Shandro gets one right; CPS continues to get them wrong

Breathing a sigh of relief after a Hinshaw/Shandro COVID press conference is a novel experience for most of us, but it was a relief indeed to hear yesterday that Alberta will not be barreling ahead into ‘Phase 3’ of its reopening plan. It’s easy to think that, with the end of the pandemic in sight, the spread of the virus must be easing up, but nothing could be further from the truth; not only were normal cases allowed to grow out of control over the winter, but the new, more-contagious variants like B117 have arrived and are growing exponentially here.

The news that reopening has been paused is going to rile some folks up in Alberta’s unruly anti-mask/anti-vax crowd, and they’ve hardly been well-behaved to date.

There’s a lot of simple refusals to follow the law. GraceLife Church near Edmonton has become one of the torch-bearers for this uncivil disobedience, continuing to hold packed services week after week despite direct orders from the government to keep things to no more than 15% of fire code capacity. Authorities have been extremely reluctant to shut these services down. The pastor at the head of it all, James Coates, was fined $1500 this week for breaching bail—but won’t have to pay, as the judge felt the 35 days Coates spent in prison was worth about that much in credit.

Not everyone is being as sophisticated as Coates in their disobedience. Rallies against the pandemic measures are being organized in several cities, and frequently. And like the Yellow Vests movement before them, the anti-maskers have been thoroughly infiltrated by Alberta’s far-right. Video is circulating online of an incident at Calgary’s ‘Freedom Rally’ over the last weekend in which one of these goons assaults a man in a wheelchair. Authorities were allegedly reluctant to intervene there, too; witnesses to the assault allege that not only did CPS not intercede, but harshly tackled the victim’s wife—after she, too, was assaulted with a spear-headed flagpole (a favorite accessory of the rally-going fash) by the same man.

Not that you have to look to one of these rallies to find racist violence in Alberta. A Calgary woman was charged with assault after what CPS are describing as a racially-motivated hate crime over the weekend. Bizarrely, in a statement on the surge in racist violence in Calgary, CPS pivoted to defending their use of the ‘thin blue line’ symbol, popularized in the right-wing backlash against the BLM demonstrations after the death of George Floyd. The symbol itself is deeply steeped in racism, promoting an us-versus-them ‘warrior mentality’ pitting police against the people they ought to be protecting.

Government authorities at all levels seem at a loss for strategies to counter this hate. Thomas Dang, an NDP MLA from Edmonton, brought forward a motion in the Legislature urging the government to at least denounce some of the symbols of hate being brought to these far-right marches. But debate on Dang’s proposal has stalled—the UCP allocated almost all of the debate time instead to a bill to make rodeo an official sport of Alberta.


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