A night with the untouchables

I live in downtown Ottawa, right in the middle of the trucker convoy protest. They are literally camped out below my bedroom window. My new neighbours moved in on Friday and they seem determined to stay. I have read a lot about what my new neighbours are supposedly like, mostly from reporters and columnists who write from distant vantage points somewhere in the media heartland of Canada. Apparently the people who inhabit the patch of asphalt next to my bedroom are white supremacists, racists, hatemongers, pseudo-Trumpian grifters, and even QAnon-style nutters. I have a perfect view down Kent Street – the absolute ground zero of the convoy. In the morning, I see some protesters emerge from their trucks to stretch their legs, but mostly throughout the day they remain in their cabs honking their horns. At night I see small groups huddled in quiet conversations in their new found companionship. There is no honking at night. What I haven’t noticed, not even once, are reporters from any of Canada’s news agencies walking among the trucks to find out who these people are. So last night, I decided to do just that – I introduced myself to my new neighbours.

The Convoy on Kent Street. February 2, 2022.

At 10pm I started my walk along – and in – Kent Street. I felt nervous. Would these people shout at me? My clothes, my demeanour, even the way I walk screamed that I’m an outsider. All the trucks were aglow in the late evening mist, idling to maintain warmth, but all with ominously dark interiors. Standing in the middle of the convoy, I felt completely alone as though these giant monsters weren’t piloted by people but were instead autonomous transformer robots from some science fiction universe that had gone into recharging mode for the night. As I moved along I started to notice smatterings of people grouped together between the cabs sharing cigarettes or enjoying light laughs. I kept quiet and moved on. Nearby, I spotted a heavy duty pickup truck, and seeing the silhouette of a person in the driver’s seat, I waved. A young man, probably in his mid 20s, rolled down the window, said hello and I introduced myself. His girlfriend was reclined against the passenger side door with a pillow to prop her up as she watched a movie on her phone. I could easily tell it’s been an uncomfortable few nights. I asked how they felt and I told them I lived across the street. Immediate surprise washed over the young man’s face. He said, “You must hate us. But no one honks past 6pm!” That’s true. As someone who lives right on top of the convoy, there is no noise at night. I said, “No, I don’t hate anyone, but I wanted to find out about you.” The two were from Sudbury Ontario, having arrived on Friday with the bulk of the truckers. I ask what they hoped to achieve, and what they wanted. The young woman in the passenger seat moved forward, excited to share. They said that they didn’t want a country that forced people to get medical treatments such as vaccines. There was no hint of conspiracy theories in their conversation with me, not a hint of racist overtones or hateful demagoguery. I didn’t ask them if they had taken the vaccine, but they were adamant that they were not anti-vaxers.

The next man I ran into was standing in front of the big trucks at the head of the intersection. Past middle age and slightly rotund, he had a face that suggests a lifetime of working outdoors. I introduced myself and he told me he was from Cochrane, Ontario. He also proudly pointed out that he was the block captain who helped maintain order. I thought, oh no, he might be the one person keeping a lid on things; is it all that precarious? I delicately asked how hard his job was to keep the peace but I quickly learned that’s not really what he did. He organized the garbage collection among the cabs, put together snow removal crews to shovel the sidewalks and clear the snow that accumulates on the road. He even has a salting crew for the sidewalks. He proudly bellowed in an irrepressible laugh “We’re taking care of the roads and sidewalks better than the city.” I waved goodbye and continued to the next block.

My next encounter was with a man dressed in dark blue shop-floor coveralls. A wiry man of upper middle age, he seemed taciturn and stood a bit separated from the small crowd that formed behind his cab for a late night smoke. He hailed from the Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia. He owned his own rig, but he only drove truck occasionally, his main job being a self-employed heavy duty mechanic. He closed his shop to drive to Ottawa, because he said, “I don’t want my new granddaughter to live in a country that would strip the livelihood from someone for not getting vaccinated.” He introduced me to the group beside us. A younger crowd, I can remember their bearded faces, from Athabasca, Alberta, and Swift Current Saskatchewan. The weather had warmed, and it began to rain slightly, but they too were excited to tell me why they came to Ottawa. They felt that they needed to stand up to a government that doesn’t understand what their lives are like. To be honest, I don’t know what their lives are like either – a group of young men who work outside all day with tools that they don’t even own. Vaccine mandates are a bridge too far for them. But again, not a hint of anti-vax conspiracy theories or deranged ideology.

I made my way back through the trucks, my next stop leading me to a man of East Indian descent in conversation with a young man from Sylvan Lake, Alberta. They told me how they were following the news of O’Toole’s departure from the Conservative leadership and that they didn’t like how in government so much power has pooled into so few hands.

The rain began to get harder; I moved quickly through the intersection to the next block. This time I waved at a driver in one of the big rigs. Through the rain it was hard to see him, but he introduced himself, an older man, he had driven up from New Brunswick to lend his support. Just behind him some young men from Gaspésie, Quebec introduced themselves to me in their best English. At that time people started to notice me – this man from Ottawa who lives across the street – just having honest conversations with the convoy. Many felt a deep sense of abuse by a powerful government and that no one thinks they matter.

Behind the crowd from Gaspésie sat a stretch van, the kind you often see associated with industrial cleaners. I could see the shadow of a man leaning out from the back as he placed a small charcoal BBQ on the sidewalk next to his vehicle. He introduced himself and told me he was from one of the reservations on Manitoulin Island. Here I was in conversation with an Indigenous man who was fiercely proud to be part of the convoy. He showed me his medicine wheel and he pointed to its colours, red, black, white, and yellow. He said there is a message of healing in there for all the human races, that we can come together because we are all human. He said, “If you ever find yourself on Manitoulin Island, come to my reserve, I would love to show you my community.” I realized that I was witnessing something profound; I don’t know how to fully express it.

As the night wore on and the rain turned to snow, those conversations repeated themselves. The man from Newfoundland with his bullmastiff, a young couple from British Columbia, the group from Winnipeg that together form what they call “Manitoba Corner ” all of them with similar stories. At Manitoba Corner a boisterous heavily tattooed man spoke to me from the cab of his dually pickup truck – a man who had a look that would have fit right in on the set of some motorcycle movie – pointed out that there are no symbols of hate in the convoy. He said, “Yes there was some clown with a Nazi flag on the weekend, and we don’t know where he’s from, but I’ll tell you what, if we see anyone with a Nazi flag or a Confederate flag, we’ll kick his fucking teeth in. No one’s a Nazi here.” Manitoba Corner all gave a shout out to that.

As I finally made my way back home, after talking to dozens of truckers into the night, I realized I met someone from every province except PEI. They all have a deep love for this country. They believe in it. They believe in Canadians. These are the people that Canada relies on to build its infrastructure, deliver its goods, and fill the ranks of its military in times of war. The overwhelming concern they have is that the vaccine mandates are creating an untouchable class of Canadians. They didn’t make high-falutin arguments from Plato’s Republic, Locke’s treatises, or Bagehot’s interpretation of Westminster parliamentary systems. Instead, they see their government willing to push a class of people outside the boundaries of society, deny them a livelihood, and deny them full membership in the most welcoming country in the world; and they said enough. Last night I learned my new neighbours are not a monstrous faceless occupying mob. They are our moral conscience reminding us – with every blow of their horns – what we should have never forgotten: We are not a country that makes an untouchable class out of our citizens.

994 thoughts on “A night with the untouchables”

  1. Thank you for all the messages. It’s overwhelming both figuratively and literally. At this time I have to close the comments because I can’t keep up with moderation. I have only been able to read a fraction of what has come in. For days now I have been receiving a new comment about every 30 seconds and sometimes faster than that. I had no idea that what I wrote would touch so many. There is much kindness in the world.

    I believe that we must all find it in our hearts to see ourselves in the “other”, otherwise we are lost. We are all human; we all suffer.

    “The highest forms of understanding we can achieve are laughter and human compassion.”
    ― Richard P. Feynman

  2. Thank you for sharing your genuine experience. I loved taking this journey with you. Please write more!

  3. Thank you so much for sharing honest truths about what you are seeing. You have definitely been blessed to have met so many amazing humans standing together for the concern of all Canadians. And look you’ve even been invited to share in and learn more about another Canadian culture. How beautiful to seek their stories, ask the questions, and learn that your neighbours are just that NEIGHBOURS. Creating divide is not what Canada should be made of and our PM should not be leading with that type of behaviour. Thank you 🙏🏻 for sharing your story. You are a blessing to the many of us who want to be there but are not!

  4. Thank you for taking the time to meet the people. So many times here in the States people who don’t agree get demonize for not agreeing. Beautiful example. You need to publish. Heaven knows we need voices of reason rather than “shooting” first. Blessings to you and the Convoy.

  5. Thank you David for writing how you truly feel and what you truly saw.
    So much of this protest is twisted and filled with lies and deceit from the media.
    I am fighting for ending hate and discrimination and segregation of humans. Vaxed or unvaxed I wish everyone equal rights to live their life.
    Its refreshing to read some truths of the feels of what is really happening with our protestors for once instead of misconstrued information.

  6. I love how the world has come together for one cause. But I won’t lie, I had concerns for the locals who live in the area. I pictured none stop honking and street parties….I love the energy but felt bad for locals never getting any rest.
    Seeing this post from a local just makes me love this that much more. Ty for this.

  7. Thank you. A very balanced and well-written article. I hope this is shared and reaches the people who seemed to be so fixated on the one or two rotten apples.

  8. I have been waiting for a true story like this to surface about what is actually going on. I am a Canadian now living in Spain watching from a distance. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with the world.

  9. An interesting and well-written article. Good for you for taking this approach and, without a preformed opinion, actually going out and chatting with a such a diverse group of protesters in order to learn more about this event.

  10. Thank you for your honest and irl experience. As an aussie I’ve heard little and what I have had all been negative. Your last sentence though is one we should all be living by xx

  11. Well written interesting read. I commend the writer on self-interviewing the group below his/her bedroom window.

  12. Buddy……as a writer I must tell you, you should be doing this and getting PAID.

    Nice work.

  13. Dear David, I so appreciate the time and effort that you took to meet ‘The Truckers’. You have painted a very beautiful picture of what these people are made of and how they represent the Canada that I love so much. I will share your message on every plate-forme I can to show the rest of the WORLD what an amazing bunch of people is doing for us all. Take good care and may the Great Spirit and Creator of us all bless you.

  14. I have never once left a review to any article that I have read online. David yours made me cry, and as I read the other comments the tears of joy keep coming. I have fully support this moment from the start and I pray for them every day! God please keep our land strong and free. Thank you for getting out there and seeing it for your self.

  15. I really appreciate the reminder that this movement is made of real people. Some may be dangerous but most of them are people who are kind and caring and concerned.
    The main feeling I have towards them is a deep sadness for how they have been so lied to and mislead that they are taking part in this non-sensical action that is inherently ableist and harmful.

  16. An honest and concise message–Thank you for letting us share your information. You should be a journalist, because you did share a fantastic point of view!!!

  17. Wow!!! Your acticle left me in tears! This is the Canada that I want to be associated with, the people that I believe in. Way to go!

  18. David, so well written, especially from a first person perspective (feet on the ground). I was in Ottawa the first weekend and witnessed much of the same, friendly people from all parts of Canada, and some from New York state. My son has lived in Ottawa for the last 2o years and he’s never seen the downtown area so clean. A breath of fresh air where the MSM dare not go.

  19. Wow such a refreshing article! Thank you for going down to talk to them!! We need more open-minded people like you.

  20. Nice article.
    I worked 22 years as a trucker, hauling peoples household goods in the US. In that time I met a lot of people-both customers and other drivers- from all ethnic, social, and economic classes. The vast majority of them shared the same problems and desires. Just trying make a buck, and make a life. The government’s regulations, and its willful use of truckers as a revenue source, were two of the deciding factors which got me off the road. In the US the Feds are only part of the problem. Every state loves to ticket, loves to inspect, and loves to regulate, but for a trucker some states (like CA and NY) are their own special kind of hell.
    Thanks for showing the human side of those people in the big trucks. I doubt it will sway the people in the bureaucracy, but maybe this will help get some of the people in the 4-wheelers to cut them a little more slack.

  21. Thank you for sharing this. Very well written and glad to hear truth instead of lies. God bless you.

  22. Thank you for an Ottawa resident view and taking the time to hear and share their stories… Which is the stories of many all across Canada. This experimental vaccine, segregation and cohursion is not the way out of this pandemic… It’s listening, understanding and truth that will 🥰 freedom for all Canadians 💞

  23. This perspective is really helpful. But I wish you had considered two points.

    First, are you sure that the convoy organizers and funders share the views and values of these folks? Their spokespersons seem to be a substantially more radical and less ‘Canadian’ group.

    Second, you covered their values, which seem to be a kind of libertarianism that I can respect, even if I don’t share it. But you didn’t ask them why they believed they were entitled to use these means to force changes in policy and government on the rest of us. They could have made their statements and then worked to win an election to get their views implemented.

  24. David. You have no idea how happy i am to hear an unbiased view . Not some politically driven news report. We are near Winnipeg , so what we hear is fictitious news reports.
    They are average going Joe’s, standing up for what millions of Canadians believe in. We all want OUR lives back. Thank You👍👍

  25. Thanks for publishing this. My wife and I have lived in Byward market (Ottawa’s restaurant district next to the downtown core) for 16 years and we see all the demonstrations in Ottawa. This has been one of the most civilized we can remember. We walked out to have dinner downtown on the 31st (when the province let us eat in restaurants again) and it was a bit noisy, but nothing we haven’t seen before and not in the least threatening.

    On the first Saturday (28 Jan) we walked over to the Trainyards to do some browsing and saw large groups of trucks parked nicely in hotel car parks with people laughing and getting ready. The place was full of Canadian flags, but also many from other provinces and a lot of indigenous flags. Most signs we saw were “pro-vaccine, anti-mandate”. I don’t know where the press have been finding their stories of hate groups – we have seen nothing of this. The nearest thing were flags being unpleasant about Trudeau – hardly hate speech when this is standard fare for a politician.

    I am personally disgusted by the City, Provincial and Federal governments for how they have treated this demonstration in contrast to the welcome mat laid out to other groups with far more divisive agendas.

  26. Thank you for taking the time to get to know these people for yourself! I felt I was there walking with you.
    May Canada never have a class of untouchable, and may we stand united and Free under God.
    God bless you!! 🇨🇦

  27. No one mentioned that because of vaccines we don’t have many childhood diseases that allow our children unecessary illness.measles,mumps, chicken picks.No one mentioned because of vaccines we don’t have small picks or polio. Probably no one is old enough to remember polio and the painful crippling and death it caused. Check those things in history and you may just have a new view of vaccines.

      1. Nicely said, what a beautiful article. Thank you for taking the walk. I would love to read more like this.

  28. I live in Sweden. Here all restrictions are lifted today. We never had a mask mandate, we never had vaccine mandates. The mortality since 2010 was at its lowes in 2019 with a downgowing trend, then 2020 it jumped up to be still lower than 2010,2011,2012 and 2013. 2021 in dropped to be the third lowest in the last 10 years. Wake up, you are living in a mass psychosis of fear were totally unnecessary and wrong things are done to your people and your society. That kind of “cure” will be worse than the disease.

  29. The first tear jerker of “Chicken Soup for the Reborn Canadian Soul” has been written!
    Thank you.

Comments are closed.