The New Symbol of Resistance and The Rule of Law

Feb 13, 2022 | Freedom Forum

Who would have thought that jerry cans would become Canada’s newest symbols of freedom?

Hundreds of pro-trucker demonstrators in Ottawa have presented Canadian history with a new way of looking at freedom:  the red gasoline cans and yellow diesel cans.  This development is a sign that a significant number of Canadians are no longer convinced that the rules laid down by municipal authorities are worthy of respect. 

In a striking op-ed, Dr. Brian Lee Crowley poignantly observed:

When the law is used to promote or shield specific causes and interests, people only obey the law when it is convenient to do so. And they are sorely tempted to take the law into their own hands when the state cannot be trusted to protect everyone’s legal rights impartially. Vigilantism is a sign that public authorities have lost the trust of the people.

The supporters of the truckers came upon this new symbol as a subterfuge tactic against the police in Ottawa, who were ordered to remove the truckers’ fuel supply in an attempt to dismantle the trucker protest jamming the streets in front of Parliament.  The protesters carried a mix of “fuel” in the containers – water, Gatorade, or actual gasoline and diesel for the truckers.  It was up to the police to check and see (or smell) which was which.  The intention was to give the authorities a harder time stopping the flow of fuel to the truckers for their rigs.

The police are not amused.  They now have “a layer of logistical complexity” that they did not have to deal with before.

Think about what is happening. 

A significant group of people in our country support the truckers’ demand that the vaccine mandates and other pandemic restrictions be removed.[1]  However, the government of Canada is not interested in talking with the truckers, evidently because the Prime Minister disagrees with them. According to Trudeau, “I have attended protests and rallies in the past when I agreed with the goals.  When I supported the people expressing their concerns and their issues.” 

If politicians support the law only when it is beneficial to causes the politicians agree with, then they are poor stewards of the ship of state. They turn the rule of law into the arbitrary rule of preference, popularity, and power. The law is meant to be applied neutrally to all Canadians, be they truckers, doctors, journalists, or legislators. The government of Canada is not a government for only the third of Canadians who voted for them.  They have a moral and political obligation to govern for good of every citizen. Anything less is a dereliction of duty.

Upon hearing of the fuel restrictions, supporters of the truckers went to the nearest Canadian Tire or Walmart to buy fuel cans.  They had a point to make.  They were letting police and politicians know that they were not putting up with political hypocrisy.  They remembered when the Prime Minister called for dialogue with protesters who jammed the country’s railroads; they recalled when he understood why people would burn churches on Indigenous reserves.  They were having no part of the sham.  Nevertheless, their outright obstruction of the law betrays their lack of political trust – a breakdown that should concern us all.   

If we are going to live in a free country, then we must answer Dr. Crowley’s call to uphold the rule of law with impartial justice. Politicians of whatever political stripe cannot let the law be used as a bludgeon for their enemies and then ignore it when it should be applied to their ideological kindred.

The integrity of our nation is at stake.  We cannot take these challenges lightly.  Now is the time for those who value freedom of speech to stand up and speak the truth.  If our own lawmakers do not respect the law, then what trouble will we reap as a country?

Sir Thomas More, as dramatized in Robert Bolt’s play A Man for All Seasons, rebuked his son-in-law Roper, who suggested More not give his opponent the benefit of the law.  Listen to this dialogue and consider its wisdom:

ROPER: So now you’d give the Devil benefit of law!

MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

ROPER: I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

MORE: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you-where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat?  This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast – man’s laws, not God’s – and if you cut them down – and you’re just the man to do it – d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?  Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

Red cans – yellow cans – demand that we give everyone the benefit of the law.

[1] According to recent polls, two thirds of Canadians support lifting restrictions, while “56 per cent of Canadians say the unvaccinated should not be pressured into getting the shot.”

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