The Paranoid Style in Canadian Politics

The Truckers’ Protests Have Opened the Door for the Radical Right

February 16, 2022. As carried in Foreign Affairs.

For the last three weeks, Canada’s capital has been occupied by a swarm of angry truckers and anti-vaccine protesters. This self-styled “freedom convoy” has intimidated Ottawa’s pedestrians, kept its residents awake at night with incessant horn honking, and forced many of its businesses to shutter. Elsewhere in the country, demonstrators used their vehicles to successfully blockade important border crossings, most notably the Ambassador Bridge connecting Detroit, Michigan, to Windsor, Ontario. They have forced the mayor of Ottawa, the premier of Ontario, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to declare emergencies. The protests are, in short, perhaps the strongest challenge to the rule of law Canada has faced in the last four decades.

The convoy protests were initially motivated by opposition to vaccine mandates imposed on the trucking industry, but they quickly began targeting a wider range of COVID-19 restrictions. Even more troubling, the protesters have also embraced a stridently antigovernment, far-right agenda. Some have waved Nazi symbols and Confederate flags, called for the arrest of political figures, and threatened violence. Leaders have demanded the overthrow of Canada’s democratically elected government in favor of a convoy-led coalition. It is not hard to see shades of the United States’ January 6 insurrection.

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