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Convoys and Constitutions

Posted on: January 30, 2022

Category: Theology

Convoys and Constitutions

A truck convoy, self-titled the freedom convoy, rolled across Canada and into Ottawa this weekend. It is hard to tell who the principal organizer of this event is. I have seen various representatives named in the media and online who speak for the convoy, and I understand several organizations support the convoy. The website where information can be found is called Canada Unity. There one can read the “Memorandum of Understanding” (MOU) issued by Canada Unity.

Before various other individuals and groups joined the trucker convoy, the drivers represented about 10 percent of Canadian truckers according to the Canadian Truckers Alliance. The initial protest was about COVID-19 border crossing regulations that truckers returning to Canada from the United States must observe. The problem is that the United States has the same regulations as Canada, so an unvaccinated Canadian trucker cannot cross into the United States anyway. As Lorraine Sommerfeld of the Hamilton Spectator humorously noted, they are protesting a policy about returning from a place they cannot go. This gives us an idea of the mentality involved.

Canada Unity’s MOU can be read on their website. It is written officially with a legalese tone. I have read it, and three things, in particular, stand out for me.

The MOU is directed at bodies of government in Canada (federal, provincial, and municipal). First, it calls on every government to cancel all forms of vaccine mandates, which are believed to be violations of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Second, all governments and employers across Canada must re-instate all employees whose jobs have been lost or curtailed due to the employees’ refusal to be vaccinated. Third, Article 4 of the MOU declares that the Canadian Senate and the Governor General of Canada will “represent itself as the Government of Canada.” The last aim is a totalitarian attempt to dismiss the current Government of Canada and undermine the Canadian system of parliamentary democracy.

These and other measures specifically reacting to vaccine mandates and passports are demanded in the name of “freedom.” The questions for critical thinkers are two. What does freedom really mean? And are these demands examples of freedom?

The word freedom has a long history going back to the time of ancient Greece and earlier. In Greek, freedom is eleutheria, and an example from the Bible is Galatians 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free.” What does this mean? It is a positive word whose opposite is slavery. A free person is not a slave and not compelled to serve a master. A free person in antiquity is responsible for a household and, in ancient Greece, might be someone who can vote. When Paul says, “For freedom Christ has set us free,” he means that for responsibility Christ has made us equally responsible for one another. No one is another’s slave. As part of the body of Christ, there is no male or female, no slave or free. In the context of the Roman empire, freely upholding responsibility for another person in the body was an anti-imperial stance. It was a Christ communal, not a Roman hierarchical, act.

Western history has always associated freedom with responsibility. In shorthand, if you are not responsible, you are not free. Being responsible is also the foundation of a democratic legal system. Every member of a democracy is responsible for their actions. In shorthand, if there is no responsibility, there can be no law. Whatever is said about freedom in the history of Western civilization, it has never meant that there is no responsibility. Freedom bound to responsibility is the foundation of John Locke’s idea of the social contract, which in turn is a foundation for our modern constitutions of rights and freedoms. To Locke, responsibility justly limits freedom to ensure morality. In shorthand, freedom is not freedom unless it is moral. The role of government is to ensure the moral order of society. This thinking expresses itself in the Canadian constitution as “peace, order, and good government.”

Now back to the trucker convoy and freedom. Are you sincerely “free” not to get vaccinated and potentially to put your neighbour’s health at risk? Are you sincerely suffering under “communism” because you can’t go to a restaurant without proof of vaccination? Are you right to wear voluntarily a yellow star and claim your fate is the same as victims of the Holocaust? For me, freedom means that you care about your neighbour and do the right thing. This is a teaching of Christianity. Jesus freely gave up his life for the other. According to Martin Luther King, Jr., giving up your life for the other is what you do if you are a Christian. Free acts are self-sacrificial acts because they are responsible acts.

Freedom, as it is represented by the truck convoy and its associates, as it has been proclaimed in the circles of Christian nationalism, and as it has been expressed by some dubious members of the Conservative Party of Canada, is the opposite of freedom both in terms of Western legal history and in terms of Christian moral history. When freedom makes a mockery of the suffering of others, especially the Jewish people, and when it equates freedom with social irresponsibility, it is not freedom. It is unaccountable self-righteousness attempting to disguise itself as a just cause.

At one level it is hard not to laugh at the subterfuge. At another level, it is hard not to worry about the future of our free democracy.

© David Galston

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