Courier editorials; Keep calm and carry on

At this juncture, I would love to discuss anything other than COVID, restrictions, mandates, and responses to all of it.

But, given what has occurred in Ottawa over the last four days, I don’t think I can realistically or professionally ignore it. Not that there aren’t more local issues at hand; housing, literacy programs, and much more are in the pages of today’s paper, but as Canada is officially under the Emergencies Act (EA) following a vote in the House of Commons in Ottawa last night, I fear that’s where I will have to tread.

My aversion to the topic is largely because it has become a powder keg for people on both sides of the issue. Those adamantly for or against the freedom convoy protest in Ottawa, or for or against the use of the EA are vehement in their stance, and little healthy debate seems to be taking place. Those of us who sit somewhere in the middle are often afraid to lift our heads above the parapet for fear of it being removed by either side.

I’ve read the EA, I’ve followed the debates since Thursday. I watched the removal of the freedom convoy and protesters from Ottawa via live stream most of the weekend. I listened to press conferences and interviews held by freedom convoy representatives and watched grainy video taken from inside the red zone cordoned off by police in Ottawa, where protesters and vehicles were slowly and methodically removed.

I will digress for a moment. I have seen criticism once again of the press during this weekend’s actions, accusing them of not providing their own live footage or accounts of events like the horses and protesters falling under them. Clearly those who make those accusations are unaware reporters were not allowed in the red zone, and were threatened with arrest should they place themselves there. In fact, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association raised concerns over the warning to journalists which came via a tweet by the Ottawa Police. “All media who are attending the area, please keep a distance and stay out of the police operations for your safety. Anyone found within areas undergoing enforcement may be subject to arrest,” said the tweet.

So, no, footage isn’t being ignored; they don’t have it.

But here’s my main point. I’ve read and reread the EA, and I cannot see, particularly given how protesters have been moved out of Ottawa, how the threshold for its use is now being met. I can reconcile the EA being the umbrella under which police operations took place over the weekend. I get it. But today, when vehicles and people have left Ottawa and one of the convoy’s own leaders telling a Fox news reporter in an interview that maybe it’s time for other Canadians to pick up the torch, I can’t.

The EA must still pass a vote in the Senate, and who knows what will happen there, but I still question why the NDP backed the vote last night, other than maybe fearing a loss would trigger yet another election.

However, in the meantime, I will say this; the EA does not suspend civil rights, and does not allow unchecked police powers. We average Canadians are unlikely to see change in our day-to-day lives, so keep calm and carry on.

Krisi Marples