Yellow vest message becoming muddied
From a simple piece of personal protective equipment, the yellow vest has transformed into a symbol loaded with meaning and messaging. In France, it was adopted by demonstrators decrying a new green tax on fuel. They donned the yellow vests that every French motorist is required by law to keep in their vehicle; it made a perfect icon for protesters who are largely working-class and rural and wanted maximum visibility for grievances.
Inevitably, the yellow vest has spread around the world as de rigueur apparel for any mass fulmination. But the French anger at wealth inequality didn’t travel with it.
In Alberta, yellow-vest protests appear to be focused on carbon taxes, Bill C-69, stalled pipeline projects and, confusingly, Canada’s plan to endorse the non-binding United Nations’ migration compact. Disturbingly, yellow-vest events have proven popular with anti-immigration groups and selfproclaimed white supremacists.
Those with intolerant attitudes appear to be co-opting the yellow vest to the dismay of others who would wear it to support the energy industry or oppose carbon taxes.
One recent yellow-vest march in Edmonton saw two people arrested as counterprotesters supporting immigration clashed with some in the group. Other events have featured placards depicting violent acts against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
This week, Facebook began removing content from the Yellow Vests Canada Facebook group after numerous comments about killing Trudeau came to light.
For energy activists planning a crosscountry convoy to raise awareness of the industry’s plight, the yellow vest’s new anti-immigration connotations are muddying their pro-pipeline message.
That’s why Canada Action, the group behind a convoy heading to Ottawa on
Feb. 13 wants participants to leave their yellow vests at home and is distancing itself from a yellow-vest caravan also heading to Ottawa a day later.
“There’s no room for racism,” founder Cody Battershill told Postmedia. “There is no room for some of these viewpoints in our movement.” Shunning those with xenophobic views is a sound approach, one that should be assumed by anyone who supports the mainstream Canadian values of multiculturalism and acceptance.
Protests can be a powerful tool but threats and messages of hate have no place in an important national debate.
And because those who espouse hatred feed off acceptance from the establishment, our politicians also need to be careful who they stand alongside.