Submitted by Joel Harden, MPP for Ottawa Centre
We’ve had an incredibly difficult time in Ottawa—particularly those in our downtown core as a result of the “freedom convoy.” But we also learned during this time that in a crisis, our community shows up for one another.
The convoy arrived on Jan. 29 fueled by grievances from two years of anger against vaccine mandates and mask mandates. They were resolved to send a message, and claimed to be doing so for “blue-collar workers.”
What they did, however, was harm Ottawa residents. Horns blared at all hours at levels that can damage hearing. People missed paychecks, closed their shops or were harassed for wearing a mask. More egregious acts of violence also happened. But, we persevered.
At the height of all this, the priority for the community, local leaders, and our office was to keep each other safe. To get food to seniors and people with disabilities who were not able to leave their homes. To get animals out to safety. To deliver earplugs to residents facing constant honking. And the Hintonburg Community Association organized safety walks around schools.
A Centretown Helpers online Discord group was set up, which organized safe walks for community members and gave folks a place to gather virtually in a difficult time.
Residents organized funds to supplement the wages of workers who were not able to work because of the convoy. Others gathered funds to help downtown residents get out of the core.
Our community mobilized to let each other know that we were not alone.
Our MPP office hosted several town halls to communicate these resources to residents and help them get plugged in.
We’ve also been demanding action from the provincial government during the crisis. Councillor McKenney and I wrote a letter to Premier Ford asking for help for our city and its residents affected by the convoy, and we continue to call for this support.
A citizen-led lawsuit silenced most convoy horns that kept downtown residents up at night. Thousands marched to insist the convoy leave, while a citizens’ blockade peacefully stopped 30 convoy vehicles for nine hours.
We broke the political logjam that kept the convoy in place. While our leaders dithered, the residents of this city took care of each other. That’s a legacy of which we can be proud, but we have more work to do to address rising levels of hate.
Hate grows when people feel unheard. Horns blare when people believe their suffering goes unnoticed. Rural anger boils over against downtown Ottawa when people think “urban elites” have it better than them. Politicians fanning the flames only makes matters worse.
We survived the convoy by taking care of each other, and now we must heal our country. I welcome your thoughts on how we can do this together, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org