A crowd bearing flags

Alberta MLA & MP: Supporting peaceful protest

By John Watson, Strathmore Times, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Chestermere-Strathmore MLA Leela Aheer and Bow River Riding MP Martin Shields have shared their thoughts on the trucker convoy protesting in Ottawa, as well as the anti-mandate protests happening locally. 

“I am 100 per cent behind peaceful protest. It’s a pillar of democracy, it’s imperative – we’ve seen it from the Me Too movement, to Black Lives Matter, environmental movements and then, of course, this one as well,” said Aheer. “It’s really important, I think at this point in time, we understand where people are coming from and that we hear them.”

Aheer regarded that she believed it unfortunate that COVID-19 mandates have become a highly politicized and divisive topic amongst Canadians. 

She added that although she believed in demonstrating peacefully and offered thanks to those who did so, destructive behaviour and symbolism is never acceptable. 

“If you’ve seen any protest over the last few years, there’s always these kinds of things happening. There’s no excuse for any of it on any protest at any level,” said Aheer. “It’s not just this one, it’s right across the board. Unfortunately, whatever was a peaceful part of the protest, the story ends up losing credibility because of a few people who make those decisions.”

Shields, who has been on the ground in Ottawa, said he took the time to walk amongst the demonstrators and talk to many of his constituents who made the trek to Ottawa.

“There was a trucker from Rosemary, for example … there (were) people here from Bassano. As much as they would contact us, I would go out and talk to them, as I would with anybody who comes to Ottawa and contacts our office,” said Shields. “As I walked among the trucks, I found a lot of two different things. A lot of people were happy to be part of this, but it’s a lot of the things that you would probably hear about and read … there’s a lot of frustration.”

Shields explained a lot of what he heard from truckers on the ground were feelings of frustration, being minimized and vilified after working to keep supply chains operational over the course of the ongoing pandemic. He described the scene as being akin to a “Canada Day in January.”

Similar to Aheer’s thoughts, Shields made it clear he would not stand for those who would display hate symbols or engage in willfully destructive behaviour during the protests.

“Do I have any time or day for somebody who would desecrate the War Memorial, absolutely not. That is reprehensible. But what you also find now is the trucking convoy, they have people there every day to make sure that doesn’t happen again,” he said. “They have people at the Terry Fox statue to make sure that nobody does anything to disgrace those monuments in this city.”

Shields did confirm sightings of Nazi flags and symbols, noting they were few in number. Further, he explained based on the discussions he had with protesters, it was not the intent of those he spoke to, to perpetrate that kind of negativity.

“What has happened is that people are so angry and so frustrated that people who are there for a peaceful protest are unfortunately being undermined by people who are ruining the credibility of the protest and its intent,” added Aheer. “Unfortunately, when these things happen, it starts to discredit the people who have actually put their time and energy into organizing this.”

Aheer explained that although protesting peacefully is an important part of the story, it is only one piece that still needs to be considered. 

“We also have to make sure that we can feed our population, we also have to make sure that medicine and other important things are going across those borders not only for our well-being and our healthcare, but for our economy,” she said. “I can also understand the frustration, so this is going to take a tremendous amount of diplomacy, kindness, grace, patience and a lot of conversation.”

In Ottawa, an injunction has been granted to silence the noise of consistent honking for 10 days, following a class action lawsuit filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Feb. 4.

Further, a state of emergency was declared by Ottawa Mayor, Jim Watson as the police services board chair Diane Deans described the city to be “under siege” days before the state of emergency was declared.

Top image Credit: Bow River Riding MP Martin Shields and Chestermere-Strathmore MLA Leela Aheer spoke on the protests both in their local region as well as in Ottawa. Pictured are the demonstrators from the first Strathmore anti-mandate rally in support of the truckers in Canada’s capital, which gathered in Kinsmen Park on Jan. 29. – phoytop by John Watson

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