When the streets empty out at night, the mood changes. And not for the better.
I'm a small woman who walks down Kent Street in Ottawa everyday. I don't feel nervous or intimidated by the groups that are there. They have never been aggressive or rude about mask wearing. What I do feel nervous about is the volatile and inflammatory language coming from some individuals who should be leading on this and are not. (Diane Deans, Ottawa City Councillor, labeling the convoy as treasonous and quoting Mark Carney calling it sedition). I guess one attitude we could adopt is to just ignore it and hope it fizzles out, however what does that do to our social fabric? Tell people that their voices don't matter. We want people to feel they have a stake in society and become more engaged not less.
This group is not politically sophisticated but surely those who have a bigger skill set in that department should be reaching out to listen and dialogue. Not backing them into a corner.
We certainly need leadership to bring us out of this pandemic. It has been traumatic for many people. But the politicians and bureaucrats in Ottawa have been cushioned against much of that. Salary increases and working from home. They seemed to have lost their ability to have a little creative imagination as to what it is like to have to close your business down and open it up only to close it down again.
While the truckers will not drive health considerations. They are having an impact on general attitudes. They've certainly influenced mine.
I’m enjoying your reporting! I’m finding it objective, observant and interesting. It’s not slanted or biased, in my opinion, and I’m hoping for a peaceful winding down of the whole situation. I might be wearing rose coloured glasses, but the alternative would be too gut wrenching for everyone; those present and those of us watching on the sidelines.
Thanks Matt, it's really helpful getting your first-hand description of what's going on.
Matt, I agree with other commentators that your observations are well done and very informative.
Looking at the various commentators here I see their own biases and / or approaches as they read your column. For example, Mark Ch start of with, "Your lack of sympathy with the protesters and their goals is obvious ...." and he then notes that you have been objective.
I agree that you appear to have been objective. [Note: I said "appear" simply because I have not been to the demo and therefore cannot make any further judgement.] By contrast, I think that your commentary is often, including this time, what my American born grandfather (I am 71 so he is long gone) would have described as being "from Missouri."
As you may - or may not - know, Missouri is (used to be?) known as "the show me state." It seems to me that, yes, you are being objective but, more accurately you don't want to arrive at a judgement until you have weighed and tested the various perspectives unless and until you feel that you fully understand the situation and are firm in your opinion; i.e. "show me."
Thx Matt for your personal and balanced commentary: personal because your not just giving us the journalist's report on the facts, but telling us how you're feeling about the surroundings, and why; balanced because through your eyes we get to see both good and bad, with an emphasis on that's how you see it. In contrast the main stream media picks up the sensational for their sound bites, and ignores the context or overall situation. After reading your take on things, I don't think we're headed towards anarchy yet, but it is a wake up call on the thin veneer of security in our society.
I live in Ottawa. I went up to the Red Zone twice, once on Feb 2 (a Wednesday) and once on Feb 6 (a Sunday), for a few hours each afternoon. I spoke with some thirty people in all.
The atmosphere reminded me of the street parties we used to have, many years ago, at Queen's University in Kingston. People were having fun. Yes, there was some rowdyism, and certainly some breaking of bylaws. But I felt no danger at all. For what it's worth, I'm 75, white male, and wearing an N95 mask over an overlong beard.
There was a lot of political naivete. But then, this was not a particularly well-educated group. I would be surprised if more than a handful had gone beyond high school. By contrast, the vast majority of members of the government and bureaucrats have at least one university degree. This suggests a social class divide to me. Certainly there was a lot of resentment of the "elites" that tell the "people" what to do and think. There was also a strong sense on the part of the protestors that they weren't being listened to. I think that this is the origin of the weird idea of calling on the Governor General to step in and change the government, to one that will listen.
I didn't see the "hard men" that Matt describes. Perhaps that was because I wasn't particularly looking for them, and so didn't notice. I did see some angry men, if that is what he meant. But their anger didn't have much focus (apart from Justin Trudeau), just the establishment in general.
I am bemused, but not particularly surprised, that the truckers are mostly obeying the injunction against honking their horns. This suggests two things: (1) This is not an organized group determined to force changes by violence, and not even by civil disobedience. Our municipal and federal governments have panicked for nothing. (2) Why did it take over a week for someone to ask for an injunction? If our municipal government had asked for an injunction early on, perhaps much grief could have been avoided.
Good stuff. Your lack of sympathy with the protesters and their goals is obvious, but sympathy is not needed to be an objective reporter. Do try to go for the weekend as well, though. Lots of the protest supporters are lucky enough to still have jobs, and they can't spend all their time in Ottawa.
Forgive me, Matt, but I can't help feeling you are expecting negativity from the truckers' protest and therefore are subconsciously looking for it. I might be wrong.
Reminiscent of Chris Arnade, who does walking tours of some of the roughest parts of the US. This is what real journalism should be - reporting, not advocating. This is the only way we'll come to some understanding.
Good first-hand story telling. I'm pretty familiar with the terrain, but have been away from Ottawa for a number of years now, so interesting to read your current descriptions.
Granted from a distance, but I'm not expecting a bang, barely a whimper. The pandemic will take its course and the protestors will remain irrelevant to that development. Canadians are never going to look to this gang, whether the daytime revellers or the nighttime long haulers, for their health or their political direction. Health considerations and general attitudes, not those of the protestors, will drive public policy.
My prediction? They will simply dissipate into the media ether, the news cycle checking in with ever increasing disinterest. The protestors have no effective leverage over anything. They have only the novelty of their nuisance value. The courts will continue to diminish that and time, a very short time I predict, will diminish the attention of any influencer audience which will be off chasing some other novelty act.
So that just leaves the long haulers. My speculative description: angry, volatile, paramilitary-minded, far right anarchists, multiplayer meme addicts. Attacking infrastructure is inkeeping with such a profile. Preoccupation with the details of health policy is not.
So isolating and dealing with that dangerous well-organized far right is likely to outlive the opportunistic rallying around the pandemic and its mandates. If there is going to be a bang, it's likely to come from this small corner. They may try to continue fund-raising off their novelty entertainment acts. But post-pandemic, they may have little to focus the collective attention. If they choose to fund-raise off their own user-generated violence, Canucks will eventually turn on them and mainstream pols will disavow the widely circulated selfies that contradict them.
To me, the persons who just want their freedom, just want things to get back to normal, are completely missing the point. It is not the government that is causing this problem. It is the virus. Unvaccinated persons and unmasked persons spread the virus. Then the hospitals are full of unvaccinated persons who are very sick and dying (at a much higher rate than the vaccinated persons they have spread it to). When the number of sick and dying increase, people do not want to go places for fear of getting it and because they know there is a higher likelihood of getting sick and that the health care system can not care for them. The unvaccinated are causing much suffering and dying by taking away health care, treatments and even critical surgeries for cancer! Stop the madness! Stop the virus by getting vaccinated and boosted and wear a mask in indoor places. If you won't do so, then stay out of the hospitals. In Ontario this are 1.95 hospital beds for 1000 population. Let's insist that only 0.19 beds are occupied by the 10% of our population that is unvaccinated. They choose freedom from vaccination - that should also mean freedom from hospitalization when they are sick or dying. Excellent reporting Matt. Appreciate your detailed explanation of what you are seeing and upon which you base your comments and conclusions .
Great stuff Matt. Also hahahaha "Bouncy Castle Crowd"
You missed a key point re: the poem and singing. Was it better or worse than the song Sophie Trudeau penned and sung for Martin Luther King day?
Interesting to read the thoughts of someone from outside the city and seeing this for the first time. Crowds of truckers and observers are way down. I find the sketchiest part of the ‘combat zone’ is Kent Street south of Queen. Looks like a 1930s hobo camp complete with several cords of firewood under tarps.
Appreciate the outside point of view. Though as an Ottawa resident can't wait to see these protesters gone.
Would be interesting if you went and did a similar to the border crossing blockade. Get a feel for how different that group might be.