• Hunter Cresswell

Flags for free dumb

It only took 72 hours to undo 57 years of Canadian identity and pride in our national flag.


Canadian flags flew from most of the vehicles and big rigs that descended on Parliament Hill the weekend of Jan. 29 during the so-called “Freedom Convoy.” Originally truckers from out west organized the convoy in protest of vaccine requirements for international truckers coming into Canada. The U.S. also has this rule.


But as the convoy traveled across Canada, it picked up stragglers with different goals. These folks co-opted the convoy and detracted from the original intent of the demonstration. The convoy became a symbol of anti-vaccine, anti-mask and white supremacist sentiment in Canada.


By this time, most readers will have heard about these things: a pickup truck bore a Confederate battle flag down Elgin Street; convoy supporters demanded food from Shepherds of Good Hope; demonstrators flew Nazi flags; a statue of Terry Fox was given an upside down Canadian flag and a sign that read “mandate freedom”; protesters harassed reporters trying to do their job; businesses shut down; authorities advised people to stay home.


The hateful division sowed during Donald Trump’s campaigns and presidency is one of the reasons that I left the U.S. in August 2018. Now the COVID-19 pandemic and the rhetoric surrounding it is doing the same to Canada.


The Freedom Convoy drove this home for me.


Since 2016, the large American flags flying on the back of pickup trucks might as well be red flags — warning signs. To me, the people inside these trucks are more likely to hold views that are far rightwing, anti-science, anti-LBGTQ+, fundamentalist Christian and prejudiced against other races.


While driving on Hwy 5 south to Farm Point to get gas on Jan. 29, I saw two pickups flying big Canadian flags on the highway next to me. My stomach dropped. The very thing I had hoped to leave behind made its way to the Gatineau Hills.


The only time I’ve ever been so embarrassed to be Canadian was after the South Park song “Blame Canada” was nominated for an Academy Award in 2000 and my classmates sang it at me.


And I’m not the only one embarrassed. A Gatineau Hills hockey player took off his prized Jarome Iginla team Canada hockey jersey while playing at the Centre Wakefield La Pêche rink after he was asked if he was wearing it in support of the trucker convoy that weekend.


The trucker’s convoy got co-opted by wingnuts mad at provincial health mandates. I don’t want to see the Canadian flag co-opted by that crowd either.


Nationalism shouldn’t be tied to political or social views. Do and think what you want as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone, but leave waving the flag for the Olympics, Canada Day, or when the Stanley Cup comes home.


Hunter Cresswell is a senior reporter at the Low Down.