The Freedom Convoy: The Inside Story of Three Weeks that Shook the World
Toronto: Sutherland House, 2022
Andrew Lawton is a senior journalist with the Canadian conservative news website True North, founded by Candice Malcolm. Lawton has written a detailed account of the trucker protest that took over the streets of Canada’s federal capital, Ottawa, for three weeks in the winter of 2022. The nascent, grassroots movement began in opposition to Justin Trudeau’s imposition of vaccine mandates for truckers that made a living traversing the Canada-US border. It became a sophisticated organization that advocated for freedom, the abolition of all vaccine mandates, and an end to Trudeau’s authoritarianism. Despite this growing complexity, the convoy never lost its dynamic grassroots nature. Although the festival-like atmosphere ultimately gave way to heavy-handed police action on Ottawa’s streets, the convoy has had a lasting impact on Canadian political culture.
To his credit, Andrew Lawton has produced a valuable work based on numerous interviews he conducted on-the-ground with convoy participants. He spoke with those in organizational positions, individual truckers, and allied protesters. While he does mention other actions that took place in other parts of the country, the author’s main focus is on events in Ottawa. There is a marked difference between Lawton’s approach and that of the highly-subsidized mainstream regime media: He actually conversed with first-hand sources. The disparity between the official mainstream media narrative and what was actually happening on the ground is a major theme of the work, which is a 191-page book divided into 14 chapters with an introduction, conclusion, and endnotes.
There is no doubt that convoy participants yearned for a vanished past. Lawton sets the scene: “Walking into Convoyland felt like taking a step into 2019 — a time before mask mandates and vaccine passports. This is the world the protesters were trying to reclaim.” The party-like atmosphere replete with road hockey games, bouncy castles, outdoor cookouts, tailgating, music, and dancing was all in reaction to the freedoms that were lost during the pandemic.
Lawton begins his book with a snapshot of the convivial atmosphere that characterized so much of the convoy’s time in Ottawa:
A flatbed truck rigged with a high powered sound system became the main stage hosting speakers and musicians throughout the week. People sang and danced into the night. The same stage hosted church services on Sunday mornings. And then there were the bouncy castles and the hottub.
Lawton describes the convoy’s genesis. He begins the first chapter with the story of Brigitte Belton, a 52-year-old trucker from Wallaceburg, Ontario who ran afoul of the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) for the heinous crime of talking to a border agent without wearing a mask. Even though Belton had an exemption, she was warned that she could be arrested for not complying.
This incident left Brigitte Belton shaken; she immediately took to TikTok to voice her displeasure: “In Canada we’re no longer free,” she said.
Lawton interviewed her at length as well. After her experience at the border and a pandemic’s worth of lockdowns, restrictions, and mandates, Belton said “At that point I was done . . . I was done with life. I knew I couldn’t live in Canada in an open-air jail.”
Shortly thereafter, “the Canadian government imposed a de facto vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers.” At this point in the first chapter, Lawton provides some context for Belton’s experience. He goes on to write about the domino effect Belton’s TikTok video had on others such as Chris Barber, another trucker from Saskatchewan with a large TikTok following. He also talks about how they communicated by way of that platform, and how they began to conceptually organize regional Canadian convoys.
The author writes about James Bauder, an Alberta activist who was inspired by truckers who blocked a highway on Australia’s Gold Coast, and his subsequent calls for a similar action in Canada to drive into Ottawa in an effort to end vaccine passports. Lawton also talks about Bauder’s bizarre memorandum of understanding (MOU) addressed to members of the Canadian government. Bauder involved Pat King, another erratic character, a self-proclaimed investigative journalist with hundreds of thousands of social media followers. Ironically, while the mainstream press would latch on to both Bauder and King as representative of the convoy as a whole because of some of their more polemical statements, other convoy organizers would try to distance themselves from the pair.
One of those organizers who Lawton interviewed at length was Tamara Lich. Born Arlene Catherine Martineau on September 19, 1972 and given the name Tamara by her adoptive parents, Lich would become one of the more prominent names in future mainstream media stories. Lawton explains that she became involved politically as an activist in Medicine Hat, a small city in southern Alberta. Inspired by France’s yellow vest protests, Lich led similar local actions in her city. She was also involved in an Alberta independence party, the Maverick Party, that ran candidates in the 2021 federal election. Lich was instrumental in establishing the “Freedom Convoy 2022 Facebook page and a GoFundMe campaign.”
In one of the more prominent stories from the convoy’s time in Ottawa, the controversy surrounding the Trudeau government’s disruption of GoFundMe and the mischaracterization of those who donated to it is one of the most egregious examples of government overreach, authoritarianism, and falsification. The GoFundMe initiative brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars in the first few days; the fund would balloon into the millions at its peak.
Lawton writes at length about the mainstream media’s distortion and falsification of what was actually happening in Ottawa in the chapter entitled “Duelling Narratives.” At the outset of the chapter, he recounts this duality:
On my way to Ottawa, I’d heard little in the media about the convoy beyond predictions of a violent insurrection and accusations of racism and extremism. Walking around downtown Ottawa the first weekend, I was relieved, though not surprised, to see nothing of this nature. . . . Sometimes, it would take months to learn the truth behind a story impugning the convoy.
One of the worst examples of a false story being used to justify authoritarian and violent actions by the Trudeau government was generated by one Matias Munoz on Twitter. He accused two arsonists of attempting to set his downtown Ottawa apartment building on fire. Munoz also claimed that one of them was part of the convoy. It was an outright lie that took months to uncover as Lawton explains: “it wasn’t until March 21, more than a month after the protest had been disbanded, that police confirmed there was no connection between the suspects and the trucker protest.” Unfortunately the false story was picked up by the mainstream press and repeated again and again by politicians who were opposed to the convoy. As Lawton points out, the MPs used it as an example of “violence” in the convoy — and used the false story as a way to justify violence against truckers and allied protesters.
The convoy protests garnered an amazing international response. Even though the Canadian mainstream press was doing its best to discredit the truckers, Lawton details the overwhelming support they received from social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram. Just as the present reviewer noted at the time, positive messages were received from what Lawton calls “a coterie of anti-establishment celebrities.” Lawton mentions that Elon Musk, Rob Schneider, Russell Brand, Donald Trump, and others took to social media in support of the truckers.
Lawton also notes that the very unlikely phrase “Canada-style protest” appeared in 80 news stories in the month of February as likeminded protest convoys inspired by the Freedom Convoy sprung up across the world. A convoy in the United States encircled Washington, DC, and others set out for “Wellington, New Zealand; Canberra, Australia; Paris, France; London, United Kingdom; and Brussels, Belgium, among other world capitals.”
The heady positivity of international backing, millions in grassroots funding, and sympathetic international movements soon gave way to a hardening of the federal government’s response. In an unprecedented move, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act for the first time in Canadian history. Lawton explains that the Emergencies Act of 1988 replaced the War Measures Act, which was used during the First World War. On the afternoon of February 14, 2022, Trudeau would essentially use the Emergencies Act to grant his government extraordinary powers to not only forcibly clear convoy protesters and their trucks from the streets but freeze their bank accounts and seize property.
In Chapter 13, the author provides quite a bit of detail about police actions after Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act. These measures received international attention as truckers and their allies were forcibly removed from the streets of Ottawa. In a viral video, police mounted on horseback trampled two demonstrators in front of Ottawa’s iconic gothic hotel, the Chateau Laurier. Lawton admits that he did not see the incident, but he was right in the immediate vicinity: “Some of the police aggressively advanced toward the area where I and others were standing, effectively pinning us against the front of Chateau Laurier’s concrete portico.” It was shortly afterwards that Lawton himself was pepper-sprayed:
Seconds later, my face felt wet. My immediate instinct was that someone had thrown water at me, but an instant later, the burning sensation said otherwise. The left side of my face was on fire. I’d been pepper sprayed. A photo captured by a journalist moments later shows me hunched over in disbelief.
In the book’s penultimate chapter, Lawton documents the aftermath of the police actions that removed protesters and vehicles, as well as the extraordinary powers that let the government freeze bank accounts and seize fundraising money. The police confiscated 115 vehicles, 200 bank accounts containing a combined $7.8 million were frozen, other fundraising money was rendered inaccessible, and more.
Freedom Convoy is a valuable book. I would like to offer some criticisms, however. So often, conservatives seek out examples of diversity in order to delegitimize attacks from the Left. It is as if to say, “Look, we have diversity, too. We can’t be racist. This isn’t a white identity movement!” It is a sad defensive tactic that doesn’t work and isn’t necessary. Lawton is guilty of this in a few cases. He is motivated by a genuine fondness for the convoy’s message and its participants, but it is a tactic that should be dispensed with in the long run. White majority protest and metapolitical movements are legitimate, as whites have group interests — and this is our country. It has been a long road, but we are inexorably being led towards overt white identity politics, albeit incrementally because of colossal resistance from the establishment.
The book could have included a map or two of Ottawa with some of the key landmarks indicated to help guide readers as events unfolded. It would have been nice if more photographs of the convoy’s time in the capital had been included as well. These are minor criticisms, however, as the beating heart of the work is Lawton’s detailed reporting of his first-hand experiences and the interviews he conducted with organizers, truckers, and allied protesters.
Incidentally, the book, published by Sutherland House, is not being sold in stores by one of Canada’s largest book retailers. Indigo, formerly Chapters, is making the book available to consumers that shop online, but has decided not to stock the monograph at its brick-and-mortar locations. The retailer addressed the issue with this rather nebulous statement:
We believe that access to books fuels discussion and can bring about change. We are committed to representing the diversity of Canada in the books and products we sell, feature, and promote.
When fed through a politically correct newspeak translator, it probably translates to, “We don’t like your politics very much,” or some equivalent.
When compared to the draconian censorship experienced by publishers on the Dissident Right, this is quite minor; however, it is unknown at this point whether or not government officials advised the company not to openly sell the book. And that is a real possibility, given that Justin Trudeau’s federal government is moving towards increasing levels of authoritarian control.
To conclude, the present reviewer would like to recommend this book, as it is a well-substantiated piece of journalism that draws on a whole litany of firsthand sources. Although Lawton is not an identitarian or a member of the Dissident Right, he did nonetheless challenge the prevailing narrative pushed by Canada’s hostile political class and regime media. He did his best to give a fair hearing to members of a grassroots movement that had the courage to challenge the totalitarians who still hold power in the once Great White North.
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 Andrew Lawton, The Freedom Convoy: The Inside Story of Three Weeks that Shook the World (Toronto: Sutherland House, 2022), ix. Hereafter Freedom Convoy.
 Freedom Convoy, ix.
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 Freedom Convoy, 5. Emphasis in original.
 Freedom Convoy, 8-9.
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 Freedom Convoy, 87-97.
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