Nine Indigenous senators condemn the Freedom Convoy movement

Nine Indigenous members of Canada’s senate have come out condemning what is called the Freedom Convoy.

“We strongly support everyone’s right to protest in a peaceful manner,” said a release from the senators. “However, we cannot stand with or for intolerance, hate or violence of any kind. We are extremely disturbed by the events that have unfolded in Ottawa over the past week.

“The display of racist and hateful symbols have prompted profound shock and outrage across the country, as well as caused great hurt to our Indigenous brothers and sisters and members of other communities.”

Senators Dawn Anderson, Michèle Audette, Yvonne Boyer, Patrick Brazeau, Brian Francis, Marty Klyne, Patti LaBoucane-Benson, Sandra Lovelace Nicholas and Mary Jane McCallum issued the statement Feb. 5.

Since Jan. 28, anti-COVID-19 vaccine mandate demonstrators have occupied the national capital’s Parliamentary precinct and surrounding residential neighbourhoods blaring horns and forcing local businesses to close.

Local residents who do not agree with their objectives have complained of being harassed by some members protest. Some say they’ve been subjected to racial slurs.

Police says officers have issued nearly 500 tickets and dozens of criminal investigations have been launched.

Both city hall and the upper echelon of the police force have been criticized for allowing the protest to remain in place for as long as it has.

Nunavut’s senator quits Conservative caucus

Indigenous senators
Police stand by as anti-mandate and anti-protest groups shout at each other in Ottawa over the weekend. Photo: Mark Blackburn/APTN.

On Feb. 4, Nunavut’s senator announced that he’s leaving the Conservative caucus over some of his colleagues’ support for the ongoing protest in Ottawa’s downtown core.

Dennis Patterson said he’s joined the non-partisan Canadian Senators Group.

Patterson confirmed he is still a member of the Conservative Party, but said the caucuses’ support for the protests was “the last straw.”

“These are not caucuses that I’m any longer comfortable with,” he said. “I’ve been very disappointed not to have seen a condemnation from our leadership of the continued hostage occupation of the heart of our Canadian democracy in downtown Ottawa.”

On Sunday, the City of Ottawa declared a state of emergency.

Patterson condemned the protests and said he considers himself a moderate voice in the party.

“I’m appalled that we appear to be associated with extremists.”

Patterson said Erin O’Toole’s ousting from the party leadership was not a factor in his decision.

He also said the Conservative party has taken an “increasingly divisive and vitriolic” approach and he will continue to speak against extremism in the party.

“We need to shift away from that,” he said. “I’ve heard from parents in Nunavut who’ve sent their children to Ottawa and are very scared for their safety and security. Asking me to take a stand and try to work towards a safer environment.”

The NDP also held a news conference on Monday where leader Jagmeet Singh called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the federal government to do more.

“I think the term, ‘they’ve been allowed to flourish,’ is accurate,” he said. “And I think people are really angry by that and really frustrated by that. That this flagrant ignoring of the laws, breaking of the laws, flagrantly breaking laws has been allowed to happen.”

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One of the many places where anti-mandate protesters can obtain food, water or ear plugs on Parliament Hill. Photo: APTN.

Singh is calling on Trudeau to meet with municipal leaders immediately to find out what they need to end the occupation as quickly and peacefully as possible.

Patterson called Nunavut’s efforts to control the spread of COVID-19 in the territory “heroic and successful” and said he felt uneasy with his colleagues’ opposition to vaccine mandates and lockdowns.

“That’s been part of my discomfort.”

His decision to leave was not a “spur of the moment thing,” said Patterson, who added he had discussed it with his colleagues in the House and the Senate before he quit.

“I’ve been thinking deeply about it and expressing my views privately for some time without much resonance, unfortunately,” he said.

Patterson was appointed as a Conservative senator in 2009 by then-prime minister Stephen Harper.

With files from the Canadian Press

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