The protest in Ottawa is over. Now what?
Updated: Feb 22, 2022
The trucks in Ottawa have been impounded and protesters forced to leave. The other protests, in various other parts of the country have also been dispersed.
Last night, a majority of our Members of Parliament voted in favour of the Emergencies Act as a way of ending these protests.
There is so much complexity around what has been happening.
And it isn't over, not by a long shot.
The protests have laid bare a whole lot of things, a number of broken systems all bumping into each other at the same time. But many don't understand how their participation upholds these flawed and oppressive systems.
As a white woman of privilege, working at being a better ally, here are my simplistic thoughts on the collision of these systems.
White supremacy/white privilege
Ask yourself if these protests were mainly Black Indigenous People of Colour (BIPOC), disabled or homeless people, would it have gone on this long and would law enforcement have been this tolerant? (More on this below)
You don't have to be a skinhead or fly a Nazi or Confederate flag to participate in white supremacy. It is a system of oppression and we all live under it. If you question that, ask yourself who would benefit if this system doesn't change? If, for instance, our Canadian government (at all levels - municipal, provincial, federal), our C-suite execs at corporations, our representation in basically any public-facing entity were not dominated by white men, who would have an issue with that? Who would benefit from things staying the same? If you are white, you hold the privilege of being treated better in a society that treats people who are not white differently. If you are white, ask yourself if you would want to go back and live your life again, but as a BIPOC. Can you imagine that?
All that to say, if you think the worst thing in your life is to have to wear a mask and get a free inoculation to keep you and others safe, you have a great deal of white privilege.
Here are some more terms from the Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion
2. Law Enforcement
People who work in law enforcement have a duty to protect us and uphold order, basically keep us safe, keep ALL of us safe. They detect and prevent crimes. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police upholds the laws made under the authority of Parliament. Provincial and municipal police forces uphold the Criminal Code. The RCMP, but certainly other levels of law enforcement, have been criticized and investigated for sexual and racial discrimination. Racial profiling still happens in Canada. Every day. All the time. This is because most forces are primarily led by white men (see white supremacy).
People within police services have also reported sexual and racial discrimination. Investigations, new policies, nothing has yet rooted out the discrimination, and the privilege.
We have seen during this protest, that most of the protesters were white. This has led to the questions about how this all would have gone down, had the majority of protesters been people of colour, fighting for their rights.
There are many people that do not trust the police/law enforcement because they are treated differently because of how they show up in the world (colour of skin, sexual orientation, ability etc)
Here's a report from the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security on Systemic Racism in policing in Canada.
3. Mainstream Media Coverage
Mainstream media journalists covering the protest in Ottawa were yelled at, spat on and had to have their own security detail. I sat in on a Twitter Space conversation (like an audio town hall) with journalists across the country, talking about media coverage. It had some uncomfortable conversations about women/BIPOC and safety, people of colour and their access to/trust in law enforcement, the lack of any news coverage in small communities in Canada (because of downsizing of the conglomerates) among other fascinating topics discussed by journalists from coast to coast.
One thing I saw that was both horrifying and made me think was when a female who identified as a journalist with Rebel News, got hit with a wooden baton at the very front of the line of police and protesters in Ottawa, a line that law enforcement was trying to secure. Many warnings had been issued previously. The woman was in the middle of it, along with the protesters. She was hurt and it was heartbreaking to watch. What was she doing there? All of the mainstream media reporters were away from the protestors and their cameras were posted at a distance to cover the protest areas. It gave me pause. She is planning to sue and there was a crowdfunding campaign initiated within the hour. Should journalists be in the middle of protesters? Should they be 'embedded' in a situation like that? Here's some perspective from the Canadian Association of Journalists.
Media has been covering stories through a white male lens forever. Just because they add women and people of colour to the newsroom does not mean the news reports reflect what is happening through that person's experience. Media companies are owed by large corporations who are run by mostly white men. (See white supremacy)
People are losing trust in mainstream media.
Here's an interesting article about the protest coverage from the Columbia Journalism Review
4. Democracy and Our Government
Is there anyone who trusts politicians? Trusts them to tell the truth? Trusts them not to deflect, blame others and talk out of both sides of their mouths if they get caught in a lie? We have come to expect this from the people leading our country, our provinces and our towns.
But that's because we live under a democratic system that is run by white men (see white supremacy) and the fact that we may have a few women and a few people of colour who are municipal leaders, mayors, MPPs, MPs, even Ministers, doesn't mean anything when the top person is always a white man (I'm talking provincial and federal now). Nothing changes if nothing changes.
People protested because they weren't getting what they wanted, fast enough. And they didn't trust that the government had their best interest at heart, which is the basis of what democracy is - the people who get to power, get there because we voted them in and they therefore, represent us.
People don't trust leaders to represent their interests anymore.
So all of these systems are being examined in unison. We are taking a hard look at each element. My biggest fear though is, that we are looking at them through only our own eyes. And for many of us, that's through the eyes of privilege.
People of colour and any marginalized group, are well aware of how the world looks to someone of privilege but are people of privilege empathetic and brave enough to look at the world through the eyes of others, of those without that privilege? Are we willing to get uncomfortable with our complicity to this point?
We are a country built on caring for one another, caring for other countries, humanitarians to the rest of the world.
I urge you to join me in looking at how you can use the privilege you have to pull others up, bring them up to stand with you and elevate them so they have a voice in the change that is imminent and unavoidable.