Former Canadian chief justice pens op-ed denouncing ‘ugly side’ of freedom in trucker protests

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After Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cracked down on the “Freedom Convoy” protesters last week by invoking the Emergencies Act, freezing bank accounts and making violent arrests, one of the country’s former Supreme Court justices justified the extreme actions taken by the government in an op-ed published Tuesday. 

Former Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin wrote in Canada’s “The Globe and Mail” newspaper Tuesday, that the peaceful Ottawa truck convoy had revealed the “ugly side of freedom.”

Protesters sing the Canadian national anthem prior to police action to enforce an injunction against a demonstration which has blocked traffic across the Ambassador Bridge by protesters against COVID-19 restrictions, in Windsor, Ont., Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022.

Protesters sing the Canadian national anthem prior to police action to enforce an injunction against a demonstration which has blocked traffic across the Ambassador Bridge by protesters against COVID-19 restrictions, in Windsor, Ont., Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022.
(Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

McLachlin seemed dismissive of freedom being exercised by people who didn’t like their government’s COVID mandates. 

“During the truck convoy protests, we have watched banners demanding ‘freedom’ waving over big rigs parked in front of Parliament. But what does this vaunted ‘freedom’ mean? The answer is, everything and nothing,” she wrote.

She then mocked the protesters’ demands as “the right not to wear masks in public places; the right not to be vaccinated; the right to hold Ottawa’s downtown residents and businesses hostage; the right to malign public officials and call for the Prime Minister’s death; the right to shout epithets at people of colour.”

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The former justice contended that “freedom” was “an empty word” without more context, such as “‘Freedom from what?’ ‘Freedom to do what?’ And beyond that, ‘Where do my freedoms end and the freedoms of others begin?’”

Canadians do not enjoy freedoms that Americans do under the First Amendment, as McLachlin acknowledged.

“Freedom is not absolute…The Charter gives Canadians a bundle of rights and freedoms. But it prefaces them with this caution – these rights and freedoms, precious as they are, are not absolute. Governments, it proclaims, can limit freedoms, provided the limits are “reasonable” and can be “justified in a free and democratic society,” she wrote.

Protester arrested in Windsor, Canada, on Sunday morning

Protester arrested in Windsor, Canada, on Sunday morning
(Fox News Digital/Lisa Bennatan)

McLachlin added the government has the power to decide “When you must wear a mask,” “Whether you can cross a border without a vaccine certificate,” “How many people can attend a party and who gets to go to school,” but that didn’t mean they were free from responsibility. Ignoring the role of protests, McLachlin instead advised citizens to “submit” to the governing officials and vote them out, come election season.

“Inevitably, some people will disagree with where a particular government has drawn a particular limit, how long that limit should be maintained and how it should be enforced. If we care about our democracy and common future together, we will submit to those limits in the short run and use elections and courts to hold governments responsible in the longer run. The danger is that people who disagree with particular limits on the exercise of rights that governments have drawn may become impatient and decide to take matters into their own hands, threatening the welfare of people around them and, more broadly, the constitutional framework that allows us to continue to live together,” she argued.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau makes a point during the federal election French-language leaders debate, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021, in Gatineau, Quebec. 

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau makes a point during the federal election French-language leaders debate, Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021, in Gatineau, Quebec. 
(Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)

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Canada’s liberal leadership has been called out for having a double standard of tolerance when it comes to social justice protests. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau praised and kneeled with Black Lives Matter protesters in 2020 but refused to meet with Freedom Convoy protesters three weeks ago and slammed their “hateful rhetoric” and “Nazi symbolism.”

The Washington Examiner’s also noted how in that same year, Trudeau expressed support for a year-long protest by farmers in India that also caused road blockades.

“Canada will always be there to defend the right of peaceful protest,” Trudeau said at the time.

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