This would have been in yesterday’s weekly post but I ran out of time, so I only got to it today. It seemed substantial enough to post on its own rather than wait a full six days, so here it is.

Reports are in from Canada. Looks like we got us a convoy. [NOTE: This post has been extensively edited to reflect that what previously was a convoy is now more like an occupation akin to the old ‘autonomous zone’ in Seattle, and conflicting reports about exactly what to make of these protesters commenters have shared with me.]

Many truckers do not like vaccine mandates.

This makes sense. The big benefits of being a trucker are:

  1. Freedom.
  2. In particular, freedom to go and work where you want, when you want.
  3. Even more in particular, freedom to not interact with other humans.

If there’s one group that both has no need of vaccine mandates, since they spend their time alone, and also likely not to take kindly to vaccine mandates, it would be a trucker. As far as I can tell, the whole advantage of being a trucker, other than getting paid for doing something other people don’t want to do, and something something about the joys of the open road, is to have and frequently use full f*** you rights without the need for f*** you money.

Truckers are also both vital to the supply chain and therefore the economy while being in short supply, and also are mostly physically large people in possession of a large number of very large trucks. And those who don’t want to get vaccinated are facing a lot of restrictions that no longer make physical sense:

‘I can travel freely through the border, and not be in contact with anyone. Yet I’m locked into my own country right now,’ he said. ‘I can’t go on a holiday. I can’t go to a restaurant, I can’t go bowling. I can’t go to a movie. You know, these are things that it’s just gotten out of control.’ 

They also are not happy about no longer having an exemption to quarantines and tests for crossing the border if they’re not vaccinated, but that seems like it shouldn’t matter much in practice given the United States won’t let them in unvaccinated at all. Not that any of that makes any physical sense at this point, of course, it’s purely punishment.

It is not terribly surprising that they decided to let their discontent be known and started a convoy to head to Ottawa to peacefully protest, with lots of emphasis on how violence would be counterproductive. Also there’s another group of trucks blocking a border crossing. So of course everyone is loudly supporting the people’s right to peacefully protest for their freedom against government policies that they see as oppressive, whether or not they agree with the protesters.

Except no, of course not, that is so completely not how any of this works. It’s more of a Russel Conjugation. I heroically stand up to oppression, you protest, he’s an enemy of the people. I peacefully protest, you are mostly peaceful, he’s rioting. With one of a very large number of very large trucks. Different versions of that conjugation are appropriate at different times.

Prime Minister Trudeau was having none of it from the start.

In a list of demands, the organizers of the Freedom Convoy are calling for an end to vaccine passports and for the federal government to respect the rights of the unvaccinated.  

Trudeau hit the brakes on their demands. 

‘What we are hearing from some people associated with this convoy is completely unacceptable,’ he said.

‘We know the way through this pandemic is to get everyone vaccinated. 

‘The overwhelming majority, close to 90 percent of Canadians, have done exactly that.’ 

Somehow getting that last 10 percent vaccinated is ‘how we get through the pandemic’ rather than the 90 percent making a further mandate unnecessary. Ergo, by his logic, Canada will never get through the pandemic. He also presumes that anyone vaccinated must be in favor of a mandate. Even assuming that, among truckers this does not seem all that fringe?

As many as 32,000, or 20 percent, of the 160,000 Canadian and American cross-border truck drivers may be taken off the roads due to the mandate, the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) estimates.   

He refused to meet with them, and he referred to them as racist to justify this. At first I assumed this was purely on priors, but it turns out he was saying some of them were waiving swastikas. At first I didn’t have confirmation of that and assumed it wasn’t that commonplace. I’ve seen multiple sources refer to knowing of exactly one (1) confirmed swastika and one (1) confirmed confederate flag. A commenter claims it’s more than that:

There are significant amounts of white nationalists (the ‘organizer’ is a prominent one) and there are significant amounts of swastikas and confederate flags. In the first weekend, they pissed on the national war monument and defaced statues, because that is going to win them hearts and minds.

They say they aren’t leaving until they meet with the governor-general and the senate and form a new government, which is not how any of this works. I think they said they would settle for hanging Trudeau. They’ve also been digging in.

What ‘significant’ means here is unclear, and it only takes a handful (or in some cases one person) to disrespect a monument or deface a statue, or to be the source for the swastika claim. Some would argue that even one is ‘significant.’ In any case, the charge of racism is being used to treat everyone involved as scum and all claims involved as illegitimate. But I also have multiple commenters saying these were nice folks who would very much not have taken kindly to seeing a Nazi flag, including vouching for this write-up.

The linked-to thread about digging in is also worth checking out, it’s got pictures (so it clearly did happen) of cranes and portable toilets and other things they’re constructing in the streets, and the map I saw earlier no longer applies, they’re blocking off downtown Ottawa.

This all gives different context to a widely-circulated cartoon from a cartoonist at the Washington Post calling a peaceful protest against restrictions on movement ‘fascism.’ You can be raising valid points about unnecessary restrictions, and yet also some of those same people can also be things one can label fascist for other reasons. And you can use that to not have to address the complaints. Exactly how much of one versus the other is impossible to say, but if it was a ton of the vile stuff we would have a lot more photographs.

My best guess based on all of them together is that most of the protesters who came for the weekend were there to protest unnecessary restrictions and hand out free pizza, but a small minority of the ones who stuck around after are somewhat different and have views the weekend crowd very much would not endorse.

Trudeau also said this, which is kind of chilling to the extent it’s talking about the vaccine mandates, not as chilling to the extent it was referring to hanging Trudeau or actual overthrow of the government, depending on the true ‘list of demands.’

“The small fringe minority of people who are on their way to Ottawa who are holding unacceptable views that they are expressing do not represent the views of Canadians who have been there for each other, who know that following the science and stepping up to protect each other is the best way to continue to ensure our freedoms, our rights, our values, as a country,” Mr Trudeau has said.

Opposition to mandates being an ‘unacceptable view’ is quite the unacceptable view of its own. That’s not how democracy is supposed to work. But demands to hang the prime minister do qualify, especially given the person talking is the prime minister.

Here is the Premiere of Saskatchewan expressing some of the vaccine-related ‘unacceptable views’ and pointing out that the rules don’t make any sense in terms of physical prevention of Covid.

Trudeau later felt the need to move his family to an undisclosed location due to security concerns. Jordan Peterson’s video is great to listen to simply because of the glee in his voice and is also so much better with the Canadian accent.

Eight days after arrival of the convoy in Ottawa, the police left them along for days, and now they’ve dug themselves in blocking access to downtown. As a result, there are headlines about how using the military to end the protest is ‘not in the cards right now.’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that sending in the army to end the anti-vaccine mandateand anti-governmentprotest that has paralyzed the nation’s capital for nearly a week is “not in the cards right now.”

“One has to be very, very cautious before deploying military in situations engaging Canadians,” the Liberal Party leader said during a virtual news conference. “It is not something that anyone should enter in lightly. But as of now, there have been no requests, and that is not in the cards right now.”

All of this, especially the ‘but,’ is exactly the thing you say right before sending in the military gets added to the cards. How are the headlines so consistently some form of bullshit? It’s uncanny.

When I read this quote from The Washington Post I thought it was about the vaccine mandates, and thought it sounded like not letting citizens protest decisions they disagreed with.

“Having a group of people who disagree with the outcome of an election, who want to go a different way and bring in an alternative government, is a nonstarter in a responsible democracy,” Trudeau said.

This sounded like it was calling the protesters rebels potentially guilty of treason, which seems like quite a bit much except insofar as they are demanding the separation of the head from the head of state. That would be a good reason to draw a distinction with other protests:

Several Conservative Party lawmakers, including former party leader Andrew Scheer, have cheered the demonstrators. When Indigenous groups blockaded railroads in support of an anti-pipeline protest in British Columbia in 2020, Scheer criticized Trudeau for caving to “radical activists” and for not pushing the police to end the “illegal” protests.

Still, even the ambiguity here is chilling.

In any case, if the statements above aren’t the thing you say right before or as the act of putting military action on the table, this definitely is:

Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly, under criticism for his response to the protest, said Wednesday that “there may not be a policing solution to this demonstration” and that he and other commanders were “looking at every single option, including military aid to civil power” to end it.

I love that they are citing elements ‘from the United States’ as a reason to potentially justify action against the protest. Tough but fair.

While the number of demonstrators in the city totals roughly 250 people — down considerably from the thousands who gathered over the weekend — hundreds of vehicles, including big rigs, are still blocking critical arteries in the downtown core.

Police say they expect more demonstrations this weekend. They say a “significant” element from the United States has been involved in organizing and funding them.

Also this:

Several local officials have called it an “occupation.”

And a human rights advocate explicitly saying ‘we are at war’ and calling for military action.

Earlier, the truckers were blocking off the Parliament Building and a few other blocks. Plus, in what is hilarious to us because we’re not there and don’t have to suffer through it, constant honking of all of their horns, although I believe never after 6pm.Now their numbers are reduced enough that the horn issue at worst less bad, but they’ve moved to another phase and are blocking off downtown. That’s not something that can be allowed to continue for long.

Normally, if it was already down to 250 people out of thousands (and in the original ‘estimates’ of course, tens of thousands), it would seem like one does the same thing one does with most protests and waits for everyone still involved to get tired of it and leave. Normally it doesn’t take that long. But this time, we have strong evidence that they’re physically digging in, and this isn’t some off-to-the-side zone can be written off for a while, there’s too much economic damage. Assuming my source is accurately reporting the scope of the problem, if the police can’t handle it, someone’s going to have to, and soon.

This is a strange example of Bounded Distrust. This kind of event can allow you to learn what the rules of engagement are for various players at this time by watching what they say. American sources if anything are downplaying the right-wing angle and treating Trudeau’s remarks as pure attempts to stifle legitimate descent, even if they don’t point out this is what they are doing. One comment suggests that this is because they prefer to paint the American far-right as special, which makes at least some sense.

My presumption is that this convoy will not end up having a substantial influence on Canadian policy once it is cleared out, and that it will probably get cleared out without much trouble once the government decides to do so. Pissing off and punishing people like these truckers was the whole point to begin with, so them protesting isn’t a sign that the policy isn’t working, although it is a sign it worked a little too well. The tide was already turning against restrictions, so many should be lifted soon, even if the vaccine requirements hang on for a while. And I’m confused whether this would even make those get lifted faster or slower on the margin.

There are reports that an American Trucker convoy is coming and I’ve seen pictures claiming one in Germany and elsewhere as well. I don’t expect much to come of those either, but I will be interested to see Biden’s reaction, especially in terms of rhetoric. If he echoes Trudeau’s statements, I’d expect that to become quite the thing, whether or not he is indeed facing a similar situation.

Alas, in addition to disputes about what happened factually, we know even less about the counterfactual in such situations.

This seems to have taught police a lesson. Protest is one thing, but when people are starting to fortify in massively economically disruptive ways, that’s the time to realize this won’t go away in reasonable time on its own and step in and say enough, before it gets far more dangerous to do that.

This weekend is going to see more convoys going to Toronto and Quebec City. Thankfully, both Toronto and Quebec seem to have learned a lesson from the utter failure of leadership in Ottawa and are taking steps to prevent them from digging in, so we will have to see how this goes.

Mostly I see this as creating clarity around the response to protest. Trudeau was remarkably direct and honest with his perspective. One place these events might turn out to matter is that there will always be a next time. There will be those, on various sides, who will be happy to show us the receipts from this round.

In hindsight, after way more detailed edits than I want to ever need to make on a speed premium post, it was a mistake to go this deep into the question, as regardless of which details are correct the questions being examined are a lot less about Covid-19 a lot more about a partisan political battle. I learned from doing it once, but I’m going to strive to not do it again.

Thus, I am committing to not editing or commenting further unless I discover clear and meaningful factual errors.

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101 Responses to Convoy

  1. Wow… I remember that song from back in the late Pleistocene when it charted for the first time. And then the surprise when my mother got a CB radio for her car. :-)

  2. Nick Savage says:

    Reporting here from Ottawa, happy to answer any questions.

    Other than the vaccine mandate for federal civil servants, Trudeau and his party have nothing to do with other vaccine mandates. They’re from the provinces! Why aren’t the truckers protesting in Toronto, the capital of Ontario?

    You’re right that there aren’t that many people left downtown, but the ones who are there have their trucks and are making it impossible to pass through. The ones who are left are also the hardcore ones. There are significant amounts of white nationalists (the ‘organizer’ is a prominent one) and there are significant amounts of swastikas and confederate flags. In the first weekend, they pissed on the national war monument and defaced statues, because that is going to win them hearts and minds.

    They say they aren’t leaving until they meet with the governor-general and the senate and form a new government, which is not how any of this works. I think they said they would settle for hanging Trudeau. They’ve also been digging in:

    In my opinion, this is one big cockup from the police in Ottawa. They let the protesters dig in and now its too late to really do much about it. They aren’t leaving, and as you can see in that twitter thread above, they’re prepared to stay for a long time. We, the residents of the city, are quite scared that this is going to get ugly. I was scared for violence last weekend, and I think because of the passivity of the police it didn’t happen, but I don’t really see how this is going to get resolved.

    There are more trucks going to Quebec City and Toronto this week. The police there say they’ve learned from the mistakes of the Ottawa police, but we’ll see if that’s true or not.

    Good news though, the police are learning from there mistakes: the problem is obviously one of communication:

    • TheZvi says:

      Thank you! It’s weird when the standard news sources downplay how terrible such folks are rather than focusing on it, and it sounds like they’ve been downplaying it so much I should edit to reflect your comment.

      It’s so weird that the Washington Post articles covering this completely downplayed the nasty aspects, and no one on Twitter seemed to bring them up either. If they actually ARE demanding that the PM be hanged and all that, and all the other stuff you list, that’s very much not great, and I had to actually edit the swastika line because WaPo used somewhat weasel words about whether they existed, let alone that they were the default. Usually it’s the other way around. Any idea what’s up with that lack of information getting through?

      Usually these situations end peacefully because most people fold after a while, even when they talk a good game, but sometimes things do get ugly. It’s Canada, so I’m curious if the protesters are actually armed? I didn’t see much mention of it.

      • Bobbo says:

        I went to the protest last weekend, and my experience was the exact opposite of Nick’s. I only saw Canada flags, Quebec flags, gay pride flags, Every Child Matters flags, and one guy with a black flag that said something like “Communist Pirate.” I don’t know what that flag meant, I ate free pizza and bought a Tim’s from Rideau street which had quite a line for a Sunday afternoon. I looked it up later and found a video of someone with a Confederate flag being booed by the crowd and then leaving on youtube.

        I don’t expect people were armed. There were children with “bring back my childhood signs” and couples holding hands and walking their dogs. Oh, and we sang Oh Canada.

        I didn’t realize how it would be portrayed later, or I’d have taken more photographic evidence. I do have some.

        People were smoking a lot of pot too (legal here). I wore a mask when I wasn’t eating or drinking.

        I do worry for this weekend. One of my coworkers said she was going to bring a weapon to the counter protest tomorrow and hit anyone who came by (I guess she is hoping she can tell protestors from counter protestors).

        Oh, and the supposed statue defacement was putting a trucker hat, a sign against vaccine mandates, and a Canadian flag on Terri Fox.

        News reported that people had pissed on the tomb of the unknown solider. Bad, although I don’t know how anyone know it was a protestor and not a homeless person after all the local bathrooms closed.

        Oh yes, and I was pissed by Trudeau saying people shouldn’t protest in a democracy.

        • TheZvi says:

          Wait, what? So presumably it’s possible that we’re talking about a mass of people who were doing what I originally thought, and a small group of truckers determined to do this other thing?

        • Anonymous-backtick says:

          What do you mean “wait what”? Claiming that a right-wing protest is characterized by “hate” signs, because far less than one percent of the protesters (raising the question of a false flag) carried one so you would usually see zero when personally attending the protest, is the standard tactic used at least back to the Tea Party rallies and probably further. You can’t make a Bayesian update on it because there was already a 100 minus epsilon percent chance that the claim would be made.

        • TheZvi says:

          Claim would be made on Twitter? Yes. 100%. Claim would be made here, in MY comment thread, by a reader claiming to be a primary source? Not at all, no I did not expect that and I think it’s rather weird to think otherwise?

        • nichcritic says:

          Just want to say that this matches my experience at the protest last week. I saw swastikas but only in reference to the government being fascist, not supporting fascism. I can share pictures I took if you’d like.

      • Benjo says:

        I believe most if not all the nazi signs are anti-nazi. Like people are using them to accuse Trudeau/Government/Restrictions of being nazi-fascist, not in support of nazism.

        Somewhere this past week maybe a nazi and a Trudeau-is-a-nazi-which-is-bad person had an awkward exchange in Ottawa and if that is on youtube somewhere please someone share the link.

      • Matty Wacksen says:

        >It’s so weird that the Washington Post articles covering this completely downplayed the nasty aspects, and no one on Twitter seemed to bring them up either.

        Best evidence for the evidence being weak. You can find plenty of videos of the trucker protests online. Everything is streamed these days. Have a look at whether you find any Nazi signs. As other commenters have mentioned, a common tactic these days is the following beautiful piece of reasoning:

        a) Protesters say “you are like Nazis by treating unvaccinated people this way”.
        b) The interpretation: this is trivializing the Holocaust, so protesters must be Nazis themselves because trivializing the Holocaust is the kind of thing Nazis do. And look, you’re even talking about Nazis, you must be so extra Nazi.

      • kaminiwa says:

        In direct contrast to what Nick Savage says re: “In the first weekend, they pissed on the national war monument and defaced statues, because that is going to win them hearts and minds.”, I saw this retweeted by someone who was there and characterizing the event as quite mild: This lines up with what Bobbo is saying, which makes me think that pretty clearly there’s a larger “sensible” group and a smaller “radical” group.

        We saw a very similar pattern when the left was doing BLM: Most of them were there because Black Lives Matter, but there was also an opportunistic fringe using it as an excuse to loot stores, set fires, and just generally make the situation look bad.

        I’d be very inclined to think that’s what’s going on here, too, except that it seems now the more radical group has decided to stay while the larger group has moved on

    • Anonymous-backtick says:

      “there are significant amounts of s*** and c*** flags”

      Pics or it didn’t happen. Not that you have much credibility left after the national war monument claim when so many convoy people keep denouncing whoever did that.

  3. Nick Savage says:

    To tack on to my last comment, I’ve expanded my thoughts a little bit here:

    • TheZvi says:

      Thank you. I’m editing to reflect both this and your comment.

    • TheZvi says:

      I’ve finished editing. Thanks again.

    • Donald Fagen says:

      I’ve seen photos of one (1) Nazi flag and one (1) Confederate flag. I would like to know if you have more photo/video evidence you wouldn’t mind sharing. I also wonder if you have a source for the Trudeau hanging thing.

      • Graham Blake says:

        There’s also been a III Percenter flag spotted draped across a truck.

        You also had the woman on a stage at the rally presumably trying to prove that there were no white supremacists among them, but who immediately attracted multiple people in the crowd admitting out loud to being one, including one on the stage who openly declared himself as such – to what were at least an equal number of cheers as jeers.

        There’s also the uncomfortable fact that one of the organizers, Pat King, has publicly espoused the Great Replacement conspiracy theory:

        He was also going on about how “the only way this gets solved is with bullets”

        I really don’t think it’s should be a controversial assertion that the convoy has attracted some right wing extremist elements. It’s one of the constituencies, for sure. It is also true that this isn’t representative of the whole. There’s a broad cross section of society that is sympathetic to the aims of the convoy. Not coincidentally, in a similar way to how there antivax sentiments across a broad cross section of society. (The venn diagram of people in my extended social network who are openly sympathetic with the convoy and those who at least lean antivax is nearly a perfect circle. It’s honestly a pretty thin sliver of people who are openly sympathetic to the convoy but not at least vaccine skeptics if not outright antivaxxers. I suspect that broadly holds for the makeup of the protest.)

        It’s difficult but probably necessary to try and avoid painting everyone with one brush, while also not ignoring some of the extremist elements in the mix. It is a strange bedfellows blend of people, to be sure. On the most fair and just side of the spectrum you have people who are genuinely simply exhausted with the pandemic restrictions and the economic and psychological toll this has taken on society. There are certainly a number of people who are there and are aligned with the convoy for that reason and that reason alone. Beyond that totally fair and just motive, there are some pretty sharp ideological turns into rank antivax conspiracy theories and extremist right wing ideology. There seems to be some abject denial among the former about finding the latter as their fellow travellers. It has become a common trope among those present for fair and just ideological reasons to try and portray all the evidence of right wing extremist elements as a literal false flag operation.

        Meanwhile, for those with a Narrative to maintain, of course they are trying to paint the whole movement with one racist white extremist brush. I’d much rather they engage a bit more directly and provide some metrics for when mandates and restrictions should end. Though I am also sympathetic for the need of officialdom to hedge their bets against the next unwelcome turn this pandemic might take. I think we’re probably just weeks away from most restrictions being lifted in most regions of Canada anyway, so I don’t think it would be too great a political gamble to start telegraphing that at this stage.

        • nichcritic says:

          I think this is a good and fair take. I’m seeing all over this quote: “If you have 10 people dining at a table with 1 nazi you have 11 nazis”, which is fair in a sense. I think any group of people has a responsibility to call out its most extreme members and make clear that they don’t represent the movement. But it feels a lot like what those people are really saying is “Any argument a nazi would agree with is a nazi argument”, which is trivially incorrect. This whole thing is how ordinary people get radicalized. Right now (I know someone there sending me messages) if you go to downtown ottawa they’re serving free burgers, they have 6 bouncy castles, people are playing street hockey, a band is playing. It’s a very warm, inviting atmosphere. But if you read the national news, it’s a lawless occupationionary force, probably sponsored by Russia, filled with the dregs of society. The huge discrepancy between the reporting and the situation on the ground can only be furthering the distrust people have in mainstream media. From there it’s a big rabbit hole to the far right.

        • Yellowface Anon says:

          Some points to nichcritic for noticing how Trumpists or right-wing populists in general consolidate their base by addressing the expectations of those who have been left out of the Narrative and the institutions that support or tolerate it.

          I think many observers are underestimating the extent COVID and all the responses to it are shifting the political balance simply by associating overdone COVID restrictions (“sanitary totalitarianism”) with any form of left-wing politics or “globalist” institutions, and assuming radical right-wing politics can provide effective solutions or restore order. The US & Latin Europe are already at the late stages of this shift and it’s starting in Canada with the convoy.

  4. Graham Blake says:

    Nick probably covers a lot of what I would say from my own Canadian perspective, and he’s doing so from the scene.

    I could add that this post is doing a fine job of steel manning the convoy protest – and fair enough. While there are certainly some elements of the convoy’s position deserving of being steel manned, the positions expressed by protest have expanded from simply being a protest about a vaccine mandate for truckers. It has become a catchall movement for every malcontent about vaccination, all public health measures, and the legitimacy of the government itself. There’s definitely some motte and bailey games going on from the side of the convoy too. There’s a quick retreat to the narrow and sensible questions about the continuing need for mandates and public health measures when defending and justifying the action, but the demands and views expressed by the core organizers and protesters have been considerably more extreme at times.

    Given that bounded trust is the theme of the week, we can say it cuts both ways here. Many of the quotes by officials, used here largely to discredit those officials, were in specific response to some of the more extreme demands and views that have been expressed. Comparing those official responses only to the most reasonable steel-manned positions expressed by the convoy over-emphasizes the absurdity of those official statements (and updates some bounded trust rules (for me) around how you choose to frame things ;) ). As Nick pointed out, one of the “Official” demands of the convoy was that the Governor General dissolve the government if the government does not accede to the demands of the organizers. So when you see Trudeau making comments about what is and what is not an acceptable way of changing the government in a democracy, this is specifically what he is referring to. He is not saying “it is not acceptable to protest against a democratic government”.

    To get a sense of the tone and tenor of the demands made by the convoy before they will “free the people” of Ottawa, it’s probably worth having a look at their demand letter, or “Memorandum of Understanding” as they put it. It reads like what you often see from Organized Pseudolegal Commercial Argument [“OPCA”] Litigants of the Sovereign Citizen/Freeman movements. It certainly isn’t worth reading for its literary value, but it does provide some insight into the mindset of the convoy organizers.

    It’s this – and some overtly racist displays that have been noted along the way – that were the “unacceptable” views that Trudeau was referring to. No argument from me if you want to highlight that his choice of words was poor to the extent that they portrayed the convoy’s aims as “unacceptable views” in general. Trudeau has a tendency to step in it when trying to address opposition like this (a la Clinton’s deplorables). There is however some dark threads running through the convoy movement that themselves do deserve mention. It’s hard for officials and for the political opposition to the convoy movement to avoid exploiting that fact to discredit the entire movement when they do mention it.

    I wish officials could do a better job of addressing the concerns of the movement seriously – as in, have serious discussion about the end of mandates and public health restrictions – while also addressing some of the darker threads in the movement separately.

    • TheZvi says:

      It’s so interesting to see the reports flow in in real time, first Nick, then the one saying no it was all flowers, now this one. Looks like I’m going to have to edit a second time…

      • Graham Blake says:

        It’s a slippery thing to try and get a handle on! Even for those of us in-country following events closely. There IS in fact a broad cross-section of society represented at the protest. It’s not just Canada’s Trumpists (for lack of a better word), though they do make up a sizable proportion of the movement. There are in fact dubious reasons for talking heads and public officials to misrepresent the convoy protest and portray them as racists and insurrectionists pursuing their own January 6. There are in fact reasons for the convoy protesters to downplay the more extreme views of some of their fellow travellers. There’s not really a coherent picture to be formed because there’s a multitude of different agendas at play, both within the movement and without. It is not clear what direction this will take.

  5. Bobbo says:

    Oh, and the proximate cause of the convoy is the federal quarantine requirements for truckers, very much within Ottawa’s purview.

    But if Nick is thinking people should protest in other cities, there have been plenty in other cities too.

    In the Canadian system a new election is called if the people lose confidence in the federal government. Nothing undemocratic about it.

    • Seb says:

      The convoy/occupation has 3 key demands.

      1 – End vaccine mandates and public health restrictions for truckers at the border (totally something the Federal government can do).

      2 – End all remaining public health restrictions across the entire country (something that ONLY the respective Provincial governments have any say over).

      3 – Dissolve the government of either of these demands are not met (100% NOT how any of this works – A No Confidence motion has to be brought and voted on in Parliament following formal rules, not by a small group of protestors).

      • Donald Fagen says:

        Do you really think any province (Alberta, say) could unilaterally end all pandemic related health restrictions without significant official and semi-official obstruction from the federal government? Ontario certainly couldn’t, and that’s where a plurality of Canadians live.

        Anyway, the symbolic value of protesting in Ottawa is much higher than that of protesting in Edmonton (lol). I think the protestors have/had the right strategy.

        That said, this protest has probably achieved all the good it could do as political theatre – not without some serious blemishes/wackjobs, though I suspect Nick Savage exaggerates them. Bobbo’s experience strikes me as truer.

        The protestors should recognize that things will probably only get uglier from here. Best to declare moral victory while they still sort of can and go home to see if they get what they want. Very possibly restrictions are ending.

        • TheZvi says:

          I got an additional report from LW that echoes Bobbo’s experience, and on reflection if it was a huge % of nazi flags we’d have a lot of photos to go by instead of several people (including Bari Weiss) saying they know of exactly one, so I’m reasonably confident that we’re mostly dealing with Bobbo’s experience, or at least we were back before the transition to the 250-person blockade instead of the thousands earlier.

          I agree that they should declare victory and go home before it gets ugly, but that’s clearly not the plan.

          I’ve edited it a few times, and it should now reflect my new understanding, which is basically sympathetic to the protest over the weekend but not to the ongoing blockade of downtown.

        • FXBDM says:

          Provinces are largely responsible for their lockdown policies. Alberta did lift most health restrictions this summer and the federal government did not obstruct, as far as I can tell. The federal government is responsible for border crossings, of course.

      • Lambert says:

        3) Isn’t that how it works? Unless legislation to the contrary (e.g. the FTPA (2011) in the UK) exists, the prime minister of a westminster-style government can dissolve parliament and call a snap election whenever they want (or rather they can ask the Queen or Govenor General to dissolve it and there would be a constitutional crisis if they refused).
        Or parliament can pass a motion of no confidence or fail to pass a supply bill. (It complicates things that the word government can be used to refer to either all 3 branches or just the executive. Trudeau could resign and parliament could choose another PM from their ranks without triggering an election. (see: Blair to Brown, May to Johnson))

        “We’ll keep on protesting until either the PM willingly resigns or a majority of MPs vote to force him to resign, and/or a snap election is triggered by the PM or a majority of MPs” sounds like a sane request. I doubt that her majesty’s government or parliament *will* give in to them in this case but it’s not like the protestors are demanding pet dinosaurs.

        • Seb says:

          “ I doubt that her majesty’s government or parliament *will* give in to them in this case but it’s not like the protestors are demanding pet dinosaurs.”

          I mean, that’s technically true, which we all know is the best kind of truth.

          While technically, yes, a majority of MPs can topple Trudeau over this (especially as he is running a minority government), the probability of that happening in real life is substantially smaller than you or I getting a pet dinosaur.

  6. Thegnskald says:

    So, without commenting on the degree to which the protest does include extreme right-wing perspectives, it does make sense for some elements of the US media to downplay their presence and role in this protest, because that contradicts the idea that right-wing extremism is a uniquely USian problem, which has been a common theme in some of the central narratives of the US as uniquely bad and unenlightened.

  7. Bobbo says:

    Zvi, rereading Nick’s post and blog post, I don’t think he actually claims to be a primary source. He says he lives in Ottawa and is familiar with the city. He’s not saying HE actually saw several hate flags.

    And the claim that Trudeau “stepped in it” by comparing all unacceptable opinions to racism to opposing mandates… I feel he did that exactly on purpose. Seems to have largely worked too. Master politician.

    • Graham Blake says:

      Trudeau was certainly attempting to discredit the entire movement by trying to paint them with all with the right wing extremist brush. The media is certainly happy to play along with that Narrative, since that was The Narrative all along. The stepping in it comment was about his failure to calculate how that comment would land with the people who don’t (or didn’t previously!) identify with the far right but who nonetheless sympathize with the convoy aims. They are now quite cheerfully referring to themselves as the #fringeminority with #unacceptableviews the same way Trump supporters started referring to themselves as the deplorables. It was a tactical misstep for Clinton, and I think that aspect of it was a tactical misstep for Trudeau. If the people who were there for apolitical reasons didn’t feel like the Trudeau government, the media, and “the elites” were out of touch with them before, they sure feel that way now.

      • Donald Fagen says:

        You know I’m not actually sure it’s smart for right wing people to ironically refer to themselves by the epithets their opponents choose. Their opponents treat it as confirmation that they’re racist etc, and neutrals get confused.

  8. jaed says:

    “more like an occupation akin to the old ‘autonomous zone’ in Seattle”

    Er. Are there checkpoints to get in and out of downtown Ottawa, manned by armed guards?
    Is there a guy calling himself the warlord in charge?
    Perhaps more to the point, have they shot anyone yet? They killed at least two people in Seattle.
    The CHAZ was not exactly the Summer of Love.

    • NoPie says:

      To me this seems more like the Orange Revolution in Ukraine.
      Of course times and reasons are different but it will probably last about a month or two much like the sit-in protests in the central square of Kiyv. Significantly, both happened during winter and in cold weather.
      For these reasons I am confident that they will be successful and mandates will be dropped. The government of course will never admit that they did it for truckers to save face.
      What I find interesting is that the Orange Revolution was to overturn the election results. They succeeded at that time and yet Yanukovich won the seat next time. Was it really true that he had lost it first time or it was just forced protesters? Ukraine is so corrupted that probably no one knows the real truth. Nevertheless, such protests can be very powerful and even if seemingly failing in medium term, they defined the course of Ukraine for a very long period.
      The same will be with Freedom Convoy. Regardless of actual immediate outcomes, it will push strongly against government health mandates in the future.

      • FXBDM says:

        The mandates will drop progressively because people are dead tired of them. The truckers are protesting because they are also tired of the mandates. It does not follow that the mandates will drop because of the truckers protesting.

        • NoPie says:

          If mandates don’t work and only cause protests, then the government will want to revoke mandates for both reasons. The government acts slowly but they still operate somewhat rationally. The only downside is that they don’t want to be seen yielding to protesters, so given chance they will make it appear that it has nothing to do with protesters.

          In the UK we didn’t have anti-mandate protests because vaccine mandates were only for healthcare professionals. Then the government decided to revoke mandates even for them because 95% of healthcare professionals were already vaccinated, and at least half of the remaining 5% must have been previously infected. Losing about 3% of workforce was deemed worse outcome than ensuring 100% compliance.

  9. Yellowface Anon says:

    How likely will Canadians respond to this by actually refuse to use the vaccine passports and quit jobs that mandate vaccines en masse, to the point of voluntary self-confinement and/or intentionally setting up black markets? Digging in for an anti-mandate protest doesn’t have such a tremendous or wide-ranging impact as these tactics. If a large segment of society does this, they can shrink and informalize the economy, and hoping that the government will lose support, in some libertarian way.

    • Yellowface Anon says:

      I ask this because I live in a place (HK) where this appears to be the prevailing sentiment among much of my family’s social circle. My mother is strictly antivaxx and she is prepared to wait out the chaos. Some restaurants already went to takeaway only when dine-in was still open with contract tracing, while boasting an anti-contract tracing app poster. Young posters on local forums are planning ways to skirt around contract tracing or vaccine passports. 4.8 million double-vaxxed but only 1 million boosted. I can’t blame them for the distrust when the memories of 2019 is still fresh, they are constantly reminded of Commies pulling the strings somehow (they only had a role in setting the Zero COVID approach from my view), and regularly browse Epoch Times and Abhigya Anand.

      The libertarian reasoning behind this strategy, shared by much of the antivaxx Red Tribe, is basically “do business under [moderate/onerous] state regulations = recognition of the state, therefore we need to do as much business outside the state’s purview as possible, with better efficiency if onerous regulations are gone”. It doesn’t matter if this correspond to anything in the physical reality (it does on some cases of public schooling as Zvi documented), if enough people believe this, mass actions will change accordingly and the world will end up far more libertarian or rightoid. Maybe some underlying economic morbidities, COVID/antivaxx and all the political tensions will combine and create a lost decade in the developed world.

      • Yellowface Anon says:

        I think the main goals of this are:
        – create enough disruptions in order to pressure health and political authorities
        – maintain alternative domestic lifestyles to route around the intended damage in the short or medium term
        – build a radicalized political base for other political ends

        Seems like they are succeeding in these goals and often implicitly encouraged by some political authorities in order to facilitate their plans for Permanent Midnight, by the way of Reverse Psychology. Permanent Midnight calls for permanent economic and social dislocation!

    • Graham Blake says:

      In Canada, not in numbers significant enough to matter. Close to 90% of the 5+ population has received at least one dose of vaccination. 88.36% as of Friday, to be exact. Broadly speaking, Canada has a pro-social and publicly cooperative population. There is a fairly high level of trust in the medical professions and even in public servants (much less so politicians). While there’s certainly lots of quibbling about how effective specific public health decisions and orders have been in different regions, there’s still a baseline level of trust that the public health measures have mostly been proportional and in good faith. There remains a strong level of trust that they will only remain in place for as long they are deemed, in good faith, to be effective and necessary. Again, lots of quibbling about where exactly lines should be drawn – in both directions – but there remains strong level of trust that the measures in place are necessary and calibrated to be proportional. We focus extensively on hospital capacity and metrics like delayed surgeries (usually reported daily at the regional level) to measure the impact of the pandemic on the health care system and gauge the proportionality of public health measures.

      Put another way, a large proportion of the vocal opposition to public health measures and mandates comes from those who feel most hard done by as a result of them. In other words, the most resolutely unvaccinated 10% of the population. It’s certainly not exclusively that 10%, there is of course real economic pain as a result of public health measures, and people who are genuinely concerned about that – as we all should be. However, antivax sentiments (and their associated conspiracy theories) are such a significant aspect of this current protest that they form the gravity well that these vocal protests are currently orbiting around. The overwhelming majority of Canadians have little sympathy for that mindset nor do they wish to fall (or be seen falling) into orbit around it.

      All of that is to say that I do not see a large appetite to either vocally protest or quietly subvert the public health measures. Some will, of course, but I don’t really see either being a large enough stick to drive public policy in a particular direction.

      • greg kai says:

        It’s very similar in my Country (Belgium), but Booster and Omicron have changed things. Many people are not really afraid of COVID, many have themselves experienced it (Omicron surge) or have their close ones experienced it. And in the end, people are likely better at risk/benefit balance than they are credited for (I suspect the skew is often because the benefits of risky behavior like smoking (It feel good) are completely miss appreciated by health authorities). 2 dose vaccination worked really well here, almost as good as in Canada. Booster above 65y is also quite popular, most old folks got it as fast as they could. Below 50? Not so much…

        • Yellowface Anon says:

          Since Belgian vaccine passport for 2-dose vaccination expires after 270 days (to be shortened to 150), does this mean enough people are actively changing their routines to avoid places where vaccine passports are mandated? Is that becoming a movement for passive resistance? This seems like the case in Hong Kong too.

          Heard that the anti-mandate protests are turning into riots against the WEF and similar “globalist” forces.

        • Yellowface Anon says:

          To be clear I’m asking about the willingness of the double-vaccinated to let their vaccine passports expire and not getting boosters, then live like you’re unvaccinated administratively, and to change their routines to avoid all the places where vaccine passports are mandated, in other to passively resist. The point is basically a softcore version of the antivaxx sentiment, but changed into anti-over-vaxx.

        • greg kai says:

          Not yet, because it will be effective March 1st (Or will it? things are rapidly evolving now: for example mandatory vaccination for health worked has been postponed from April 1st to July or something) My pass is still valid, and I did not take the booster (I feel it’s urgent to wait at this point :-) )

          The thing hot in Belgium just now is now booster for 12-17y olds, which is not allowed at the country level (because not (yet?) endorsed by EU) but will be (already is I think) at the regional level in Flanders (northern dutch speaking part of the country, roughly 55% of the people), because it is needed to enter Austria and Austria is a popular ski destination for school holidays end of February. So Flanders PM allowed to calm middle class families with teenage child…
          That’s the main reason young(ish) people get boosted: to lessen the travel bans and some administrative burdens…Which is far from an endorsement if you ask me, and not the same as most of the motivation for the first 2 shots.

        • greg kai says:

          To answer your narrow question: it remains to be seen, March 1st will show, and while it seems close enough to make people think, 3 weeks is in fact a long time given how fast the pressure to relax is growing.
          Same with Macron next door: People reluctant to get boosted and not urgently needing pass can wait a few weeks, because the chance of it making a difference is high.

        • greg kai says:

          An example about the booster popularity: in Wallonia (French-speaking part of Belgium, a little bit more than 4 million people), 150000 Moderna dose were thrown away last month: they over-estimated the number of people coming for their booster once invited (probably because they extrapolated the % for the 65+y that were invited before, but as I said, after Omicron and 2y of Covid first had experience vs the news, there is very little fear left in 50-y, while 50=65 are on the fence), and since it can not be refrozen nor sent to neighbors countries on such a short notice, it was destroyed.
          In the same news were low cost patentless vaccines. IMHO tit is linked: we just transitioned from less vaccines than demand to more vaccines than demand. I suspect almost all J&J and AZ vaccines are now destroyed (directly or after being hypocritically flagged as aid for developing countries), with the ARN ones not faring much better in 1 month or less.

          Covid end game is a matter of weeks, things will unroll fast in February

        • Yellowface Anon says:

          If you expect restrictions to lift in a matter of weeks it makes decent sense to wait it out vis-a-vis boosting risks. They know how lockdowns felt like and won’t mind bringing it onto themselves for a short while. Other than those who think double-vaxx is good enough they’re probably those on the fence who won’t vaccinate on their own.

          My mental image is making your grudge against restrictions the defining feature of your lifestyle and then LARPing Plain People like the Amish/Haredi Jews, or just starting your own community free of activities or influences you now shun, which will always be a minority and exist for everything some fringe groups see as decadent.

        • greg kai says:

          That’s indeed what I expect. Maybe more: once the measures start to be revoked, it cascade fast and most of them go away (certainly the per-sector ones, because there is the very natural “why our sector and not this very similar one”?). Things are changing so rapidly I’m not sure there will be a few weeks of invalid CST, I expect it to be pushed back (or abandoned) before March 1st, like what already happened regarding mandatoty vaccination for health workers.
          Then it become interesting: either token measures are kept and government go away with “let’s be careful, another variant is on the corner, there is the flu, …, ebola, the andromeda strain, etc”…and like, terrorism, it’s one step further into Chinese system.
          Or they do not get away with it because some party or organisation exploit the window ( questioning the proportionality of the measures, and asking compensation for undue losses), so heads will start to roll and power change…
          I hope for 2 (not because I hope the people gaining power will be better, but because showing how far is too far is a lesson that is long overdue for the west since 1989 , but I fear it will be 1: too many people, especially in the media, may be unsafe if 2 happen…But overplay the measures and keep really annoying ones, and maybe 2 will happen. Canada may be an example of this, depending on what happen to Trudeau after the truck crisis…

        • Yellowface Anon says:

          I think there’s the example of England & Scandinavia where most remaining measures are (nearly) unintrusive but hanging like Damocles’ Sword, which stand in contrast with places (e.g. France) where restrictions metastasize into a China-like system of surveillance to pre-empt another Yellow Vests, and then China’s social credit system. This is the worst case scenario.

          If the people in power are removed, we might see a wholescale shift into rightwing populism a la DeSantis or Zemmour that exploits massive resentment built up over COVID restrictions and basically upending relatively democratic politics. Maybe the EU or US will break up over widening ideological rifts. But they are Getting The Leaders They Deserve because both the Left & Right are losing it.

  10. Matty Wacksen says:

    > “Having a group of people who disagree with the outcome of an election, who want to go a different way and bring in an alternative government, is a nonstarter in a responsible democracy,” Trudeau said.
    >This sounded like it was calling the protesters rebels potentially guilty of treason, which seemed like quite a bit much until I heard they were demanding the separation of the head from the head of state.

    You’re being too kind to the “Trudeau thinks the protesters want to kill him” idea. Does Trudeau ever bring this up? Trudeau is literally talking about “people who disagree with the outcome of an election, who want to go a different way and bring in an alternative government”. If he were talking about people wanting him dead, woudn’t he say so instead of “disagree with the outcome of an election” or “want to [..] bring in an alternative government”?

  11. Basil Marte says:

    Fussell. Fussell, I say. Fuckyou-power job, heavy machinery, MAKING A LOT OF NOISE, disagreeable/rude/boorish manners? All conspicuously (upper-) working-class traits and opposed to middle-class norms. Doesn’t help with defusing the tension.

    > demanding the separation of the head from the head of state
    The head of state of Canada is Elizabeth II.

    It’s improbable as a monocausal explanation, but one longer-term policy consequence could happen in urban land use and transportation. Why *do* cities in exactly the US & Canada dedicate so much space to roads and parking, roughly twice as much as cities anywhere else in the world? (Even restricted to the rest of the developed world.) New urban highways have already been unfashionable lately. A renaissance of, say, in freight transportation is unlikely to say the least (especially that part where “The city was largely unaware of the nature of the tunneling, and the first 16 miles (26 km) of tunnel were excavated somewhat covertly”), but efforts to move passenger transportation (the definition including shopping) from cars to anything-except-cars is relatively fashionable. Congestion charge, zoning reform to permit by right small stores in previously residential-only areas, etc.

  12. Seb says:

    Zvi, reading through this comment section, what strikes me is the real or intentional confusion shared by seemingly everyone as to who actually are the people doing the protesting and occupying here. I think the most accurate depiction is that the crowd is similar to that of the Occupy Wall Street folks but in reverse.

    Occupy started as a single organized group with a single message and very quickly attracted all manner of leftists with extreme and contradictory positions and demands. The same seems to have happened with this protest only with all manner of folks on the right (including people in MAGA hats which I found baffling).

    What seems to have not helped is that a few of the convoy’s actual leaders are known white nationalists. This has made it very easy to discredit the group as a whole, and seems to me like something that could have easily been avoided if anyone had wanted to.

    Anecdotally, here in Toronto I have a number of friends and relatives who are supporters of the movement, and they fall into three distinct categories: a) people on the far right who support anything the right wing media sphere tells them to, b) people on the far left who you might describe as “crystal healing hippies” who believe pharmaceutical companies are the most evil people on earth, and c) people from all sectors of the population who have fallen hard for the “Covid vaccines don’t work and they’re dangerous and Covid isn’t dangerous anyways” lie. So, a wide cross section of the population, but also a tiny minority of the people I know.

    Now, I’m not a trucker and I’m not in Ottawa with the protests and I’m not from the prairies where most of the protesters seem to hail from, so take my observations with a big bag of salt, but I have yet to come across one person in my daily life with an honest and informed take on this convoy/protest. Vaccines work and mandating them for truckers makes no sense and both of these things are true at the same time, but I have yet to hear one person come to that incredibly reasonable conclusion.

    • NoPie says:

      You are missing the 4th group – people who support vaccines but are against vaccine mandates because they are unnecessary and goes against our freedoms. In fact, at least one of the leaders belong to this group.

      • Seb says:

        “ people who support vaccines but are against vaccine mandates because they are unnecessary“

        I was specifically talking about people I know in real life, and I know precisely zero people who would fit solely into that category. That’s why I made pains to specify that my experience may not be everyone’s experience.

        • Graham Blake says:

          My experience is the same as Seb’s. As I mentioned elsewhere, the Venn diagram of those in my extended social network that openly support the convoy and those in my extended social network that at least lean anti-vax (e.g. deny that vaccinations are making a enough of a difference in hospitalization numbers to matter from a public policy perspective) is almost (if not precisely) a perfect circle. I am not saying the 4th group doesn’t exist, only that I am seeing no sign of this group having the numbers to be a significant driver of the protests.

          To be sure, many people who fully recognize the value of vaccination also want this whole thing to be over. Count me among that number. Generally though, most who fully embrace the importance of vaccination in getting through this also trust that public health officials in Canada are primarily motivated by protecting hospital capacity at this stage. Most people recognize that the need to impose mandates and restrictions is largely as a direct result of the unvaccinated still consuming hospital capacity in too high of numbers. There’s not a lot of sympathy – at least in my extended social circle – for a movement largely driven by antivaxxers whining about restrictions that are broadly perceived to be necessary due to antivaxxers.

          There are certainly fair questions to be asked about how necessary and effective mandates/restrictions are at this stage, but many of these questions are with the hindsight knowledge of how Omicron has behaved and impacted the health care system. The latest round of restrictions that were imposed in mid-December, when Omicron was in ascent, did not have the benefit of that hindsight. All signs I see point to many restrictions being lifted very soon in most regions of Canada irrespective of the convoy’s demands. I don’t see the unvaccinated getting a tonne of sympathy or public support for passports being done away with altogether yet though. At least not until surgeries and other treatments are no longer being cancelled in order to provide care for the unvaccinated. They will be phased out in the prairies first, but it probably won’t be too long in most other regions either really. Assuming this all follows the trajectory we expect in coming months – that the health care system is no longer facing an existential threat from COVID.

        • Yellowface Anon says:

          I’d hazard an uneducated guess that #4 might end up becoming largest group that’s at least as significant as #3 if not greater, since a lot of restrictions like mandates or vaccine passports are overdone, breaking stuff left and right, or past their shelf lives, and they’ll channel their frustration thru this. A subset of #3 would be people who bring their existing grudge against particular leaders (think Macron or our Carrie Lam) over to the vaxx issue and decided that they can leverage an antivaxx identity for a relatively broad-based resistance against the leaders.

          Graham: “Most people recognize that the need to impose mandates and restrictions is largely as a direct result of the unvaccinated still consuming hospital capacity in too high of numbers. There’s not a lot of sympathy – at least in my extended social circle – for a movement largely driven by antivaxxers whining about restrictions that are broadly perceived to be necessary due to antivaxxers.”
          This reads to me like prosecution against people of a particular personal health choice (that is largely driven by their ideologies), but it makes sense from a collectivist public health perspective.

        • NoPie says:

          I see your point. Somehow in my circle (in the UK) it is not polite to even ask about vaccination status. In general groups are the same as in all other countries. In other countries most vaccinated people don’t object to vaccine mandates because they are under impression that they are effective or are afraid that by being anti-mandates they will be perceived as anti-vax. Some still believe in herd immunity and blame unvaccinated that it still not achieved. Nevertheless, several EU countries have revoked them which just shows that they are pointless for anything except for causing protests.

        • hapablap says:

          If ‘mandates’ meant that vaccines were mandatory, then you may have a point about vaccine mandates reducing hospitalization. But they aren’t, they simply encourage vaccination through punishment. Once they stop encouraging people, that is, when they have reached the last person ‘on the fence,’ they can’t effect the load on the hospitals. And then of course there is little point after cases have peaked, which happened in Canada three weeks ago.

          To go further, once you’re down to the last stubborn unvaxxed, you’d probably want to reduce restrictions on the unvaccinated so that COVID spreads as fast as possible through that population, and your hospitals are overloaded for a shorter period, thereby having less effect on the rest of us.

        • Graham Blake says:

          @Yellowface Anon

          See my response to you above for more details as to why #4 is just not likely to be a major factor in Canada specifically, at least in my personal opinion.

          Canada is indeed a public health collectivist sort of country. A lot of people are really unhappy about public health resources needing to be reallocated away from routine health care in order to have capacity to deal with COVID surges largely attributable to the unvaccinated. I don’t really know that this is a matter of prosecution as much as it’s a matter of mathematics. We (a fair majority) generally perceive public health measures – the ones that the unvaccinated (especially) are most upset about – as necessary primarily due to the rate at which the voluntarily unvaccinated continue to require advanced care in hospital. This is main driver of public health measures here, and the mathematics of it are rather blindingly obvious to most of us.

          I think it’s important to highlight that the public health measures in Canada were significantly reduced throughout much of the Delta wave. Passports were widely used for non-essential activities, but events like hockey games and concerts were happening at full capacity through the pre-Omicron Delta wave in the fall. This was because hospitalizations remained manageable. There was an uptick in cynicism about everything when the additional measures went into place after Omicron arrived, to be sure, but I think there’s still generally a belief or trust that once the health care capacity exists to fully provide normal services again, we will wind back all the Omicron-related measures (and then some, quite likely).

        • NoPie says:

          If that’s mathematics, then they are very bad at it :) If Canadian health authorities were following science they would not have revoked vaccine mandates because now they serve no purpose.
          Especially about blaming unvaccinated is folly because math shows that the biggest problem is elderly, not unvaccinated young people.
          Israel, the poster country who seeming did everything correctly and are providing 4th vaccination, have experienced the surge of deaths recently. It turns out that the vaccination coverage of their elderly (60+ year old) is less than 90%. In comparison, in the UK it is about 97%. There is no point for vaccine mandates that target younger people and not caring about large group of unvaccinated elderly.

        • NoPie says:

          would not > would

        • Yellowface Anon says:

          Graham Blake, I’m not sure that your impression of popular trust in the vaccine passports will hold in the face of the convoy (or anti-restriction protests in general). People adapt their routines and preferences quick enough, and if they expect the cost of promptly lifting all restrictions to be a relatively brief boycott of non-essential activities, some ideological signalling will be a strong enough incentive for them to follow thru. This is the trade-off anti-vaccine passport protestors are hoping for much of the society to follow.

          NoPie, it seems that the spike in Israel is data error on the part of Our World In Data:

        • NoPie says:

          Nope, it is real. That is, there is an error but it is still unusual spike. My first source was this:
          Math does not lie.

        • Graham Blake says:


          A 60 year old is elderly?

          Okay, let’s use your rule then.

          Over the past 120 days in Alberta, Canada there have been 1059 ICU admissions of people with COVID. 427 of those ICU admissions were in unvaccinated people between the ages of 12 and 59, accounting for over 40% of all ICU admissions with COVID during that time. Age stratified, had those unvaccinated people between the ages of 12 and 59 ended up in ICU at the same rate as those with even just two-dose vaccination, only ~18 of those 427 would have ended up in ICU. (The difference is even more stark in comparison to three-dose ICU admission rates, but two-dose illustrates the point sufficiently.) The unvaccinated “non-elderly” aged between 12 and 59 caused 409 unnecessary ICU admissions, over 38% of the total number of ICU admissions. The unvaccinated in that age group alone has accounted for more than 3 unnecessary ICU admissions per day. In a province that currently only has 241 ICU beds, and has needed to delay surgeries and other hospital treatments in order to accommodate COVID patients during the Omicron surge.

          That’s what the math shows. There is every reason to continue to see the voluntarily unvaccinated – even the younger – as the most significant consumers of ICU capacity, and responsible for the public health measures that are intended to protect health system capacity.


          See Table 8. COVID-19 ICU admission, count and rate (per 100,000 population), in the past 120 days in Alberta by vaccine status.

        • Graham Blake says:

          I mixed up a couple tabs in my spreadsheet and got numbers from a couple different days mixed up. If you’re checking my math in the reference I provided, the following numbers are for the most recent 120 day period:

          Past 120 days
          ICU admissions: 1059
          Unvax 12-59: 419 in ICU (39.56%)
          If 12-59 unvax were in ICU at (age-adjusted) two dose rate: 20 ICU admissions
          Avoidable ICU admissions: 399 (37.68%)

        • NoPie says:

          This data clearly shows that elderly (60+ y.o.) and people with other conditions are still majority in ICU. I don’t know what are vaccinated rates in Canada for elderly but by these numbers it seems that they are much better than for the rest and that is not due to vaccine mandates. Also the period of past 120 days is somewhat too long become it seems that omicron peaked around 4 January.
          It is clear from this data that by enforcing even stronger vaccine mandates you can theoretically achieve only a very marginal improvement of ICU data. Probably none, because the deaths have peaked somewhere around 29 January (due to lag between cases and deaths). We can even assume that most people who were not vaccinated by now must have got omicron by now.
          The delay of surgeries is another issue that is mostly likely caused by strong isolation rules for exposed staff even though it no longer makes much sense with omicron.
          It is time for Canadian healthcare authorities to accept new protocols. I know that it is very hard because covid used to be such feared disease this whole time but the data clearly shows that it is over now.

        • hapablap says:


          “There is every reason to continue to see the voluntarily unvaccinated – even the younger – as the most significant consumers of ICU capacity, and responsible for the public health measures that are intended to protect health system capacity.”

          This relies on the assumption that the public health measures are actually effective at protecting health system capacity. And even if they were at one point, are they still doing so three weeks after cases have peaked and one week after hospitalizations have peaked.

        • Graham Blake says:

          I think there is some confusion about the central point I am making. I am not litigating the ongoing effectiveness of mandates, passports, or NPIs, nor justifying their ongoing necessity. I am attempting to explain why this convoy protest has little emotional traction with the majority in Canada. The general vibe among most of the vaccinated majority is if the antivaxxers hadn’t been jamming up our hospitals because they refused to get vaccinated there wouldn’t be any need for the increase in public health restrictions the past 6 weeks. People are generally more stressed out about surgeries being cancelled than public health restrictions. We don’t blame the government for this situation, we blame antivaxxers. Whether there’s further value in passports, mandates, and pubic health restrictions going forward is another debate. I get that people want to project that debate on to this protest, but for most people in Canada this protest is associated with antivaxxers and the crackpots in their orbit. It is just not what most people are going to hitch their wagon to, even if they do think it’s time to move beyond mandates, passports, and NPIs.

        • NoPie says:

          This seems exactly the reason why the protesters are protesting – to show that the common view that antivax are to be blamed for cancelled surgeries is wrong and and to start a long due debate about these issues.

        • greg kai says:

          @Graham blake:

          Hospital being barely able to cope is not an exceptional thing. Basically, it happen every few winter, when flu and other seasonal virus hit a little bit harder than usual.
          Rationalizing hospitals capacities + seasonal infections with variable and unpredictable peaks garantee that. And it will naturally happen more frequently as population is aging almost everywhere, so on average peaks should grow because seasonality is higher among elderly…

          I guess it means you are for permanent measures then…

          Which is indeed openly recognized by an increasing number of people now that we are in the covid end game. At least it’s more honest, I have to give that, but given I have completely opposite view (I prefer to adjust hospital capacity and oppose unrealistic expectations along “any avoidable death is one death too much” than to live with the level of gouvernemental intervention in personal lives we had those 2 last years), I hope it does not pass.
          That’s the main merit of the convoy, regardless of it’s flaws: I think it reduce the odds that “permanent measure” group will be able to win through goal shifting, media control, and governmental regulation creep. If it’s really a majority, it will win regardless, but I applaud anything making this evolution harder.

        • Tom W says:

          > We don’t blame the government for this situation, we blame antivaxxers

          Well, that is exactly the official line. It’s been clear over the last year or so that the cycle goes something like:

          – >0 people have still not taken vaccines.

          – Covid continues to infect people, killing some, many unvaccinated.

          – Government imposes Rules, restricts people’s freedoms, some of which has some plausible intended effect at virus mitigation, but much more of which is either entirely symbolic (mandating cloth masks, etc) or openly petty and punitive (making unvaccinated cross-border truckers quarantine for two weeks AFTER a negative test, etc)

          – When anyone questions this, government casts blame on the remaining (always >0!) unvaccinated, screams “look what they made us do!”

          – Rinse, repeat.

          It is clear that there are still a significant number of Canadians who are buying into this cycle (including much of the government/media class, even outside the ones who have personal or career incentives to perpetrate it). It is also clear that there are a significant number of Canadians who have caught on, and any attempt to double down on the rhetoric will only annoy them further. There are likely many others who are somewhere in between the two extremes. How have the last couple weeks affected the relative distribution of people in these positions? That remains to be seen, but it is clear that the Rulemongers are in a spot of difficulty. And as far as I’m concerned, it’s entirely self-inflicted and they could not deserve it more.

        • Yellowface Anon says:

          @greg kai @Tom W
          It depends whether pandemic logic or endemic logic is being applied, and how much of pandemic logic creep into endemic logic. National leaderships who maintain pandemic logic in the face of Omicron are either wrongly assessing the threat level, exploiting pandemic logic for political ends, or can’t think for themselves.

  13. Brett Bellmore says:

    In my experience, there is no such thing as a movement of significant size that doesn’t have at least a few bad apples in it. So, if you’re going to consistently claim that the presence of bad apples proves the whole barrel rotten, you’re not going to believe ANY movement is on the up and up.

    I think you have to look at objective indicators like injuries, property damage, if you want a feel for this. Not just deciding that nasty people at homeopathic levels prove a movement evil.

    The last few years BLM protest/riots in the US involved dozens of deaths, billions of dollars of property damage, and you have no trouble at all finding video of arson attempts against occupied buildings. (Remember the famous “mostly peaceful chyron under video of buildings on fire.) This says to me that the bad apples were a significant fraction of the barrel.

    What kind of death rate/property damage total did the trucker convoy cause? If it was significant, it shouldn’t be hard to prove.

    • Seb says:

      This is Canada, so you have to recalibrate. Currently the protest in Ottawa has racked up 450 tickets, 97 criminal investigations, and 11 hate crime investigations. This, for those of you not from Canada, is a lot.

      The property damage won’t be assessed for a while, and I’m not sure how they’re going to put a dollar value on the protestors using people’s yards as washrooms.

      As for the cost to local businesses, that’s going to be significant. Like, millions of dollars a day.

      This isn’t “burning police stations to the ground” level of damage, but it’s probably the worst we’ve had here in decades.

      • Brett Bellmore says:

        Yeah, protests are inconvenient for bystanders, and doubly so if the powers that be didn’t want to permit the protest in the first place. And, of course an illegal protest is going to rack up tickets, criminal *investigations*, and hate crime *investigations*. That’s the sort of thing any illegal truck convoy opposed by authorities is going to face, even if run by virtual saints. (Which I don’t say they are.)

        Aside from being proof they’re willing to violate traffic laws and not go away when told told to, I’m not seeing much here.

    • Graham Blake says:

      Agree with Seb’s comments here.

      There’s been probably too much emphasis on bad apples and the relative importance of said apples. I think bad apples are highlighted as a sort of shorthand to convey the lack of sympathy people are feeling toward the convoy protests. It is time consuming to articulate why many of us feel like these people are largely protesting a bed they made themselves. It’s easier and more convenient to say, “Christ, would you look at some of these assholes?” Not saying that’s an altogether fair or sufficient way to address the protest, but it’s heuristically efficient, and I believe that’s what’s happening.

      So what you have is an extremely high level of disruption in the lives of ordinary people in Ottawa caused by a relatively small percentage of the population that does not enjoy a lot of sympathy from the majority. I believe there’s a reasonable amount of sympathy for the view that public health measures and mandates should not last a second longer than they remain necessary and proportional, given their high cost, but there’s a lot more ideologically caught up in this protest than that narrow statement of aims. Antivaxxers make up a significant part of the core constituency of this protest, and antivaxxers are widely perceived to be responsible for the public health measures antivaxxers are the most upset about. There’s not a lot of sympathy for them, and not many people – even those vaccine enthusiasts who feel like it’s objectively time to start unwinding public health measures – are going to hitch their wagon to an antivaxxer-driven movement. The population-wide sympathy level is too low for there to be broad population-wide indulgence of this kind of disruption.

  14. Yellowface Anon says:

    Extremely important, whether you support or reject the ideology or proposals of the convoy.

    • Yellowface Anon says:

    • Brett Bellmore says:

      I’ve attended a fair number of political protests in my time, (None of which were remotely violent, and which generally left the protest site cleaner than when we arrived.) and when a protest doesn’t turn violent, it’s not “a lucky break”. It’s because the people protesting were civilized and non-violent.

      What people do when you get a bunch of them together tells you something about them. Don’t throw that information way by ascribing the results of agency to luck.

  15. Deirdre Mundy says:

    Something missing from this discussion that I heard from Canadian friends and just confirmed via Google:

    A significant proportion of the protestors are Sikh or otherwise South Asian:

    I suspect that one reason the US media is reporting on it in the way they are is that Canadian political divisions don’t map neatly onto US categories, and it’s too hard to make into a narrative that American minds can grasp….

    • nichcritic says:

      That article seems to be guilty of the sin of making true statements side by side to imply that they’re connected. I haven’t verified the claims, but assuming it’s true that the majority of truckers are Sikhs, it still doesn’t follow that they’re the majority of the protestors. They definitely exist (to the chagrin of people trying to paint this as a white supremacist’s movement…); those pictures aren’t fake. But from my first hand experience they’re nowhere near a majority. I would be wary of promoting that article, it seems to have an agenda tangentially related to either side of the protest.

  16. Ninety-Three says:

    So the truckers had a Gofundme that raised about $10 million for the protest, then Gofundme shut it down and announced that the $9 million not yet distributed would be instead given to “credible and established charities verified by Gofundme” unless donors individually requested a refund. After predictable outrage this was updated to clarify that it would be charities of the convoy’s choice, then the decision was scrapped and they decided to automatically refund the donations.

    The most interesting part of the story is that the Ottawa police just claimed responsibility for this ( ). It’s a conference where they’re trying to assert that they’re Doing All They Can, so they’re plausibly exaggerating their influence on the situation, but it seems very bad that we are in a place where the government is bragging about this kind of suppression.

  17. keaswaran says:

    Just on one of the quotes you have – “responsible government” is a term of art ( and yes, people asking for different people to be in power after an election was held are asking for a non-starter for responsible government. (Whether the people *themselves* are a non-starter seems to be a category mistake, and I think Trudeau is just saying that they are asking for a non-starter. Presumably even more so than the Jan. 6 people who were asking for Trump to be declared the winner because they claimed the results were incorrectly counted – these people sound like they’re just demanding a change of government without an allegation that the count was incorrect.)

    • Bobbo says:

      In the Canadian democracy, a prime minister that does not have the support of parliament loses his position and an election is called (generally – there have been a few exceptions). Our present Prime Minister controls less than 50% of seats, so if all the other parties decide to no longer support his agenda, his government will fall and a new election will be called. I won’t look up how often it happens, but it has happened many times in the past fifty years.

      I’d be happy with Trudeau just overturning the (federal) mandates though, like Denmark Ireland the UK and Switzerland have done.

      Failing that, Trudeau could resign.

      Failing that, I’d be happy for other politicians to see that there are votes to be won in freeing the people of Canada from restrictive mandates, which I think most of the medical establishment here has already realized are doing no good.

      Matt Yglesias has a good substack post on the reasons the USA should start a return to normalcy, and I see no reason it wouldn’t apply even more to Canada, which is approaching 90% vaccinated.

      • keaswaran says:

        It’s true that it would be legal for the other parties to cause no confidence and trigger new elections. But “responsible government” means that parties should do this if and only if their supporters want them to. If there’s really support among NDP voters for taking down the government to end the border vaccination checks, that would make sense, but I haven’t seen any evidence that even a single NDP voter wants them to do that.

        In any case, I do think there should be a return to normalcy soon, but normalcy involves showing documents at the border. I don’t see any reason to end vaccine checks at the border, though mask mandates and vaccine checks at restaurants probably make sense to end once cases are down from the spike (and bring back if there is another spike).

        • NoPie says:

          At the present situation there is no scientific reason to ask for vaccination status at the border. It might be what the parties and voters want but scientifically it is pointless.

        • Basil Marte says:

          > normalcy involves showing documents at the border
          Come to Europe, we have the Schengen area.

  18. Catweazle says:

    > They also are not happy about no longer having an exemption to quarantines and tests for crossing the border if they’re not vaccinated, but that seems like it shouldn’t matter much in practice given the United States won’t let them in unvaccinated at all.

    It really does matter ! Unvaccinated Canadians are not allowed to leave Canada. Not by air, not to any other country. The database used by airlines to verify exit/entry regulations, has classified this as “Exit Permission”, a category usually reserved for totalitarian states that make their citizens get exit visas to leave the country. Check it out on

    Interestingly, section 6(1) of the Canadian Charter (part of the constitution) states
    > Every citizen of Canada has the right to enter, remain in and leave Canada.

  19. Bobbo says:

    Another update from a protestor here… atmosphere remains cheerful and jubilant, a lot of Canadian flags and people bringing flowers and donuts. Free food for anyone interested as well. More singing of Oh Canada, more not seeing anyone attacked or insulted (except insults directed Trudeau himself, which are everywhere, but I consider that to be fair game).

    I still haven’t seen a single swastika or confederate flag amongst tens of thousands of people, but another protestor I asked said he did see a swastika, and claimed it was someone opposing the present government by calling Trudeau a fascist.

    Although I don’t agree that this is the case, I guess it continues the long Canadian tradition of calling anyone you disagree with a Nazi.

    For those who doubt me, please watch one of the many livestreaming youtube vids of the event, and report back with swastika or confederate flag spottings. As CBC continues to make claims that they’re out there, but not to show any new pictures or videos or interviews with people holding them, I’m going to assume they must be few and far between.

    • Bobbo says:

      I see how this message could be interpreted differently. “I don’t agree that this is the case” I mean to say I don’t agree Trudeau is a fascist, and I’m sure were he to democratically lose, he would not stay leader, he has never made an antisemitic comment that I’ve ever heard, he is not using violence against his opponents, etc.

    • nichcritic says:

      ALL of the swastikas I saw were calling Trudeau or the government fascists, I should be clear.

      They’ve clamped down on the swastikas a lot compared to day 1. On day 1 I saw dozens. I think that they understand that it makes it easy for the media to demonize them.

  20. danohu says:

    I would like a moment of appreciation for ‘waiving swastikas’ as a typo that beautifully sums up the ambiguity here.

  21. Pingback: Covid 2/10/22: Happy Birthday | Don't Worry About the Vase

  22. Eigengrau says:

    It’s a pretty big assumption that every Nazi is dumb enough to publicly fly a swastika and that few swastikas must mean few Nazis. On the contrary — actual white nationalist convoy organizer Pat King has been posting live streams where he talks of peace and love and freedom and leads a drum circle with an indigenous group. These people know how to do PR. I view this not so much as an understandable protest for easing pandemic restrictions as it is an extremely successful recruitment event for far right groups. In that regard, it has been smart of the local authorities to not brutalize them, as that would feed into their persecution angle.

    Also. Man. The mandate is not about punishing anyone and they absolutely still make physical sense. Quit framing it in those terms. The hospital ICUs are still very much overwhelmed with excess covid patients, about half of which are unvaccinated. As long as non-emergency diagnostics and surgeries are postponed (which they still are here in Canada), efforts to coerce vaccination are welcome. The physical specifics of the vaccine requirement to cross the border are irrelevant; it’s being done because that’s something the federal government can legally control. Such a mandate effectively makes employment impossible for anyone who has to cross the border, which means getting vaccinated is a no-brainer and urgent if you enjoy having employment. In other words, it’s a measure to increase the rate of vaccination to ease pressure on the hospitals so that we can resume non-emergency procedures, as well as life in general. The only thing punitive about it is the fact they waited so long to do it, punishing the general public with other restrictions for months instead of twisting the screws where it’s most needed.

    Since mandates across other professions have been extremely successful, with >98% uptake despite much gnashing of teeth (including traditionally, let’s say, *rugged* professions like police officers) a similar mandate on truckers is unlikely to experience much disruption either. Lo and behold, we’re almost 4 weeks past the mandate and our store shelves remain fully stocked without noticeable price increases.

    • Bobbo says:

      Canada has already said, “if you get COVID, quarantine for five days.” We know COVID is contagious past five days, but life has to go on.

      Yet you come into Canada as an unvaccinated trucker, and you need to quarantine for 10 days, despite not testing positive? Explain that one to me. Are we trying to keep COVID out of the country now?

      A lot of people say, “my body my choice.” Some people mean it.

    • NoPie says:

      At the present mandates do not help to improve the situation in ICUs. They only make things worse. Stop defending failed policy.

  23. eremolalos says:

    Ryan Broderick, on his blog Garbage Day, has a fascinating analysis of the role of Facebook astroturfing in generating the Canadian convoy phenomenon. It’s here:

  24. AnonCo says:

    Zvi, this is not about the convoy / Ottawa situation or Canadian truckers in particular.

    I know you like to keep a very accurate map of reality and I think you should update your understanding of what it means to be a trucker in 2022.

    Your intro about truckers and trucker lifestyle re: Freedom, F-you rights, etc is outdated. That is what trucking used to be.

    They are the same people but the job is not the same at all.

    Source: Listen to Lex Friedman episode #237 with Steve Viscelli.

  25. Pingback: Convoy Continued | Don't Worry About the Vase

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