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The previous trip to Ottawa has a different tone but still captures the whole country

On Friday afternoon, there are two completely different views from the Fairmont Chateau Laurier hotel in Ottawa, where I work. Immediately out front, hundreds of angry protesters took turns shouting abuse and begging law enforcement to leave, singing “O Canada” after a day-long effort by a large amount of police to push them out of a special truck blockade snarling traffic. But from my window looking out into the heart of the anti-vaccination truck blockade entering Parliament, protesters were relatively scarce as truck drivers revved up and honked their horns, seemingly for warning.

The police court-wide press starting Friday appeared to be moving closer to the blockade, which was entrenched in the city three weeks ago. (Though, as always with this outcry, things may have changed by the time most of you read this.)

We will continue to cover the protesters’ blockade until the streets are clear and beyond. It started with some truckers raging about the federal requirement for vaccines and, as it seemed to be coming to an end, turned into an angry and disruptive cry to “take back our freedom.” do”.

However, this is not the first time protesters have embarked on a public trip to Ottawa from Western Canada.

In The Siege of Ottawa In 1910, a group of about 500 farmers traveling from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba were allowed to take over the chambers of the House of Representatives to read a long list of grievances about agriculture.

But the most similar, and also the most different, demonstration against the capital was 1935 Getting to the Ottawa Trek. Deep in the Great Recession, about 30 percent of Canadians were unemployed and about 20 percent were participating in some kind of public relief program.

For single men, that means living and working in Unemployment Camps. Run by the military, these camps had harsh conditions and were paid less than the disheartening wages at the time.

A group of camp workers began a two-month protest in Vancouver, which included occupying a department store, a library and a museum. When that went nowhere, about 1,000 pedestrians climbed onto freight trains with the goal of reaching the capital.

They only reached Regina before Chancellor RB Bennett ordered the railways to remove them from their trains. But eight hikers were allowed to continue on to Ottawa to meet government officials, while the rest camped out in Regina’s exhibit.

Meetings are a disaster. Bill Waiser, professor emeritus of history at the University of Saskatchewan who has written extensively about the trip, told me they “walked into a shouting match.”

On July 1, police moved to the Regina fairgrounds and a riot broke out, which Professor Waiser attributes to the fault of the police. Two people died, many were seriously injured, and 130 were arrested. Extensive property damage.

Prof Waiser says that one similarity between today’s convoy of trucks and the 1935 trip is that members of each feel that the government will not listen to them. However, beyond that, he said, things are different.

Trek was organized by communists with specific demands for collective solutions to unemployment. In contrast, the demands of the current protest are often vague and always about individual liberties. They are also deeply unconstitutional (for example, asking Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to order the provinces to cancel all pandemic measures, or for the Governor and Senate to take control of the government).

In contrast to the chaos and disruption that the current protesters have brought to Ottawa, Prof Waiser said, the pedestrians are highly disciplined. “If there’s anything you’ve seen today or during your first week on Parliament Hill that isn’t tolerated, you’ll be kicked off the tour,” he said Friday.

Above all, however, while polls have shown that the current rally was not able to win Professor Waiser says most Canadians have the public’s trust.

That, perhaps, has resulted in many of their requests being met over time. Prof Waiser said the trip was “the starting point for the failure of the Bennett government.” More importantly, he said, it changed public perception. After the trip, unemployment was no longer seen as a “sign of personal failure” but a failure of the economy. That paved the way for unemployment insurance and other social programs.

Many of the walkers fought in the Spanish Civil War, says Professor Waiser. “And then some of them fought in the Second World War,” he added. “Well, those are the real patriots.”

In case you missed them, here are a few of our many entries from last week on lockdowns:

A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has covered Canada for The New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.


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https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/19/world/canada/an-earlier-trek-to-ottawa-had-a-different-tone-but-still-captured-the-nation.html The previous trip to Ottawa has a different tone but still captures the whole country

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