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Protest, the Canadian way

It’s one thing to be upset, and peaceful demonstration is healthy. But we can’t allow legitimate protests to be hijacked by the fringe.
Alexandros Michailidis /

Spring has sprung – and so has the season of protests. That’s got me thinking: let’s collectively try to find optimism so Canadian protests might avoid the slippery slope of confrontational, escalating and combative tainted free speech.

Peaceful protests are massively important in any healthy democracy — big emphasis on “peaceful.” If we can protest mindfully, in that “show kids how-to” way, rather than “let’s escalate into a nasty frenzy,” everybody wins.

In today’s society, frustration has hit a fever pitch. Just about everyone has a beef – and is searching for somewhere to lay blame. Pick your target: politicians, big pharma, big oil, tech giants, the media; the list is ever-growing and rather epic.

In this blame game many are “mad-as-hell-and-not-gonna-take-it-anymore,” ready to stand together to make their point. Within these groups, there is a scary subset – a fringe of frustrated folks – becoming more unhinged and volatile.

The fringe taints the message.

A marginalized middle class sees that even hard work isn’t paying off. There is far more lip-service than walk-the-walk going on.

Moderately speaking, it’s safe to say that Jim and Joan public are pissed off at politicians for not finding ways to fix: rampant money laundering; fentanyl-laced street drugs killing thousands; out-of-control real estate markets; affordable housing availability; taxes on top of taxes — and don’t even get them started on no “real” ride sharing and how political THAT topic is.

There is a serious basis for being mad, there are many obvious gaping holes needing to urgently be fixed.

This is by no means a Canadian problem, just look around the world! Full-fledged war, famine, daily terrorism strikes…we’ve been dealt a pretty damn good hand here. That said, we are not immune to some of the ugliest of the ugly happening elsewhere — yes, it could all “happen here.”

All. Of. It.

Enter the Yellow Vest Movement. What started as a protest against fuel tax increases in France has bloomed into a broader rebellion against broader frustrations. The vest is a symbol; a collective way to show pent-up anger when citizens feel more and more unheard.

The protests are a public cry for help, going unheard, that’s turning nasty around the extreme edges.

Watching riots in Paris two weeks ago was shocking. People rebelling in the name of anti-elitism became a dangerous mob attacking the very citizens they claimed to be fighting for.

This is a dangerously slippery slope. Next-level protesting is not the answer, violence is not the answer.

On Canadian soil, the Yellow Vest protests to date have been much, much, smaller than its French counterpart. Most have been quite Canadian — straightforward on messaging, peaceful, and polite – yet still tense.

The Canadian arm has been very specifically pushing back on government policies, opposing controversial files like the carbon tax and delays on pipeline construction. That’s fine. But when it comes to issues like UN migration and climate change agreements are concerned, some extremists in the movement are calling Canadian politicians treasonous.

Think about that: Treasonous.

Somewhere along the way, the movement was hijacked by extremists. Racist undertones, overtones, all of the tones. It’s awful. It’s not who we are.

Growing in some corners of Canada is an overt anti-immigration sentiment that is truly UnCanadian. Some of the fringe are trying to use the Yellow Vest Movement to cultivate a political base. Sound familiar?

There are, quite literally, some trying to tear a page out of the Trump handbook. All Canadians need to stop this. Calling media the enemy and stoking fires of discrimination and hate? That is not who we are. We can disagree, we can argue, we can protest – but we cannot spiral into the void.

Some want to dismiss Canadian yellow vests – all of them – as “crackpots.” Slow down!

Instead why don’t we look for some Middle here? Look at the majority of its members: weary working class wanting to be heard where they feel ignored.

Can we not find a way to communicate in a Canadian way? Election years are important, but maybe you are also exhausted by waiting for one for some movement on what you believe urgently needs fixing.

Spring is here, and so protests are coming to a “soon to be built pipeline” near you. Let’s focus on a standard of successful Canadian peaceful protests. Extremism, violence, riots and hate are not who we are; let’s show the world that.

Regardless of your “side,” whatever the issue, make the most important goal standing up against the extremist fringe.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.