The First Nations Leadership Council in British Columbia is condemning the ongoing Freedom Convoy happening in cities across Canada, suggesting that the movement is legitimizing false opinions and spreading misinformation regarding COVID-19.
The Council — comprised of the political executives of the BC Assembly of First Nations (BCAFN), First Nations Summit (FNS), and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) — says that the efforts of the Freedom Convoy are putting the health of Canadians in danger while also fuelling hatred and anger. As a result, the First Nations Leadership Council (FNLC) is calling on leaders and citizens to stop supporting the messages and actions being promoted by the movement.
“These protests are fueling misinformation about public health mandates and the importance of vaccination. This misinformation has led to vaccine hesitancy and many deaths,” said Regional Chief Terry Teegee of the BC Assembly of First Nations. “Public health mandates utilize inconvenience to spur higher vaccination rates, but, being inconvenienced is not the same as having your Charter Rights violated. We commend the 90 per cent of truckers who are vaccinated, especially given that their jobs put them in contact with many people.”
The FNLC says that the convoy has been amplifying hate speech and dangerous racist sentiments since protests began happening last month.
” In Ottawa, not only were racist flags flown, racist signs paraded around, monuments desecrated, and a homeless shelter threatened, thousands of people and hundreds of vehicles occupied downtown Ottawa – the traditional territory of the Algonquin Peoples,” reads a statement from the FNLC.
“The appropriation of Indigenous culture to serve a divisive, misinformed agenda is horrific and indicative of the hateful, racist nature of the protests occurring across Canada, on the traditional, unceded territories of First Nations,” the Council adds.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, says there has also been “great contempt and disregard for frontline healthcare workers” and has fuelled division and intolerance across communities.
Cheryl Casimer of the First Nations Summit political executive adds that she feels the protests have been “nothing more than an occupation of hate and racism” that has mocked sacred Indigenous cultural practices at times.
“Canadians must band together to support and protect health care workers and first responders who have consistently stepped up and exposed themselves to higher risks on a daily basis to protect Canadians,” she adds.
The First Nations Leadership Council is calling for a stronger response to the displays of aggression that comprise the convoy, it says in a written statement released on Tuesday.
The Council is hoping Canada makes more of an effort to prosecute racist attacks and hate speech associated with these protests as well, while also calling on the federal government to reinstate supports for those people who are still suffering economically due to COVID-19.