A quick primer for those who wanted to “support the truckers” with this protest:
- It wasn’t really truckers – any more than it was carpenters, or nurses, or bricklayers. Calling it a Freedom Convoy – rather than “bunch of white guys in pickup trucks going for a long drive” – is the mistake.
- If you want to know why Erin O’Toole, Pierre Poilievre and others were quick to support this movement – there are eight million reasons why. A GoFundMe effort raised $8 million in a week – to Conservative fundraisers, that was their money. Or worse, it’s money that could have gone to Maxime Bernier. Until politicians say, “if these are your beliefs, you are not my people” to groups like this, the temptation to stay with the money is there.
- Numbers don’t matter – just because 10,000 people, or 100,000 people, or even a million people support something – that doesn’t mean you’re on the right side of the issue. The earth, for example, is round. You can get a million people to believe it isn’t, and yet, there it is – still round. Look around you when you’re angry about something – is your anger focused on the right thing, or are you howling in the wind? Are people frustrated with the pandemic and government responses to it? Absolutely. Does that mean yelling at a teenager at a hotel in downtown Ottawa, and honking your horn as you drive around yelling “Freedom!” will convince others of the rightness of your viewpoint? Ummm, no, it won’t.
- If you’re a parent and you brought your child out to support this yesterday, maybe some shame wouldn’t kill you. Again, admitting you were wrong is a sign of intelligence – take your child and say, “I misunderstood what we were supporting – we, in fact, are not in favour of the things that represented.”
- It’s time for social media companies to be held accountable, and here’s a quick way to start: no more anonymous accounts. Zero. Every account verified. “But that will be hard to do,” say the people at Meta, Twitter, Google, et al. The truth? Your revenues suggest you can afford it.
- Expectation management matters – people can see, with their own eyes, when your numbers don’t come anywhere near what you said they would, and while, yes, there was some support along the route, it wasn’t nearly as evident as people said it would be.
- Once the Nazi and Confederate flags show up, once you desecrated the Terry Fox statue and the National War Memorial, and once you started harassing the young men and women just trying to do their jobs, your protest turned into a national embarrassment, not a movement. And, please, if you want to tell me about “the good people there who aren’t like that,” let me quote Chris Rock – if ten white guys are standing somewhere with a Nazi, that’s 11 Nazis.
Some basic facts: more than 80 per cent of truckers are vaxxed, a percentage not out of line with the general population. A large percentage of those truckers come from a very diverse background – if this were really a Freedom Convoy, it would have looked a little more like Canada and a little less like a rural Albertan’s idea of Canada.
My father was a diesel mechanic. My father, in 1980, let a young man park his van beside our small business and handed him all the money out of his wallet while he was early in his Marathon of Hope. I grew up around truckers. The ones I grew up around would not have had the time, nor the desire, to spend any time with the bros on the Hill this weekend. So, please, thank a trucker – a real trucker – for their ongoing efforts. And don’t let this group claim to represent truckers.
Finally – it bears repeating you have to spend time understanding someone – or some group – before you give them your support and your money. For anyone prone to blame the “media” for “not covering the real story” – I can’t hear you because of where you’re standing. Don’t stand with Nazis, and maybe then we can talk.
The co-author, with Phil Gaudreau, of “Headliner,”and the co-host of Headliner: The Podcast, Stephen Heckbert is a professor of public relations at Algonquin College.