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We Told You So
The Rouleau Commission vindicates the federal government—and everyone who warned about the convoy and ensuing occupation of Ottawa.
It may be a bit gauche to scream I told you so! But when used judiciously, it’s not just acceptable. It’s also quite powerful. And cathartic. Every so often, one happens to be so patently and deeply right about something that it warrants a belligerent shoving-back-in-the-face of anyone who doubted or disagreed with you. Now is that time.
The Rouleau Commission (officially, the Public Order Emergency Commission) into the federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act released its report last week. Running to five volumes of findings, conclusions, and recommendations, the thing is…comprehensive. Like The Stand but with less charming characters. The upshot is that while people could reasonably disagree with the government’s decision on enacting the Emergencies Act, they were justified in doing so, having met the “very high threshold” required to go ahead with it. Also, the “protests” were not peaceful, Ontario Premier Doug Ford abandoned Ottawa, and the whole thing was a preventable failure of policing and federalism.
Let’s start with the basics. Anyone paying attention in the lead up to the occupation (and border blockades), with any sense of the state of the country, with any sense of history, and with any sense of the surging (online) radicalization of the right could have seen this coming. Should have seen this coming. And once it had arrived, anyone who had the good sense to believe their own eyes could see things went from bad to worse real fast and that the occupation needed to be broken with extraordinary measures because the ordinary ones weren’t working—mostly thanks to institutional failures and incompetent leadership.
In late January, before the occupation, I argued that the convoy was toxic and that we needed to meet it head on. For that, I received heaps of online abuse from keyboard warriors, which wasn’t uncommon for those who criticized the convoy. It was little surprise to later watch the occupation unfold as it did: encamping in downtown Ottawa; torturing residents with ear-smashing truck horns, harassing them with violence, and stranding them inside their homes; demanding a new government; forcing businesses to shutter; littering the streets with, among other things, a swastika and other symbols of hate; and plenty more.
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Post-occupation, I argued there were lessons to take from the experience that we needed to heed. First, we need to sort out federalism because it’s a mess—particularly when we elect clowns like Doug Ford and his crooked, incompetent government. Also, we need to take right-wing extremism more seriously than we do, including online radicalization and the parasites in their preferred “media,” half-assed academics, and grifters who are pouring gasoline on the flames. Finally, we ought to be careful that a crackdown on these extremists, including the use of the Emergencies Act, isn’t weaponized against social movements that bear no resemblance to the toxic one that came with bozos who occupied a city. Also, we shouldn’t normalize the use of the Act.
There is no left-right equivalence between what the far-right occupiers pulled off in Ottawa and what we’ve seen from others who are trying to defend Indigenous land or prevent mass death by way of climate disaster. We shouldn’t let anyone claim there is one. Accordingly, we ought to resist new or updated laws aimed at curbing protest or surveilling protesters because there is a high probability these will be used against Indigenous movements and land defender allies, environmental activists, and the usual suspects who have been forever hounded disproportionately by the state while the right-wing radicals have been left to grow in their well-fertilized soil. That is an ongoing concern. But for a moment, we need to take a deep breath and get an important message out.
In the wake of the Rouleau report, Ottawa residents said they felt vindicated by it. And so they were. In a piece for CTV News, Leah Larocque spoke to some of these folks and catalogued several responses and reflections on the wretched winter of 2022. Ottawa residents may not be inclined to take a victory lap here—there is no victory, only failure—but they may be inclined to climb to their liberated rooftops or poke their heads out of their windows or take to social media and scream I told you so! before casting a weary, judgmental eye towards those in power who can help ensure the right doesn’t pull off anything like this again. They should take that moment. Indulge. They’ve earned it. I certainly will.