Michael Mantha MPP, Algoma–Manitoulin

Government of Ontario

News from the Park - February 11, 2022 - “With great power, great responsibility must also come.”

Published on February 11, 2022

Simply put, protesters are tramping on the very cause they claim to be protecting.

Isn’t it amazing how looking at something from different angles and distances can entirely change our understanding or relationship to something or a situation? When I was younger, I remember how cool it was when I was first exposed to those optical illusions such as the Rubin Vase, in which you at first see the silhouette of a vase, but then when you change your perspective, it becomes two symmetrical faces looking at one another. Other versions use varying distances from images where up-close the image seems entirely different than it does at a distance. Just for the fun of it, look up some examples online. 

I raise this observation because I recently was relaxing, watching something about illusions on YouTube. After watching a few clips, I got back down to work, and it occurred to me how the realities Ontarians are facing today in our daily lives are kind of like that. Specifically here, I am referring to what the media hypes as the Freedom Convoy

Ostensibly, the Freedom Convoy is a protest led by people who view the government-sanctioned pandemic restrictions and mandates as infringements upon our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and even democracy itself. Some go as far to say it is an attack on fundamental human rights.

Well, it seems to me that it is all in the eye of the beholder. 

I think almost all can agree that the concept of democracy is one of the most precious freedoms. Democracy is not something that just existed like land, air and water. It is something that was created and fought for over many centuries. The total cost of democracy in terms of all manner of material losses and human life is not only incalculable but almost beyond comprehension. Heck, we can hardly even fathom the cost of democracy in the last two Great Wars. Without question, it is something worth fighting for and protecting.

Above I raised the matter of how our perspectives can alter our understanding and relationship to things. This also applies to our understanding and connection to democracy. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines democracy as “a form of government in which people choose leaders by voting” and “an organization or situation in which everyone is treated equally and has equal rights.”  But every Canadian knows that it is these and so much more. 

A good friend of mine often says, “a little bit of knowledge can be a very dangerous thing.” Stepping back to look at this paralyzing movement we are witnessing here in Ontario, I have to agree with him. I say this because it seems to me that some people are basing their support on a cause they identify as a democracy with a very narrow focus on understanding the concept. For example, I saw a trucker on the news last night who summed up his understanding of democracy as having the right to go where he wants, when he wants, and do what he wants. Such a shallow definition would be comparable to describing a truck as simply “wheels.” 

One thing that seems to be lacking in listening to the protest organizers and supporters is a concept that 18th Century French writer and philosopher Voltaire covered in his writings. Voltaire said, “With great power, great responsibility must also come.”  Voltaire’s quote ideally lends itself to Ontario’s ongoing truckers’ protest.

The truckers group, which has been infiltrated with a slew of unrelated hangers-on subgroups, takes great pride in saying they are fighting for democracy and freedom. But, as stated above, sometimes we need to take a step back and see things from a different perspective. Sometimes it’s helpful to step up and take a closer look. Other times, take a step back to see how our concepts and actions affect those around us. 

It seems that, as much as the protesters say they are fighting for the rights and freedoms of all Canadians, it can also be noted that they are trouncing upon the true ideology of democracy.

A protest aims to raise awareness of an issue to bring about interest and support. It is a means of informing others. But what is happening in Ottawa, our larger cities, and on the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor is not an informative protest but rather a siege and long-term occupation. Moreover, it is not even a peaceful siege as local residents, businesses, and workers have been accosted. As well, innocent families have had to endure literally weeks of blaring noise, music, chanting, and fireworks 24/7.

Contrary to some news reports and commentaries, there has been harassment of people who choose to wear masks as they go about their daily activities. Parents are afraid to let their children walk to neighbourhood schools. There have even been outright threats and harassment towards citizens who choose not to support the protest. News reports said that bomb threats were made against the Ottawa police station.

Perhaps, worst of all, there are news reports of protestors calling 911 simply to overload the call centre to throw a wrench into our emergency response system. Such abhorrent behaviour is beyond contempt as it puts real lives at risk.

No one likes a protest, but they do serve a purpose, just as a picket line does where workers are legally striking. A picket line is not permitted to block access or stop workers or customers from accessing a place of business. The purpose of a picket line is to inform people of the issues that workers are negotiating in hopes of garnering support and causing the business to feel an economic pinch in the same way unpaid workers do during a strike. Traffic may be slowed down as picketers hand out leaflets and ask for support. However, picketers who block traffic are charged and sometimes the union organizers if they sanction such actions. 

Yet, that is precisely what the Freedom Convoy protesters are doing. They are parking trucks and vehicles in the middle of streets and roads as a form of siege. Protesters blocked or impeded traffic at the Ambassador Bridge in Windsor, one of Canada’s most important trade routes. Commuters could not get to work or school, and freight shipments came to a standstill. As a result, the truckers and their supporters trampled on the rights of innocent fellow Canadians who needed to go to work, school, appointments and so on. Across Canada, the blockades have led to the total shutdown of manufacturers, shipping companies and hundreds of community small businesses. This means many thousands of people who may or may not support the cause are suffering significant loss of income for the duration. Industries that are already teetering on the brink of bankruptcy because of the pandemic might finally have to give up the ghost and close their doors permanently.

Simply put, protesters are tramping on the very cause they claim to be protecting.

Unfortunately, all of this is not only happening within the view of mature adults. There is a significant presence of children and youth witnessing and participating in this event on-site. They are turning planned anarchy into a fun-time carnival with music, dancing, fireworks and bouncy games for the kids. The parents maintain that they are teaching the children about defending democracy and standing up for themselves. No matter their good intentions, I beg to differ on the outcome.

We are blessed to live in a nation where we do have the freedom to explore new ideas and alternatives. We enjoy the privilege of expressing our beliefs and values, even if they are not in line with our government leaders. But we must be open-minded and make an effort to see things from different perspectives and truly understand.   As Voltaire said, we have great freedom, but we also have a great responsibility to protect and nurture this sacred trust, now and for future generations

As always, please feel free to contact my office about these issues or any other provincial matters. You can reach my constituency office by email at [email protected] or phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll-free at 1-800-831-1899.

Michael Mantha MPP/député