Canadians, Here’s What I Sent to the Public Order Emergency Commission
My name is Susan Dunham, and I have been writing about the pandemic and its social effect since 2020. The following is my submission to the Public Order Emergency Commission:
I did not attend the Ottawa protest, but as an unvaccinated Canadian, I was heartened that our country pulled off a peaceful, mass demonstration that did what a protest ought to do: shake the status quo when the status quo becomes untenable.
The new norm in Canada had become frighteningly un-Canadian, when at the urging of our own Prime Minister, we were actively encouraged to fear and despise our neighbours, family members, and peers for having made “the wrong” decision about their bodies.
Our government systematically squeezed the noncompliant, proudly choking them off from public and economic access until they broke. In so doing, our leadership established an abhorrent new protocol for treating Canadians whenever the situation, as they deem, calls for it.
A true protest is unpopular. It’s the right of a free society that even “a small fringe minority,” united by an outlying idea, can petition their fellow citizens to see wrongdoing when the rest cannot. It’s what keeps us free, and makes it so that a persuasive government in power cannot pull the country in a direction it might wake up to regret. We were going in that direction — and the loud, honking trucker convoy will be remembered by history as the alarm we didn’t know we needed.
It was not enough to wait out the mandates, which, after so many failed promises and moved goalposts, we were told would expire. Nor is it enough to accept that we are mostly free of them because the science changed to allow liberty again. The mandates fell because brave men and women organized against them. And it was a call of duty to oppose what too few of us recognized as disproportionate and divisive new policy that seemed to want permanent damage for society.
But our government would not allow an unbloodied victory. So, hand-in-glove with the media, they worked to defame and despoil the protestors, building a gradual case in the court of public opinion for the unprecedented threat to freeze attendee finances and the ultimate use of the war-time footing Emergencies Act. It was a gesture of psychological, much more than physical, dominance — to have squeezed Canadians to the extent that they did; then to turn their country against them; and ultimately hope to trample their will to resist again. Even worse, it was an example for the rest of Canada, which learned which issues were unwelcome for protest.
And so I urge this commission to recognize the actions of the Trudeau Liberal government as an affront not just to a segment of Canadians that they wrongly wounded, but to every Canadian who hopes they might one day fearlessly raise their hand and use their voice when all hope seems lost.
— Susan Dunham
Find me and more of my writing on the pandemic on Instagram: @susankaydunham