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Are “foreign influences” to blame for the bigots’ convoy?

John Bell

February 19, 2022
I'm seeing a lot of social media posts blaming the far-right convoy on the US and "Trumpism".
Even Jagmeet Singhhas fallen into the trap of Canadian exceptionalism. 
This is often accompanied by moans and groans about how our glorious flag has been co-opted by bigots and yahoos. Oh, how will we ever redeem it!
You can never rinse the stains off the butcher's apron.
Certainly the "truckers" (do pickup trucks count?) have caught the fancy of the far-right around the world - including New Zealand FFS.
Approximately half of the online donations to the convoy have come from outside the country. But this does not erase our own colonialist history and its lingering stench.
In the 20s and into the 30s, if you had ambitions in politics or business in "Canada" you joined a white supremacist organization.
If you were in Alberta or Saskatchewan you joined the KKK. Of course the Klan was born in the US, but early organizers sent north to Canada found a ready audience. 
Fledgling politician and future PM John Diefenbaker certainly flirted with the KKK (and probably was a member on the down low) in Saskatchewan in the late 1920s.
If you were east of the prairies, if you wanted to get ahead, you likely joined the Orange Order - white supremacy without the hoods and cross burning. Anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant and fiercely loyal to the Empire - with strong ties to the rising Canadian corporate class.
Four Prime Ministers - including John A Macdonald - and at least 10 provincial premiers (mostly in Ontario) were Orangemen.
Now in my mid-60s, I remember when growing up in Orange dominated London Ontario, turning out with the whole family for the annual Orange Parade. Well I remember my mum, who was from a Fine Old Ontario Family (FOOF) waving her little union jack. The Orange Parade was a close second behind the Santa Claus Parade for biggest annual public manifestation in town.
Remember the early days of the Toronto Blue Jays, when you couldn’t buy a beer at the ballpark? That was the lingering influence of Orange Ontario, with its roots in Protestant (anti-Catholic) fundamentalism.
If you look closely you'll see the old union jack flying alongside the confederate flag and the swastika in “trucker” demonstrations. It is no less a reminder of a racist past than those emblems. Today, the flags of 6 of our provinces incorporate the union jack in whole or in part.
The attitudes and prejudices that fueled the popularity of these and other white supremacist organizations were driven into the background, into small towns and rural communities, by "multiculturalism" – ideological justification for the mass importation of immigrants to work during the long industrial boom of the late 50s, 60s and 70s. 
Remember that the red maple leaf that the "truckers" wrap themselves in today was only introduced - after years of vicious partisan wrangling - in 1965. At the time, folks like todays "truckers" spat on it and burned it.
Those racist, homophobic and misogynist organizations, ideas and practices were put on the defensive and made unpopular - which was fairly easy in the years of urban expansion and a booming economy.
Those boom years were accompanied by a large, confident labour movement, and rising popular movements for human rights for women, for LGBTQ+ people, anti-racist organizing, and a significant Red Power movement. Our side won victories, reforms and real material gains.
But those racist, reactionary ideas never went away, and came roaring back to the surface with the disintegration of Lyin Brian Mulroney's PC Party and the emergence of Preston Manning’s Reform Party. Neo-liberalism was on the rise, labour was on the defensive, the movements had to fight just to maintain the reforms they had won, and the far-right was on the comeback.
No doubt Trumpism has emboldened them. Yes, the Republican right was quick to adopt the convoy. GiveSendGo, the right-wing Christian on-line fundraising site that replaced GoFundMe when that site was frozen, is a tool of the US far-right and Trump hardcore.
For me what is more significant from the hacked donor information is not nationality, but class. The donor list is studded with millionaires, business owners, university professors, lawyers and small business owners – the petty bourgeoisie.
Typical is London lawyer/businessman Holden Rhodes, who donated $20,000 through GiveSendGo. Previously, Rhodes applied for and received COVID subsidies from the federal government for at least 4 of his businesses. He, along with a BC gun range owner, a Nova Scotia trump fan and owner of a chain of industrial cleaning business are among the top 5 Canadian donors.
This re-enforces the fact that this was never a “working class” movement. 
The racist, white supremacist roots of the "truckers" convoy are as Canadian as maple syrup and residential schools.
Redeem the Maple Leaf, the modern emblem of a colonial state, of institutionalized racism and genocide? This ignores Canada's history, from "discovery", of white supremacy and genocide. Colonialism and imperial nostalgia are not unique to Canada, but we take a back seat to none. 
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