“In a roundabout way, the convoy’s greatest contribution to the cause of freedom was revealing how far the state was prepared to go to stop those who seek it.”-Andrew Lawton, “The Freedom Convoy: The Inside Story of Three Weeks That Shook the World”
Andrew Lawton is a brave man.
He has taken the time and invested the energy into writing a thoughtful, balanced mini-history of the 2022 Freedom Convoy before the ink is even dry on the various Parliamentary hearings and reports studying it. This means that his book essentially has had to be published as a cliff-hanger; we all know there will be more to the story. We also know will have to wait months or years to find out how the story ends.
At least now we have something credible to read while we wait. Truckers, voters, readers, researchers – anyone who wants to read a clear, factual, concise and well-documented account of the “three weeks that shook the world” will easily read Lawton’s book in a single sitting. His detailed, insider-accounts include interviews with many of the organizers of the various groups involved. This chronology makes riveting reading and answer some of the most fundamental questions Canadians might have.
Answers to burning questions
For example, why were there so many convoys starting in so many locations, all heading to Ottawa? Answer: several different individual Truckers got the idea to start a convoy around the same time. Some of them opted to join forces, while others remained independent. That’s how one convoy started in British Columbia and another in Sarnia.
Was the convoy organized by actual Truckers, or professional organizers?
Answer: The original organizers, and the thousands of participants, were Truckers. They were joined and supported by a number of ex-military, ex-law enforcement, and other professionals as the convoy progressed. Lawton does a thorough job of listing and describing many individuals in the sprawling cast of characters.
Another burning question: did the convoys blockading the border crossings to the U.S. have anything to do with the Freedom Convoy in Ottawa? Apparently not, Lawton writes. The border protests were local, and sprang up organically.
Did Canadian law enforcement need the Emergencies Act to end the convoy? No – the borders were cleared using already existing powers before the Act was even invoked. Cops didn’t need it, and as we have found out in recent days, they didn’t ask for it, either.
Support from ordinary Canadians
One of the most damaging, and most enduring myths about the convoy was that it was funded by international groups seeking to wreak havoc in Canada. In fact, as Lawton documents, no evidence of any such foreign funding was found. In fact, for Justin Trudeau the news is much, much worse: it was ordinary, everyday Canadian citizens supporting the convoy.
“For the next three weeks, people would show up non-stop with food, in such volumes that protesters couldn’t eat it fast enough. According to a couple of organizers, homeless shelters were turning away the excess food because it was too much even for them to distribute,” Lawton writes.
“’The cash would come in,’” he quotes one volunteer. “’There were people that would count it, stuff it in envelopes. We’d stuff it in our pockets in our coats and run out to wherever and try to get as much of it out as we could.’” John, the head of fuel distribution, said he recalled one day when over $90,000 was handed out to truckers in envelopes with $500 in each.
“All the money had come in the form of unexpected cash donations. It was often the smaller amounts donated that were the most moving. I heard one story of an older woman on a fixed income who handed a random trucker a $10 bill because it was all she could spare that month. Others assembled little toiletry bags which had $5 bills or Tim Hortons gift cards among their contents.”
“This was a common theme: several people told me the convoy restored their faith in Canada,” Lawton notes early in the book. “Through the diesel exhaust, there was a hopefulness in the air that was far more discernible than the anger depicted in the media’s convoy coverage.”
Fake Media versus The Truth
The book is also a great resource to in order to go back and check dim memory against on-the-record media reports: did the CBC-BC actually report on “a small convoy ‘protesting hazardous road conditions on the province’s highways’—while ignoring the much larger and longer convoy against vaccine mandates hitting the road on the same weekend?” Yep, ludicrous as it sounds, CBC did.
Did Global News actually publish a report claiming Truckers were far-right extremists who wanted to make the Freedom Convoy “Canada’s January 6th”? Yes, they did.
Anyone who wonders whether Trudeau’s decision to throw money at mainstream media has affected coverage needs only scan the differences Lawton found between media reports and his on-the-ground reality: “The mainstream media either didn’t grasp the convoy or simply wasn’t interested in fairly portraying it,” Lawton writes. “The better coverage came from smaller, independent outlets in communities that were home to some of the convoy’s organizers. An article from Discover Weyburn, a news outlet in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, a city of 10,870 just a few hours from Chris Barber’s hometown of Swift Current, did a better job summarizing the convoy’s agenda than any of Canada’s three national television networks.”
The convoy’s political impact
The Freedom Convoy gave voice to millions of Canadians who felt ignored and demeaned by their federal government; this was obvious on the bridges and along the highways where citizens gathered to cheer the Truckers on, and in the millions of dollars in donations they made online, in cash, and in kind.
The convoy spelled the end of leadership for Conservative Erin O’Toole, which many Conservatives saw as a victory. However, Lawton writes, “For all that convoy organizers talk about their accomplishments and achievements in their three weeks in Ottawa, there’s an elephant in the room. The federal government didn’t lift a single of its vaccine mandates or COVID restrictions…In the end, the federal government proved more stubborn than the convoy itself.”
“In a roundabout way,” Lawton says in one of his most important observations, “the convoy’s greatest contribution to the cause of freedom was revealing how far the state was prepared to go to stop those who seek it.”
Along with many other Canadians, I was horrified to see “how far the state was prepared to go.” Also, like many other ardent supporters of democracy, I anxiously await the results of the inquiry into Trudeau’s invocation of the Emergencies Act.
These are dark days for Canada. The bright spots are the fact thousands of Truckers took a stand when we needed them most; and that Andrew Lawton is there, witnessing and reporting the truth.
Here’s hoping that the next chapter of the story has a better ending.
“The Freedom Convoy: The Inside Story of Three Weeks That Shook the World” is available through Sutherland House Books.
ANDREW LAWTON is a senior journalist at True North and host of The Andrew Lawton Show. He previously hosted a daily talk show on Global News Radio. He has published written work across the world, including in the Washington Post, the National Post, the Toronto Sun, and on Global News.