Freedom convoy protesters in Ottawa Feb 2022

Stark poll results ‘speak for themselves’: Political scientist Survey says Canadians fear for country’s future

Editor’s note: 201 of the 1,518 respondents to this nationwide poll were from British Columbia.

By Chelsea Kemp, Brandon Sun, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Sixty-six per cent of Canadians fear for the future of the country after witnessing political unrest for the past three weeks, according to  recent polls released by Maru Public Opinion.

Additionally, 82 per cent of Canadians say there is no way the  protesting in Ottawa should have been able to last as long as it has.

The numbers released by Maru “speak for themselves,” said  Brandon University political scientist Kelly Saunders, in showing the  protesters represent a minority in the country.

The Emergencies Act was not an overreaction given the growing  unrest in the country, she said, explaining it gives the government the  power to take immediate action against the protesters that have been  holding Ottawa and international borders hostage. She described the act  as the only possible step that can provide the tools needed to increase  police forces in downtown Ottawa, keep borders open and fundamentally  seize the bank accounts and cut off the financial resources being pumped  into the anti-government groups.

“We see immediate action now in Ottawa where they are stopping the protests and trying to bring an end to it,” Saunders said.

“It’s illogical because in some cases, these protests are getting bigger just as provinces are starting to walk back from all of the  restrictions.”

The Maru Public Opinion surveys “The Emergencies Act” and  “Shaken to the Core” each included 1,518 participants from across the  country.

The polls found a majority of people, 62 per cent, have lost  faith in the ability of the country to keep peace and order, while 52  per cent believe the country is broken beyond repair.

“There’s no common ground for civil discourse in any of this,” Saunders said.

The surveys showed 67 per cent of participants believed it was  time to clear out the Ottawa protesters, even if it meant the people who  will not leave may get hurt or worse.

The country has been following due process, democratic  traditions and democratic structures, Saunders said, but these essential  processes are being called into question and threatened by the convoys —  some segments have even said they want to overthrow the government.

Police moved in on protesters in downtown Ottawa over the weekend, making more than 200 arrests.

“We’re starting to see it [law enforcement] now in Ottawa, but  we’ve not seen it in a lot of ways in these various scenarios, and I  think that a lot of Canadians are frustrated with their political  leaders, police chiefs and all levels of government …. There’s an  overall dissatisfaction with that.”

The hesitation from public and political leaders to act has  been astounding, and this sentiment is being reflected by a majority  Canadians, she noted.

The Maru survey found 53 per cent of the participants had lost  faith in the enforcement of law in the country, and 69 per cent believe  the consequences protesters will receive are proportionately far less  than any other law-abiding Canadian would get if they were involved with  an infraction with the law.

“The fact that police forces had ample time to come with a plan  on how they were going to respond to this and then not doing anything  for weeks is, I think, the big question a lot of Canadians are asking,”  Saunders said.

While it is healthy for citizens to think critically and hold  politicians to account when they are discontent, Saunders said, what  makes the “freedom” protests different is the anti-intellectual push and  the minority of participants talking about overthrowing a  democratically elected government to install themselves in positions of  authority.

There are visible parallels with the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection on Capitol Hill in the United States.

“We’re actually seeing the framework of our own democracy being  challenged in a way I haven’t seen before in such an overt way.”

The future of Canada will depend on how the country navigates  the aftermath of the ongoing protests. The events have been a “wake-up  call” that these underlying elements have been present and politicians  who have traditionally been risk-averse will need to say what views are  right and wrong in society.

“This has been building for some time, and so I’m hoping this  is a wake-up call to everybody that we need to shut down racism when it  appears. There are no good views on both sides — racism is wrong,  period,” Saunders said. “They should listen to the politicians and the  political leaders that are taking a stand on this and go home and stop  holding Canadians hostage with their antics … I see it as not as a  protest at this point, but now an occupation.”

A so-called freedom convoy rolled through Brandon Saturday  morning. The Sun attended the convoy’s stop at the COVID-19 testing site  at the Manitoba Emergency Services College parking lot. The protesters  declined all requests for interviews.

The Sun posted on Facebook Saturday asking for comments from  community members about the protesters in Ottawa and received more than  200 comments.

Some commenters said the invocation of the Emergencies Act was a  step too far when it came to dealing with the protests. Others said the  government has taken away Canadians’ rights to peaceful assembly by  invoking the act.

“I stand with the convoy. Time for mandates to be over,” one person said.

“They are protesting peacefully and their right to do that  should be upheld regardless of what their cause is,” another person  commented.

Meanwhile, some respondents questioned why action was not taken sooner.

“Had Ottawa Police not let them get entrenched at the  beginning, we wouldn’t be where we are now. It’s long past time for the  protesters to vacate; when streets are blocked, businesses are closed  and residents are tormented, a protest can no longer be considered  peaceful.”

A former Brandonite living in Ottawa for the past 13 years said  several protests occur each week in the capital; however, the convoy  marks the first time the protesters remained on-site following the  initial rally.

“This was not a protest, but an occupation — an important  distinction. They came in, fortified themselves with vehicles, and set  up camps. While there were certainly a few people involved who meant  well, a substantial number were here to take advantage of the relative  lawlessness, at the expense of downtown residents and businesses these  past few weeks. These weren’t protestors, just criminals in the end.”

Top image credit: Freedom Convoy 2022, Ottawa, Canada by Maksim Sokolov (Maxergon) via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY SA, 4.0 License)

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