The following statement was issued by Alex Silas, Regional Executive Vice-President, Public Service Alliance of Canada—National Capital Region:
The Ottawa community, including many PSAC members, participated in various direct actions over the weekend to send a clear message to convoy participants: Enough with the occupation. Enough with the terrorizing of our communities. Enough with the hate. Go home now.
On Saturday, some 4,000 Ottawa residents attended a major rally at Lansdowne Park followed by a powerful and inspiring march through the community. For many living in the downtown area, the gathering provided a much-needed feeling of solidarity and support after being abandoned by the City of Ottawa and the Ottawa Police Service since the convoy protests began on January 28.
Supporters of the occupation often refer to protesters dancing and partying near Parliament Hill as evidence that the convoy is a peaceful and respectful protest. Yet, as Ottawans living in the city’s core know all too well, three weeks into the protest there have been frequent incidents of convoy supporters threatening and harassing members of the community, which has resulted in closures of grocery stores, restaurants and daycares. There was even an incident involving supporters trying to set an apartment building on fire in the middle of the night. And the fireworks and blaring horns have continued in contempt of a court order. To make things worse, all this has happened with the Ottawa Police Service standing by, seriously aggravating the crisis by refusing to enforce even the most basic bylaws.
Faced with this intolerable situation, the people of Ottawa once again stood up to defend their community on Sunday morning, setting up a peaceful blockade at Billings Bridge to prevent a convoy of three dozen cars and trucks from heading to Parliament Hill. In what is being referred to as the #BattleOfBillingsBridge, the convoy was only allowed to leave once supporters agreed to give up their jerrycans of fuel, take down their insignias and promise to turn around and head straight home.
It’s clear that this protest is not about truckers. From the start, the convoy protests have been coordinated by figures on the far-right espousing hate-filled and violent views. James Baudner has previously harassed striking workers. Pat King has ranted about the “depopulation” of white people. Benjamin Dichter has supported supporters waving the Confederate flag in Ottawa. This is a far-right orchestrated occupation motivated by bizarre conspiracy theories under the guise of a small minority of truckers who disagree with federal and provincial vaccination policies.
Equipped with a bullhorn, @AlexSilasPSAC PSAC’s regional executive vice-president for the National Capital Region, was among those to intervene any time the situation grew particularly tense. https://t.co/CRyKe8BzA2 #BattleofBillingsBridge #FluTruxKlanGoHome— PSAC NCR | AFPC RCN (@PSACNCR) February 14, 2022
Even so, we acknowledge the sheer exhaustion and deep frustration felt by many after two long years of this pandemic. As workers, we applaud the federal government’s and PSAC members’ quick rollout of emergency relief benefits early in the pandemic as well as the commitment to implementing a national child care system.
But we also call on federal and provincial governments to urgently commit to a massive investment to protect, strengthen and expand our strained public health care system, including through the implementation of pharmacare and a nationalized long-term care system free from private profit. We call for 14 paid sick days and a living wage for all workers. And we call for greater income support for workers whose earnings continue being depressed by this pandemic, including immediate and direct financial supports for all workers who have lost income due to the convoy.
These kinds of ideals — rooted in solidarity and community — are what true workers’ movements are built on. We will keep fighting for them after the convoy goes home. We will keep organizing. We will show that love is stronger than hate. And together, we will win.