The right to protest does not include holding hostages

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The Expositor stands squarely with the right of Canadians to hold peaceful protests, even if they constitute a minority or “fringe” portion of the population, provided those protesting do not incite violence, harass and engage in hate speech or the use of hate symbols such Nazi flags. Protesting government decisions is a vital part of living in a free and democratic society and it is important to not allow the tyranny of the majority to drown out the voices of the minority.

The situation this past week taking place in Ottawa, however, has stepped well over the line of “peaceful” protest. Citizens of Ottawa, especially those in the downtown core, are well-used to protests and the disruption they can cause. But those disruptions of the peace and an individual’s right to the enjoyment of their property have never extended to over a week at this scale, and they most certainly did not extend deep into the night and early morning hours.

However, the convoy organizers may wish to frame the continued disruptions as the fault of the elected government, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in particular, it is not his hands on the horns, and it is not his truck or car blocking access to services required by citizens of Ottawa.

No matter how one feels about the righteousness of the cause espoused by the Freedom Convoy, there is a simple metric by which to judge the protestors’ actions this past week. How would you feel about a large commercial vehicle parked outside your window, blocking your access to goods and services, honking its clarion horn through the day and night while revving its massive engines? Are fireworks being set off outside your window each night for over a week a celebration of freedom of expression, or an unreasonable infringement on your right to enjoy your property? Few among us would honestly answer that they would be okay with that if it means the 10 percent of unvaccinated truckers who cannot cross the US-Canada border are allowed to do so. Especially since the US will not let them into their country without proof of vaccination anyway.

To those arguing that the protest is about so much more than that, apply the same metric. Would you be okay with subjecting your friends and neighbours to such cacophony? If so, why are you not out in your driveway leaning on the horn in sympathy with the oppressed?

The organizers and some participants in the Freedom Convoy may assert that the disruptions, fireworks and horn honking are not taking place at unreasonable hours. The citizens of Ottawa contacted by The Expositor over the past weekend do not agree, and really, they have little to no reason to mislead. In interviews with those on the street, including convoy participants, albeit made during the morning and afternoon hours, clarion blasts could be heard regularly interjecting the conversation.

The bare truth of the matter is that the Freedom Convoy is no longer a legitimate expression of protest. It has now crossed the line into an occupation of the capital of a free and democratic country, holding their fellow citizens hostage in a misguided interpretation of “freedom.” They have become the very tyranny they espouse to oppose.

To the supporters of those politicians standing in solidarity with the occupation, perhaps it is time to consider applying that same metric to their own homes and businesses. If this was happening in your own neighbourhood, would you still be so willing to lend your support?

We have a democratic system in this country and most of the electorate voted in favour of the mandates put in place by their elected representatives. It is important to hold those representatives to account, but it is not okay to hold your fellow citizens hostage until you get your way. That is the very definition of tyranny.

To those honking their horns incessantly in the streets of Ottawa day and night—lay off. If you can’t resist the urge, go home and play your tune for your friends and neighbours—with particular attention to your supporters. The fast-dropping number of hospitalizations due to the latest wave of the pandemic are allowing for many of the mandates that you detest so badly to be dropped. You have been heard by the world far beyond the range of your horns.

When the time comes to cast your ballot once again in a free and democratic country do so for those who best represent your beliefs. Get out and lend your hand to help organize those of like mind. Offer your services to those who you wish elected, and if none of those choices satisfy you, run for office yourself.

In the meantime, please free your hostages so our democratically elected government is not forced to do it themselves.

The City of Ottawa declared a state of emergency and an Ontario judge has issued a temporary injunction in an effort to halt the honking.