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Yellow vests, brown shirts: convoy runs out of fuel

Counter-protest calls for just transition and respect for Indigenous sovereignty. Photo: Council of Canadians
John Bell

February 19, 2019

They called it “United We Roll”. In fact it was more like “United We’re Trolls”.

After weeks of hype, with the CBC giving it endless coverage and right-wing opposition parties trying to put wind in its sails (you should pardon the expression), the pro-pipeline truck convoy was an embarrassing flop.

The protest which promised to paralyse downtown Ottawa for two days (one of the CBC’s breathless predictions) mustered fewer than 100 vehicles and about 200 protesters on Parliament Hill.

Their numbers were easily matched by First Nations activists, environmentalists and anti-fascist demonstrators.

The latter were in attendance because early on the convoy had been hijacked by Yellow Vests from Alberta. Unlike in France where the vests are a symbol of the fight against government sponsored austerity measures, here the Gilet Jaunes have been appropriated by far-right and neo-fascist groups. There were brown shirts under those yellow vests. They jumped on the pro-pipeline bandwagon and inserted anti-Indigenous, Islamophobic and generally anti-immigrant ideology into the messaging.

Signs and slogans were more about closing the borders and opposing the UN’s “Globalist” agenda than about building pipelines. If you can stomach it you can watch video of Ottawa Truckers Association head Ron Barr bringing his love of Trump and border walls, and contempt for young people and “coloureds”, into the mix. Barr served as MC for the day.

Joining Maxime Bernier and various Tory MPs on the speakers’ platform was noted neo-Nazi sympathizer Faith Goldy. Bernier challenged Trudeau to a boxing match, and was warmly greeted for his anti-immigrant policies. CPC leader Andrew Scheer was there for the photo-ops, as were MPs like Brad Trost. Goldy complained that the lack of snow shoveling on Parliament Hill was part of a Liberal plot, and condemned the media for concentrating too much on the pipelines message and not enough on the anti-immigrant slogans.

The activists supporting Indigenous sovereignty on their unceded territory brought a different message: “No Pipelines, No Fascists On Indigenous Land”. Their chants were temporarily drowned out by the blasting air horns of the convoy, but it was their message that won the day.

We need to expose the convoy for its explicit racism, but the implicit racism of pipeline construction for Indigenous communities and of climate chaos for the global south is just as real. And we have to debunk the false debate that pits the environment against jobs: instead of pipelines, we need to win the argument with working people that a better economy is possible.




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