On our doorstep – local experts weigh in on the fallout of the Ambassador Bridge Blockade
University of Windsor expert panellists gathered to engage in an in-depth discussion of the Ambassador Bridge blockade in early March. They discussed health policy freedom of expression to political and economic ramifications.
Below are a few of the key points from the discussion:
On Health Policy, and whether the mandates were worth it.
Professor Bill Bogart commented about the difficulty of the vaccine mandates. At the time of the truckers’ mandate (effective January 15, 2022), 90% of the truckers were vaccinated. The issues were raised by a determined, organized minority.
It still begs the question if the mandates were worth it: by the time the first vaccine passports came into effect in September 2021, 77% of the public had received two doses, and this went up to 89% by January 2022. At a cost in terms of social and political tensions, the mandates had made at most a 12% difference.
Bogart says that ‘’if we contemplate vaccine mandates in the future, they must be weighed proportionally to success and cost.’’
On Freedom of Expression.
Protests are inherently disruptive. If the traditional channels of communication are presumed to be ineffective, a protest is a way of speaking more loudly. Some public spaces- like parks, legislatures, are acceptable venues, while others (i.e., Ambassador bridge) are not.
Professor Richard Moon compared the freedom convoy to other disruptive protests. He observed, for instance, that anti-pipeline demonstrators who blockade the path of a developing pipeline, are aware of the law-breaking factor of their actions, and are willing to bear the consequences. The ‘freedom convoy’, on the other hand, does not display this same self-awareness.
The demonstrator’s definition of ‘liberty’ is based on several erroneous beliefs: the virus is a scam, it’s like the flue, vaccines are dangerous. (The Lance interviewed two protestors during the blockade and both of them expressed these beliefs).
A considerable proportion of people have become tied into ‘opportunistic disinformation networks’, which persuade them not to trust the mainstream media or traditional expertise.
How does this happen? Moon says most of us have a limited ability to assess something like COVID (or climate change), so we rely on others. Some of us accept mainstream information from experts in the field, others reject it as fraudulent. The conversation becomes impossible when two people cannot even agree on the validity of the same source.
The symbolism of a truck.
Dr. Jamey Essex, political science:
The use of trucks as a symbol is not new. We depend on trucking for supplies, but trucks are also great for taking up space, supporting a protest banner, they’re a difficult obstacle to remove, and they are a potent symbol of a worker’s role in society. Therefore the ‘trucker convoy’ symbolizes the populist anger of the righteous working class. The trucks are a cipher for the common man oppressed by the oppressive globalists.
Symbolic- not substantive. Dr. Essex pointed out again that this was only a minority of truckers in this convoy- most truckers would not risk their license and livelihood for something like this, and a third of all truckers are immigrants.
Instead, Dr. Essex believes the blockade is evidence of a rightward drift, rooted in a nationalist perspective emphasizing social cohesion and national identity. They see themselves as the vanguard of the silent majority- a majority that is overwhelmingly white and native-born.
He says that the freedom convoy’s response to the pandemic (the lockdowns, vax/mask mandates) has ‘’united several right-wing movements- anti-immigrant, anti-vaxx, anti-government’’.
He identified this as ‘transnational nationalism’- a type that both builds on a type of domestic nationalism and simultaneously imports elements from other nationalist movements around the world.