Opinion DC Comment 09 Feb 2022 DC Edit | Trudeau, O ...

DC Edit | Trudeau, Ottawa face the music

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | DECCAN CHRONICLE
Published Feb 9, 2022, 1:19 am IST
Updated Feb 9, 2022, 1:20 am IST
The protests have paralysed the capital where the mayor has declared a state of emergency
Trucker Jay Vanderwier stands in front of his truck as demonstrators continue to protest the vaccine mandates implemented by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on February 8, 2022 in Ottawa, Canada. (AFP)
 Trucker Jay Vanderwier stands in front of his truck as demonstrators continue to protest the vaccine mandates implemented by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on February 8, 2022 in Ottawa, Canada. (AFP)

It is not just a truckers’ rally named “Freedom Convoy” against a Covid vaccine mandate that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is grappling with. The protests against government overreach in tackling the pandemic appear to be an early manifestation of a larger social movement reflecting a clash between two Canadas — on one side, the urban, liberal metropolises and, on the other, the vast rural swath whose people feel hardly connected with the federal government in Ottawa.

The irony is not lost as Mr Trudeau, a minority PM whose Liberal Party could win the popular vote only in urban pockets — 109 of 150 seats in the most urban of constituencies and only 34 seats of 150 of the most rural and Conservative parts — has been forced to stay in a secret location. The protests have paralysed the capital where the mayor has declared a state of emergency, the police are arresting demonstrators and the national war memorial has been fenced off after it was desecrated by urinating protesters.

Those in India mocking Mr Trudeau now after pillorying him for his earlier comments supporting Indian farmers' protests while addressing his sizeable Canadian-Punjabi constituents on Guruparab last year might be missing the wood for the trees. It is clear as crystal that the Canadian PM has become a deeply polarising figure even as those with an anti-establishment bias are waging a battle on the streets against a mandate that affects most those truckers who have to shuttle between Canada and the United States.

The issues coming to a head in Canada could become stereotypical across democracies as they are emblematic of the larger divide between urban and rural, liberal and conservative, and the left and the right even more than the most modern phenomenon of the rich-poor divide. Much as the farmers of India chose the capital New Delhi as the focal point of their protests, Canadian truckers have descended on Ottawa. And one of two prominent figures who set off this cycle of massive protests by raising funds online or campaigning on TikTok has even apologised to Ottawans for choosing their city for the protests while a judge has asked the truckers to stop tooting their horns.

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