design by Megan Yung
A few weekends ago my friend and I found ourselves downtown Vancouver on the corner of Robson and Burrard, completely surrounded by anti-masking truckers. The infamous ‘freedom convoy’ has been staging protests across the country, most prominently in the capital, stating mask mandates are a breach of privacy. The havoc reminded me of the United States attack on the capitol in January of last year. The two instances are very different in their demonstrations of overt and covert violence, considering the United States was more openly violent, and there are lots of critiques surrounding this violence going unpunished. But in either form, the demonstrated violence is rooted in white supremacy, bigotry, and hypocrisy. Canada has always taken cultural inspiration from the United States, how and if this translates politically is something that goes largely untalked about.
Fundamentally, when British North America (now Canada) shifted to speaking primarily in English as opposed to French, they took inspiration from their largely English-speaking neighbours. Nowadays, the Canadian market is flooded by 81% of all cultural commodities from the United States. This includes television shows, books, music and movies. Not only does this alienate us from a proper sense of culture, but it alters our landscape of thoughts, beliefs, and ideas. If art does influence culture, and culture influences politics, to what extent are we at the mercy of the United States?
The United States Trump supporters staged a highly militant attack on the nation's capital. The relevancy of this is not to be understated, as it is important we do not view this as an element of democracy. Protests and demonstrations exist to hold authorities accountable, refuting the results of elections is a hindrance to the democratic process as such. This key distinction is relevant to any discussion on the motivations surrounding the attack on the capital, or the Canadian Convoy. Something we see cropping up in the US, again and again, are themes of violence and destruction, whether that be through protests at the capitol building, or upheld in systems of authority such as the police force. It is not to say that Canada is exempt from themes of violence, it actually heads more concern for Canada's future when you look at the history of Canadians pulling cultural inspiration from the US.
In Canada, the freedom convoy was a group of truckers honking their horns and occupying space in front of the capitol building in Ottawa, and in other smaller demonstrations in cities across the country. These demonstrations were in protest of the mask mandate, and are problematic in many of their comparisons to real systems of oppression. While I was in the thick of the protest waiting for the light to turn red so I could cross the street, I remember seeing a sign comparing Justin Trudeau to Hitler. The obvious contrast between the US riots and the Canadian protest is the militancy in each demonstration, but a concerning comparison is found in the idea of significance. If someone can equate a public health mandate to one of the largest religious genocides in history, we know we have an issue of confirmation bias between Canada and the US.
The entitlement to your beliefs is important, but demonstrations that incite violence towards historically underrepresented communities are a danger to these individuals. This becomes a larger issue when we create echo chambers across the border by entwining media and culture with politically charged conventions such as public health or the results of elections. The Canadian political identity is not something a lot of people particularly identify with or even consider to be a genuine concept. Having one foot in the Commonwealth, and another foot across the United States border doesn't leave us much to work with on the landscape of individuality. This concedes a lot of us to the magnetic pull of our southern neighbours. The problem with this is the two-party system in the US, If no other Canadian will affirm your beliefs, there is someone right beneath us who is willing to do so. Pandemic-related issues in public health today result in a lot of polarizing policies. With these ideas coming to light, it should be more important to interact with differing opinions than it should be to pull inspiration from similarly aligned people in a completely different system.
Sharing media from country to country is an important piece of cultural identity in our global economy. But when politics come into play, it is important we are prioritizing ideology in a way that raises a valid critique as opposed to comparisons to more serious issues. The United States riots were a militant attack on the capital, this is a problem in and of itself. This is concerning for Canadians when this translates to our politics, we see a concerning level of confirmation bias resulting in the occupation of our capital city. Oppositional parties exist to encourage discussion, but the value of their contribution is watered down by feedback loops from country to country blurring the lines between ideas and ignorance.