Photo: Dan Freeman
The trucks appeared with the force of a thousand chariots charging into battle. In one fell swoop they broke us free from our terminal hypnosis. This was the moment covid was over.
This story unfolds on the snowpacked shoulder of a cold Canadian highway – the unlikely place that freedom reigned in 2022 when thousands of Canadians showed up to welcome the Truckers Freedom Convoy as it barreled towards our nation’s capital in Ottawa.
For two years small groups of courageous Canadians peppered across the country had paved the way for this day. They had taken the brunt of the backlash from both the covid authorities and compliant citizens – weary of lockdowns and all too eager to trade in reason for the promise of something that resembled normal. But weeks and months and years passed and that normal never came.
Providentially, these spirited freedom fighters didn’t wait. They took their right to speak and meet to the public square and stared down tyranny with posterboards and megaphones. They pushed back on unconstitutional mandates, debilitating lockdowns, school closures and forced masking.
And they got hammered. In the media, by employers, by neighbors and police. They lost jobs and pensions and imposing fines piled up like unpaid parking tickets. But they refused to be enslaved by fear and stood right back up for round, after round, after round.
"Michelle’s story plowed me in the gut. It was a grim reminder of how fragile our culture really was and how fleeting those things were - which I thought we all agreed on and naively believed were guaranteed."
A good friend of mine counted her fines at over half a million dollars. Add this to a 30 year prison sentence hanging over her head for speaking in a public park – a basic human right I never believed could be so serruptitiously converted to a crime in Canada – and by almost any measure she was laiden with a yoke that would break a hundred average men. But Michelle and the courageous citizens who risked everything to defend the fundamental rights of Canadians were nowhere close to average. They were the forebearers who laid the groundwork for a movement, the salt of the earth who were recognized from city hall to the nation’s capital where they were christened by the Prime Minister himself as the ‘fringe minority.’
I asked her one day, while talking about her impending court dates, where she got her strength. She told me that she never felt like she had a choice. It was impossible to hold back the truth about what she knew was right and wrong. Before covid, Michelle had worked with a women’s entrepreneurship group. When the lockdowns came, some of the women came to her for help. They had everything invested in their new businesses before their doors were closed. They didn’t qualify for government assistance and without an income they couldn’t make their mortgage payments. Some struggled to put food on the table for their children and others returned to abusive relationships just to make ends meet.
Michelle was moved to help these women. She stood up for her family and for the people in her community who were caught in the upheaval of covid politics, without any place to turn. She never pursued this life or wanted the controversy and burdens it bestowed, she simply answered the call and accepted what came.
But yet somehow in the eyes of the covid authorities exercising her fundamental rights made her a criminal. Worse yet, she was a heretic, for questioning the ‘science’ and ‘policy’ and demanding straight answers of the politicians who pushed us to the brink. Speaking and moving in public was not only criminalized, it was a new kind of offence that elicited hate and vitriol like we’d never seen. Freedom became an analogue for blasphemy and for this, Michelle and hundreds more Canadians were silenced and persecuted for nearly two years before the convoy rolled through town.
Michelle’s story plowed me in the gut. It was a grim reminder of how fragile our culture really was and how fleeting those things were – which I thought we all agreed on and naively believed were guaranteed.
It revealed how fear, run rampant, could flip our perception upside down and backwards in an instant – upending civility and justice and objective reality – propelling us to persecute precisely the people we needed to pull through our greatest challenges. This contradiction exposed a weakness deeper than our institutions, it pointed out how entirely useless our spongy value system had become when faced with an existential threat. This was a problem for leadership and discernment and our perfunctory ‘administrative state’ had neither. Covid hysteria was poured into an empty vessel, gleefully carried by the media, slung by the expert class and sopped up by politicians eager to consolidate their power.
When the formless threat of a ‘pandemic’ descended through our culture, fear replaced reason in an instant and we fixated on the stangest levers of control. Our world began to turn on dubious hygiene rituals and an obsession with ‘daily active case numbers’ – a meaningless figure that found it’s way into every headline and every conversation. It replaced greetings and weather and sports and politics and just about every other thing we cared about. Sharing fear became the only ritual we could depend on.
By the winter of 2021 the persecution of Canadians had reached a fever pitch. The feeding frenzy on courage, science and skepticism was unbareable and the front lines in Canada’s fight for our constitutional rights desperately needed reinforcements. This was the Canada from which a rag tag group of heroes emerged.
On January 28 2022, the convoy was due to arrive in Ontario. They had been on the road for six days since their departure from Vancouver, B.C. They were met with overflowing support on the ground and scorn in the media all across the country.
By the time they reached the border we had taken to the streets by the tens of thousands from Sault Ste Marie to Ottawa, waiting with an ember of hope burning under heavy hearts. Cities had turned off their highway live feed cameras and the main stream media was running heavy interference – it wasn’t clear when they’d arrive or what we would see.
As we stepped onto the side of the road we connected like antennae with millions more people across Canada and around the world who were hanging on this moment with us – locked down in their homes, clenching their phones, huddled around their TV. It seemed the world was waiting for the Trucker’s Freedom Convoy to arrive.
Within hours the trucks appeared with the force of a thousand chariots charging into battle. In one fell swoop they broke us free from our terminal hypnosis. This was the moment covid was over.
It was so completely enthralling there was nothing as important as sharing the joy. That night I took some time to write one of my favourite authors who was covering the convoy from Washington. She published the letter here.
Awakened and uplifted thousands of Canadians dropped everything, jumped in their cars and joined the convoy on the spot. Tens upon tens of thousands poured into downtown Ottawa on the doorsteps of parliament in defiance of the covid mandates. They communed without hesitation or stigma and just like that, the myth of the 6 foot bubble, magic masks and single direction grocery isles vanished everywhere and all at once. The central covid narrative that your neighbor was diseased and a threat to your family ceased to make any sense. Fear was vanquished and love and hope were superspreading across the country.
Canadians were imbued with a sense of identity and purpose. For days on end people in every community flocked to the roads to meet each other and wave their flags. Cars and trucks paraded around towns to celebrate in solidarity with the Truckers in Ottawa. It was the spirit of love and hope and truth uniting a country.
The single most important act for everyone was simply touching each other as though to reach through the fiction and verify the moment – transferring hope and love and compassion. Hand holding, hugging, dancing in the street was the most ordinary thing – 6 feet be damned.
The same words gushed out with tears in every deeply satisfying physical embrace with strangers: “I am here to stand up for my child, my parent, my brother and my sister and I am once again proud to be Canadian.”
One man stood out above the others with his broad shoulders and imposing figure towering over mine. He carried a homemade sign and a Canadian flag. I asked him what the convoy meant to him. He told me with measured words and a gentle cracking voice that his family had survived residential schools, then went on to serve Canada in the military overseas. He didn’t have any children of his own, but this community was his home and he was there to stand up for my children and our neighbor’s children, so that no child would have to suffer like he suffered, when no one was there to stand up for him.
The Trucker’s Freedom Convoy brought the Spirit and love back to our hearts and pulled our country back from the brink. It gave us hope and purpose and it united those who suffered with those who cared. It restored a sense of dignity to a nation reeling in self-disgust. It dispelled our fear, tamed our pride and replaced our guilt. It renewed our spirit and reminded us where we came from and what we cared about. Our identity was forged in the moment by answering the call for those who needed help. Being Canadian was understood to be doing the hard thing because it was right. With the greatest of fanfare I have ever witnessed, Canada rose to the occasion when it mattered most and charted a course to restore freedom to our country – one heart and one mind at a time.
What happened on the side of the road that day changed the course of history.
Dan Freeman describes himself as a “Faith, Family, and Freedom Advocate. Accidental HWY Radical. Sometime Political Shadow Boxer. Snake Oil Skeptic. Kitchen + Public Square are Negotiating Tables. Science is a Method. I stepped out of my own shadow and found that I was free.“