Setting aside the hyperbolic foolishness of one former leader of the Official Opposition, I remain convinced that the greatest threat to the security – and therefore also to the freedom – of Canadians is a successful attack on the United States planned in and/or launched from Canada.
In that context, inasmuch as I understand the media’s fixation on the horrific situation in Ottawa, it’s also worth paying attention to the problem along the Canada-US border in Coutts, Alberta.
I shudder to think of the impact of even a single lone wolf who were to use the chaos caused by the protestors to do serious harm to US travellers, or border officials.
More broadly, it seems to me that the greatest threat today to the liberal democratic values and ideals that have shaped the international order under which Canadians have prospered is the deterioration of respect for our fellow citizens that these sorts of convoys engender.
Disunity at home undermines our ability to promote and defend our interests abroad.
Consider, for example, how ongoing domestic chaos risks compromising Ottawa’s position as a dependable NATO ally in the face of increasing Russian military pressure on Ukraine.
I have therefore struggled to understand how members of the Opposition can criticize the government for failing to offer sufficient support to the people of Ukraine, and yet still all but welcome the disorder into which our capital has fallen on account of the extremists among the protestors.
Surely, they too can see Vladimir Putin grinning as the chief of the Ottawa police muses about requesting that our already over-committed Canadian Armed Forces take their eyes off of Eastern Europe to help restore order at home.
And I wonder whether Xi Jinping could even manufacture better evidence to support the claim he makes around the world that the liberal democratic way is inferior to China’s “proper socialist values.”
While I am therefore disappointed with members of the Opposition for their ignorance and self-aggrandizing behaviour, I cannot help but be critical of the government as well.
A serious conversation about global affairs in this country must begin at the top. And when you refuse to speak about Canada’s national interests in language that is at once nuanced yet also accessible, eventually the public comes to believe that foreign policy is both easy and unimportant.
It’s time for fewer media lines about so-called Canadian leadership and more detailed, authentic answers to questions about the thinking behind our actions, and inaction.
When the so-called rallies for freedom began, rather than posing for pictures, I would have liked to have seen members of Parliament from all sides of the House of Commons escorting health care workers to hospitals, and the vulnerable to appointments, while doing anything they could to augment the disappointing efforts of the Ottawa police to hold the nefarious elements within the convoy to account.
It should be possible to recognize the right to speak freely while at the same time standing up for the rule of law and the most vulnerable among us. Such a posture would be helpful at home, but it would also send a reassuring message to Canadian allies and counter our adversaries' efforts to undermine the liberal democratic order.
In sum, the foreign policy implications of the “freedom convoy” are too significant to ignore:
The situation in Coutts threatens our credibility as a reliable American partner and neighbour; the disappointing response of our political representatives has multiplied the social cleavages among us at a time when NATO needs Canadians to stand together; Ukraine - and the liberal order it has come to represent - is in greater danger than it has been in years; and Putin and Xi are laughing from afar.
If that’s what more freedom will get me, I’ll pass.
On the issue of deploying the Canadian Armed Forces to quell the protests in Ottawa, see this Twitter thread from Carleton’s Leah West.
To be notified of my next post, follow me on Twitter @achapnick.
You can subscribe to my newsletter at https://buttondown.email/achapnick.