Monday, October 2, 2023
Guest ContributionsOpinion/ColumnTrucking

“The highest authority in this country labeled my brothers as deviants, extremists” Alberta woman explains why her brothers went to Ottawa

“When driving long-haul, he has a fridge in his truck and he often wouldn’t use public restrooms because of COVID closures. He predominately stayed in his truck.” Photo: “Wide Open” by Mike Murchison

I am your average working middle class Alberta mom, wife, daughter, granddaughter, and sister. I don’t usually have a strong stance on politics and certainly don’t enter into heated debates on the subject, but I am compelled to put aside my fears and speak out about the freedom convoy, one of the trickiest subjects right now to talk about.

I am a mom to two teenage boys, one of whom has had a hell of a past two years trying to make it through multiple challenges that would bring anyone to their knees. I am a daughter to two parents who had to sit on the sidelines during one of the most difficult ordeals a parent can go through, of not being able to be present for me during my own health concern. I am a granddaughter to a grandpa who did not get to hug me for almost two years.

Lastly, I am a sister to two of the most honorable men I know who are currently parked in their Semi’s near Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

Let me back up: I believe in the science behind the COVID vaccination with great conviction and as soon as I could, I chose to receive my doses. You see, I had just spent from most of 2020 and 2021 going through treatment for cancer. Anything that could afford me greater protection and certainty of my survival, I was going to endure it. I was, and still am, worried about my brothers not getting vaccinated and potentially getting sick or unintentionally getting me sick, and I spent the last two years trying to convince them to also get the shot.

My brothers supported me to get mine but I made absolutely no progress trying to persuade them to get theirs. The reason is because we live very different lives. Before COVID and cancer, I had a busy life. I live and work in an urban setting. I was shuttling kids between school, sports, and friends. Whereas I moved into the city when I finished high school and stayed, my brothers went to college here and then returned to rural Alberta afterwards.

 My older brother is a long-haul trucker/farmer with no kids; my younger brother is a farmer/farm-hand, married with a new baby. They live in the community we were raised in, a town of about 500 citizens where everyone knows each other and the community survives because everyone looks out for one another.

My brothers are well-respected members of this community. They volunteer their time farming the land when their neighbors have health issues and can’t get the crop off themselves. They offer their assistance to strangers in the area whose vehicles go into the ditch in the winter, helping to pull them out. My brothers and the community we come from at large are the kind of people anyone should be so blessed to have in their lives. They will jump in to help anyone, no questions asked, and ask for nothing in return.

Despite my not having lived there for over twenty years, these people are my people and where I still consider home to be. You could refer to them colloquially as “Salt of the Earth” people: trustworthy, reliable, straightforward.

There was no discernable impact to their lives when COVID hit because the mandates seemed targeted for the bulk of the population living in an urban setting and co-mingling with others daily. My truck driver brother leaves Monday mornings for the USA, often arriving home on a Friday. He spends his weekend in the shop working on his truck before turning around and starting all over again.

He lives with our parents for the few days a week that he is home, with them picking up groceries and doing part runs for him. When driving long-haul, he has a fridge in his truck and he often wouldn’t use public restrooms because of COVID closures. He predominately stayed in his truck. When not trucking, he, along with our younger brother, is farming the land that has been in our family for over 100 years, trying to keep a way of life going for another generation.

My younger brother spends his days in the field, working long hours to ensure our country and livestock can be fed. He doesn’t go to town to socialize or eat out. Nothing is open when he’s done work for the day. He and his wife enjoy country life and are happiest in nature, riding horses or dirt bikes, gardening and timber framing. Both of my brothers live deliberately simple lives by design. I share this background with you because they are not who the mainstream media has portrayed them to be.

One day, my brothers were essential workers and the next day, our government proclaimed them a risk to our population and to recovering from COVID. A week after that, our Prime Minister labelled them as food stealing, dishonorable, violent racists after they drove their trucks to Ottawa and parked because their way of life was taken away by their government and they didn’t know what else to do.

What should one do when a Prime Minister is deliberately choosing not to be a leader to ALL Canadians, a promise he made when taking his oath? When he will not listen to the concerns of all, especially those he does not understand? What does one do, when you try to lead an honorable, simple life, and you believe in choice and suddenly your right to choose what you do in your life has been taken away?

What does one do when you are denounced by your own government?

My brothers are not in Ottawa because they don’t want to take the vaccination. They are there because they want to be able to choose if, and when, to take the vaccination. They are not there because they disagreed that mandates were necessary to protect the greater population. They are there because they want mandates to go hand in hand with the times we live in, and to be applied in a way that makes sense for the lives they live too.

While in Ottawa, my brothers are not honking their horns incessantly, in fact barely at all. They have respect for those around them who did not get a choice to be surrounded by a protest. The irony of protesting about choice and then impacting those without a choice is not lost on them.

They are not harassing locals who wear masks. I have worn a mask without fail these past two years and they have never once given me grief about wearing a mask. The media has vilified them and it breaks my heart, because they are great men. They just did not know any other way of trying to get their government’s attention.

My brothers are not extremists, criminals, or ignorant people. I am not condoning their actions. I wish they were home and not where they are, doing what they’re doing, which is peacefully protesting but in a method that does bring unintended harm and consequences.

I anticipate that some will say my brothers are selfish and actively holding up a return to normal society because they are not vaccinated. With their lifestyle, who are they at risk to?

You might wonder how I can write this given I had cancer and there are so many immunocompromised people that COVID is still a significant risk for. When I was going through chemo, there was no vaccination available. For over a year, I lived with daily fear of wondering what would happen if I got COVID while going through treatment.

There is a vaccine now and that is the main difference for me since I believe in the protection it affords. I also felt lucky that my diagnosis came just before lockdowns and the timeliness of my treatment wasn’t impacted.

What though about the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who delayed accessing healthcare because of government mandated lockdowns and will be diagnosed with cancer at a later stage? Is it more likely that cancer will shorten their life than COVID? What about those diagnosed early with an illness but because their surgery was delayed, their illness has progressed to have a lasting negative impact on their quality of their life? At what point do those people deserve consideration? At what point do the teenagers struggling to make it through, like my child, deserve their government to be mindful of them? A child whose last two years was marred with fear of losing a parent, fear of COVID, loss of a friend to suicide, loss of a high school experience. Loss, period.

Despite our experience, we still consider ourselves lucky. We didn’t lose our jobs; our employment was stable. We were not wedged between the stressors of money and health.

My brothers weren’t so fortunate. I have complicated thoughts and emotions about my brothers’ actions. I believe in public health measures, I place a great deal of trust in medical and scientific experts, and I wonder whether the timing is right to let up on restrictions. However, I also feel let down: let down by both the federal and provincial governments because of their inconsistency in decision-making. I also feel let down by a Prime Minister whose inflammatory rhetoric is not congruent with my values.

I feel let down by media for what I perceive to be biased reporting of the convoy and its participants. Me writing this today indicates that perhaps there is a voice not being represented in mainstream media. I know I’m a moderate, in the middle, not picking a side; but that’s my whole point. Why does the government and the media keep trying to force me to pick a side?

The highest authority in this country labeled my brothers as deviants. Extremists.

Not only is this not true, but it is irresponsible that he did this. I believe the practice of labeling others and then perpetuating the labeling through reporting of it is one of the reasons we are currently divided as a nation. I expect more from my Prime Minister.

As far as my brothers go, what do I think they want to achieve with their actions as part of the convoy? Rather than me saying this, I’d prefer the Prime Minister seek to understand who my brothers are, stop judging them, find out what they stand for, and then work with them to find the middle ground.

He is their Prime Minister too.

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The author of this piece requested her name be withheld.