Monday, July 15, 2024
Photo supplied by Bliss. Taken when he and his family cheered the truckers from a New Brunswick overpass.
Guest ContributionsOpinion/ColumnTrucking

Hope drawn from the Convoy

‘Canada is still a beautiful country made up of good people’

DONNA LAFRAMBOISEGuest post by Bliss Behar

Two years ago, I was an optimistic teenager who campaigned for the Green Party and organized and spoke at protests. I used to think I could help change the world within the systems that exist, but now I question whether we even live in a democracy. I cannot trust the government, the judicial system, universities, the medical system, or the banking system in Canada.   

At the age of seventeen my trust in the Canadian government was broken beyond repair when I saw that the government could easily break the Charter of Rights under the guise of an emergency.

When the vaccine mandates were put into place in the fall of 2021, it shook my world to realize I suddenly lived in an authoritarian society. I knew then, and we certainly all know now, that the vaccine is not a sterilizing vaccine. Yet, I was banned from public spaces, universities, work opportunities and crossing provincial and national borders. I was ostracized by society because I would not comply.

Going into my last year of high school I signed up for a few after-school clubs, but when I was banned from extra curricular activities in October 2021, I was outed as a non-vaccinated person to all my peers. I was allowed to sit in class but when the clock struck 3:00 I was no longer allowed to participate. It was beyond hurtful to see my cohorts flourishing in their last year of school as they prepared to go off to university and pursue their dreams, while I remained stuck as a social leper.

Soon after, I dropped out of school and switched to online classes because of the social division being sowed between me and my peers. Simultaneously, my dad who is a civil servant, was put on leave without pay because of his vaccination status. My family was put under financial strain and had to dig into their retirement savings. I wanted to work to help my family, but my parents and I were excluded from most job opportunities. The government was trying to crush us by imprisoning us socially, financially, and geographically.

In these moments of deep despair, there was only one thing which lifted my head in hope, and that was the freedom convoy of 2022.

–Bliss Behar

Having educational and financial opportunities taken away from me was hard, but the emotional effects of the mandates were just as dire. I was banned from libraries and cafés, and even more painful, I was abandoned by the music and art groups that I thought were integral to my life.

The media downplayed the social exclusion that unvaccinated people experienced, suggesting that being banned from a café was not a hardship. However, it should be acknowledged that social exclusion is a punishment for a reason. Humans are naturally social animals, and therefore exclusion is a powerful tool to manipulate human behaviour. Just ask my peers, who were terrified of exclusion, and were in no way willing to experience what I did.

Last year, the Prime Minister and the government-funded media slandered unvaccinated people’s character and threatened us with more fines and exclusion.  In turn, I faced hate and rejection from the people in my community and online. I was becoming physically and emotionally isolated. The amount of hate and contempt directed at unvaccinated people, made me want to end my life.  I was already so abandoned in the real world that it felt like I had one foot out the door.

I also dreamed of fleeing, but I knew it would be near impossible to escape my own country. Where could I run?  I wasn’t sure if this would be ‘the new normal’, or how much worse it would become. There were threats that the unvaccinated could be banned from hospitals and grocery stores. Even now I still fear the possibility of further oppression.

I knew I would never sacrifice my principles and morals, but my spirit was breaking down from all the threats and punishments. In these moments of deep despair, there was only one thing which lifted my head in hope, and that was the freedom convoy of 2022.

The government wanted us to think we were alone, but the convoy showed that Canada is still a beautiful country made up of good people. The truckers were maligned as misogynist, racist, and fascist. But I am a Jewish, gay, transgender man and I felt only kinship and safety within the movement. The media said I should fear the protesters, but I am more fearful of losing my bodily autonomy and my freedom of speech. 

I watched hour upon hour of livestreams and saw nothing but peaceful protesting. I saw our right to protest being exercised and I was so relieved to see we still had that. But then the Emergencies Act was evoked and I watched livestreams of protesters being attacked by anonymous militia and spokespeople like Tamara Lich being thrown in jail.

The convoy inspired protests around the globe, and led to our country lifting mandates, but the way that the protest ended was yet another illegal and unforgivable action that the government has taken in these past three years.

To this day I do not trust the government of my country, nor the corporations and institutions who collaborated with them in the destruction of our democracy. The only hope I can muster is from the freedom convoy and Canadians who continue to fight for our individual rights.

Before the mandates and the Emergency Measures Act, I felt like a protected Canadian citizen with a strong justice system that would protect my individual rights. Now, I feel like my position in this country is unstable and unprotected.

I don’t trust my own government and I don’t want to have any ties with the banks or universities that they control. I wish that I felt differently, but until I see justice and restitution, I will not trust my government ever again.

Now, as I cheerfully prepare for a summer of work to help fund my upcoming first year of college, I find myself living in contradictory worlds, I am both hopeful for the future and cynical about humanity. Though I don’t relish it, I know that I must be both. We need to believe there’s good on the horizon, but we must also be aware of what we’re facing. One thing I’m certain of, is that I am no longer fearful of what’s to come. Having seen the convoy and the protests around the world, I know I am not alone.

*****

Donna Laframboise writes a daily blog at  ThankYouTruckers.substack.comIt is a first draft of her upcoming book that focuses on interviews with Freedom Convoy truckers. She is a former National Post and Toronto Star columnist, and a former Vice President of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.