In the latest episode of The Maple’s North Untapped podcast, we followed up Jeremy Appel’s recent deep-dive into how Canadian police enabled the far-right occupation of Ottawa by speaking with activists who organized counter-protests against pro-occupation rallies and convoys across the country.
Audrey Redman is an activist based in Edmonton who helped organize counter-protests against local convoys supporting the Ottawa occupation.
They said police threatened counter protesters with being charged under Alberta’s Critical Infrastructure Defence Act, which the provincial government introduced in 2020 in response to protests held in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en land defenders opposed to the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline.
“During our blockade, within the first hour after police arrived, the police liaison had reported back to us that the cops had threatened us with being fined under [the Act], and it came as a bit of a shock, really, which it probably shouldn't have, but it still did.”
Meanwhile, for two weeks pro-occupation protesters blockaded the Coutts border crossing, where police seized a cache of weapons and ammunition. Thirteen blockaders were arrested, four of whom were charged with conspiracy to commit murder.
Redman said police did not threaten the remaining Coutts blockaders with being charged under the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act.
“Instead … hours after that blockade ended, there was video of the protesters hugging and shaking hands with the RCMP officers. Very different to what we experienced.”
Jaggi Singh, who helped organize counter-protests in Montreal, said the disparate police responses to the pro-occupation protests and counter protests speak to problems that date back to the origins of Canadian policing.
“There's a structural issue here, and [the occupation in] Ottawa has exposed that, but that's existed from the very beginnings of Canadian history with the creation of policing. This convoy, and because of who was the demographic of the convoy, and how the police would relate to that has just exposed this.”
“From the origins of the RCMP, to the Oka [crisis], to Gustafsen Lake, to the blockades in support of the Wet’suwet’en as part of ‘Shutdown Canada,’ there's just a racist colonial double standard there.”