime Minister had declared a national emergency. Certainly, some Ottawa residents were inconvenienced by the protests, but this does not turn the protest into a "blockade."
If the protesters had been violent or had committed crimes, the Ottawa Police would have arrested those people, and publicized the arrests. To support the government's narrative that the truckers were dangerous, racist, violent, criminal extremists, the police would have informed the public about specific crimes, detailing what happened, the names of persons charged, and which Criminal Code sections they had been charged with violating.
Yet during the first three weeks of the Ottawa protest, prior to the February 14 declaration of a national emergency, police did not charge any trucker with any crime. Some of the truckers' leaders were in daily communication with police. Police even told the truckers where to park their trucks.
Moreover, if any protester had vandalized, stolen, or burned down property, or had assaulted anyone, or had uttered criminal threats, the CBC and other government-funded media would have gleefully reported on it repeatedly, around the clock, for weeks on end. Why were government-funded media not able to show Canadians footage of protesters committing crimes? Perhaps because the truckers were not engaging in illegal behaviour?
The accusations of Ms. Thomas about an "occupation" and "blockade" with intent to "overthrow" Canada's government are as irresponsible and unfounded as the Prime Minister's narrative about unvaccinated Canadians being "anti-science, racist, misogynist, extremists."
There is a dark and very sinister side to accusing peaceful protestors who disagree with certain government policies of wanting to overthrow the government. It's a move that comes straight out of the tyrant's playbook.
A Cambodian court recently convicted 19 political opposition leaders of trying to overthrow the government, a verdict described by Human Rights Watch as bogus. The prosecution accused members of an opposition party of conspiring to topple the current government, run by former Khmer Rouge commander Hun Sen. Political opponents were also accused of undermining the current regime's credibility by disseminating untrue and inflammatory information.
When Nicaraguan security forces violently put down anti-government protests in 2018, President Daniel Ortega claimed the protests were actually an attempted coup with foreign backing, and that foreign-funded organizations were part of a broader conspiracy to remove him from office. Nicaraguan authorities continue to prosecute and jail President Ortega's opponents on charges of “conspiracy to undermine national integrity.” It is interesting that Ms. Thomas accuses truckers of wanting to overthrow the Canadian government and asserts that foreigners provided funding to the truckers.
Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, whose regime murdered an estimated 300,000 Ugandans during his eight-year reign of terror, was very offended when Archbishop Janani Luwum publicly criticized the government's violence. Well, you guessed it: Idi Amin accused this archbishop of seeking to overthrow the government. Archbishop Luwum was arrested in February 1977 and died shortly after. Although the official account describes a car crash, it is generally accepted that he was murdered on the orders of Idi Amin.
Thus far, opponents of Prime Minister Trudeau have not been murdered and have not been jailed for long periods of time. But demonizing the unvaccinated minority, accusing opponents of wanting to overthrow the government, freezing bank accounts without a court order, and commencing criminal prosecutions against peaceful protesters are clear and direct threats to the survival of Canada as a free and democratic society.
John Carpay is president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (jccf.ca), whose clients include truckers who peacefully protested in Ottawa in February.
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