Canada dispatch: ‘this past week, my faith in our liberal democratic institutions died a heart-wrenching death’
© JURIST (Mélanie Cantin)
Canada dispatch: ‘this past week, my faith in our liberal democratic institutions died a heart-wrenching death’

Law students from the University of Ottawa are filing dispatches for JURIST on the “Freedom Convoy” protest in Canada’s capital that has paralyzed the city for over a week. Here, 1L Elaine Tam reports.

I’m filing this dispatch from the epicentre of a siege.  My home lies within a few hundred metres of Parliament Hill, so I have automatically become an unwitting member of the plaintiff class covered by the class action suit being filed against the leaders of the Freedom Convoy for private nuisance and punitive damages.  After enduring 11 consecutive days of incessant high-decibel honking, vicious engine revving, and megaphoned “freedom” sermons blasting beneath my windows, I am exhibiting symptoms of shell shock.  The noise—horribly grating and inherently stressful—has rendered me high-strung and skittish.  My nerves are completely frayed.

This past Saturday was unbearable torture.  I never imagined I could be subjected to such excruciating torment within my own home.  Day 9 of the protest began its cacophonous din at 7:00am, and the mayhem crescendoed to an explosive thunder by 9:00pm.  I spent most of the day crouched by my window—trembling convulsively and rocking my body back and forth as I broke down in waves of tears throughout the day—while watching an endless stream of festive “freedom fighters” serve up wood-fired pizzas before indulging in their portable saunas and bouncy castles.  I saw small children—barely five or six years old—waving “Fuck Trudeau” flags and shouting obscenities on the sidewalk below my window.  While the protesters were enjoying their perverse street party, the residents of Centretown were undergoing nervous breakdowns.  The utter lack of empathy exhibited by my fellow Canadian citizens made me sick to my stomach.  Moreover, I was horrified and ashamed to see my beloved Canadian flag being appropriated so hatefully alongside Confederate and swastika flags.

I am no stranger to lawlessness.  I have backpacked solo through some of the world’s most corrupt and dysfunctional states.  From Lebanon to Kosovo, I have walked past plenty of military tanks and soldiers touting AK47s.  Police officers in Azerbaijan and customs officials in Uzbekistan have tried to extract exorbitant bribes from me.  I witnessed shady black market dealings in Argentina during one of its major economic meltdowns.  I have been mugged and sexually assaulted, and I narrowly escaped a terrorist bombing near the Afghan border in Tajikistan.

But lawlessness on the streets of… Ottawa?  I came to the nation’s capital to immerse myself in the study of law, and I chose to make my home mere footsteps away from the Supreme Court of Canada.  Now, I am witnessing scenes of thuggery unfold against the backdrop of the highest court of the land.  My peers—Canada’s next generation of judges and lawyers—are being aggressively accosted on the street.  Walking to campus is like picking my way through an occupied war zone; most major intersections are choked with menacing armies of trucks, the diesel fumes are overwhelming, and apartment blocks along the way are addressing threats of arson.  The anarchy that I have been witnessing from my window and in my neighbourhood over the past 11 days has been deeply distressing, and I am left grieving over a Canada that has torn itself apart.  As a law student trying to make sense of the law while living in the chaos of a lawless society, I feel profoundly disoriented and disheartened.

How did we come to this?  What happened to our rich and vibrant civil society?  How did the world-famous Canadian persona—effusively polite, hopelessly apologetic, and wonderfully compassionate—devolve into such pure hatred and vitriol?

Most of all, where are our police and elected politicians?  How could they abandon and betray us so gravely, while leaving us to a mob of occupiers who continue to terrorize the city?  While our law enforcement officers stood by and our politicians were nowhere to be found, my life became an inferno.

And I am sad to report that this past week, my faith in our liberal democratic institutions died a heart-wrenching death.