After three weeks of disruption in the centre of Canada’s capital city Ottawa, the police introduced new measures to manage the protesters: pepper spray and stun grenades. It was hoped such measures would dissuade the truckers from protesting and get the city of Ottawa back to where it was.
This movement brings the debate on balance between security and freedom back to the table. More restrictions helps ensure the population is safer from Covid-19 but at the cost of freedom of choice; lorry drivers currently have to show a Covid-19 vaccine certificate to enter Canada, thus preventing the unvaccinated ones from working.
It is a dilemma that the Canadian government has to face. Canada's welfare state means matters such as public health are a crucial responsibility of the government's. Citizens must have their say in the matter, however, considering they pay taxes to fund such services.
Much of what is occurring in Canada call to mind the ‘gilets jaunes’ (yellow jackets) protests which took place in France in 2018. People went out in the street, blocked roads and generally caused a lot of disturbance. The initial complaint was against a steep rise in gas price which quickly escalated to addressing broader issues.
The common thread in these two protests are a general disenchantment with their authority figures and governmental decisions. The gilet jaunes protests ultimately did not cross France's borders, since the issue was mainly a national one. Canada's trucker protests have spread, however. Protests in different locations around the world, from New Zealand to France, have replicated the Canadian demonstrations with lorries parked in front of governmental buildings. The Netherlands is a further example, where trucks formed a blockade around The Hague’s parliamentary complex.
These protests have caused concerns for people, mainly about the spread of misinformation about the Covid-19 vaccine/disease at these events. A corresponding issue however is that the Canadian government is not listening to the concerns of its people. The lack of understanding expressed towards the protest could be relevant to question as to why this movement is multiplying abroad; these protests are occurring in countries with similar kind of restrictions including Covid-19 vaccine passports to access venues. These are all countries appreciated for their democracy and where citizens are meant to have the right to choose.
The application of vaccine mandates to access services has been debated all around the world, in each and every country where such mandates have been put in place. However, confusion grows as people were promised a return to pre-pandemic life and the reality is that pandemic life doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon.
Some countries like the UK are prioritising a ‘come back to normal life’ policy towards Covid-19, which includes slowly removing all virus related restrictions. Other countries like Canada, which has one of the highest number of vaccinated people, are instead implementing more rules. It seems like there are two very different tendencies towards the future being pursued by national governments: either advocating to go back to where things before pandemic or applying a zero tolerance policy. Canada are clearly pursuing the latter option but will they continue to do so? We shall have to wait and see.