Canada’s convoy motion waved the Dutch flag. Then conspiracy theories swirled about fertilizer and bugs

Over the summer time, supporters of the Freedom Convoy motion have continued to carry anti-mandate demonstrations throughout the nation, attracting anyplace from a number of dozen to a number of hundred individuals in locations like Sudbury, Ont., Acheson, Alta., and Regina.

Just like the protests in Ottawa final winter, these smaller demonstrations featured massive rigs, pickup vans and honking — although they tended to final only some hours and stored to parking heaps or slow-moving convoys on highways.

However additionally they featured a brand new — and maybe shocking — image: The flag of the Netherlands was being waved alongside the extra acquainted Maple Leaf and F–k Trudeau banners. 

The crimson, white and blue flag is supposed to be a present of solidarity with Dutch farmers protesting their authorities’s efforts to halve emissions linked to nitrogen-based fertilizers by the tip of the last decade.

Opposition to the coverage within the Netherlands has been fierce and messy. It is among the most intensively farmed nations on this planet and the proposed modifications would imply large reductions in farmland and livestock.

In current months, farmers within the nation have blocked meals distribution centres, set bales of hay on hearth and unfold manure on main roads.

Farmers participate in a blockade of the A67 freeway, close to Eindhoven, the Netherlands, on July 4 to protest in opposition to authorities plans that will require them to make use of much less fertilizer and scale back livestock. (Rob Engelaar/ANP/AFP by way of Getty Photographs)

In Canada, many throughout the convoy motion see the Dutch farmers as allies in a world battle in opposition to an array of insurance policies they preserve are too progressive, akin to public well being mandates or emission targets.

“The far proper desires to consider it as a transnational motion,” stated Bàrbara Molas, a analysis fellow on the Worldwide Centre for Counter-Terrorism (ICCT) in The Hague.

Because the convoy motion organized solidarity rallies for the Dutch farmers in July, its leaders warned that Canadian farmers would quickly discover themselves in an analogous place.

“The rationale we’re standing in solidarity with [the Dutch farmers] is as a result of these insurance policies are literally coming to Canada as effectively,” Jerome O’Sullivan, the founding father of the group Freedom Fighters Canada, informed a podcast final month.

However the convoy motion’s embrace of the Dutch farmers’ trigger has been fed by misinformation and deliberate makes an attempt to sow confusion about authorities insurance policies in Canada and the Netherlands. 

It additionally threatens to overshadow respectable considerations that Canadian farmers have about find out how to develop meals whereas additionally addressing local weather change.

There’s a distinction, stated Molas, between “what the farmers really may assume and what the far proper desires individuals to see the farmers as.”

How the conspiracy theories went mainstream

Dutch farmers have been protesting since courtroom rulings in 2018 and 2019 pressured the nation to drastically minimize its nitrogen emission ranges, which on the time had been exceeding commitments made below worldwide local weather change agreements.

When the farmers escalated their ways in late June, convoy-affiliated activists in Canada remarked on the similarities with their very own motion, in the end sparking curiosity in Ottawa’s efforts to scale back fertilizer emissions right here.

“We stand proudly with Dutch farmers within the continued battle in opposition to authorities overreach and the globalist elite. Welcome to the revolution,” stated a Fb submit from Dwell from the Shed, a webcast devoted to the Canadian convoy motion.

People gather in a parking lot, waving Canadian and Dutch flags.
Activists affiliated with the Freedom Convoy motion collect in an Ottawa parking zone on July 23, earlier than heading to the Dutch embassy in Ottawa to protest in assist of Dutch farmers. (Patrick Doyle/Reuters)

The July 2 submit acquired greater than 350,000 views and was shared greater than 16,000 occasions, in line with Fb’s analytics device, CrowdTangle.

Quickly after, far-right media retailers in Canada seized on the Dutch protests to advertise conspiracy theories that strengthened anti-government ideologies. Many of those websites had already been sowing misinformation about food-supply points.

The Western Normal, a conservative publication primarily based in Calgary, amplified in early July a conspiracy idea that claimed fires had been being intentionally set at farms around the globe to make populations extra depending on governments.

The column, which was shared greater than 450 occasions on Fb to accounts totalling 136,000 followers, instructed that world plot was the actual purpose behind Ottawa’s resolution to assist fund a cricket-processing plant in London, Ont., regardless that the power principally produces pet meals.

On July 5, the Fb web page belonging to Cheryl Gallant, a Conservative MP who has been criticized previously for spreading conspiracy theories, posted that “Trudeau desires us to eat crickets” whereas linking to a narrative in regards to the Dutch farmers’ protest.

A Fb submit by Cheryl Gallant, Conservative MP for Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke. (Fb)

Within the days that adopted, Canada’s far-right media pushed extra disinformation to their readers. 

Insurgent Information, for example, claimed the Dutch authorities had “pandered to the novel calls for of the World Financial Discussion board,” echoing a preferred conspiracy idea that maintains the Swiss think-tank is secretly forcing governments around the globe to undertake left-wing insurance policies.

One other far-right publication, The Counter Sign, recirculated the feedback of a former far-right Dutch politician, who falsely claimed the aim of the Dutch local weather plan was to confiscate the farmers’ land after which give it to immigrants. 

As curiosity within the Dutch protests elevated in Canada, conservative pundits and politicians started suggesting the Canadian authorities was additionally going to pressure farmers to scale back how a lot fertilizer they use.

This isn’t what the federal government has stated it intends to do. Whereas Ottawa has pledged to scale back emissions from fertilizers by 30 per cent, it has additionally pledged to fulfill that aim with out resorting to a compulsory discount in nitrogen fertilizer use. 

Nonetheless, the Toronto Solar’s Brian Lilley wrote in a broadly shared column, that the plan, which hasn’t but been finalized, “means lowering fertilizer utilization by 30 per cent.” 

In a Fb submit, Devin Dreeshen, a United Conservative MLA in Alberta, referred to it because the “30 per cent fertilizer ban,” whereas Todd Loewen — one other candidate within the occasion’s management race — stated he was standing with the Dutch farmers as a result of they had been resisting “the very same eco-radical insurance policies” advocated by Ottawa. 

Earlier than July, Fb posts in Canada that talked about the phrase “fertilizer ban” had acquired successfully zero interactions, in line with CrowdTangle statistics.

Within the final week of July, although, the phrase acquired almost 10,000 interactions.

Canola blooms in fields close to La Salle, Man., on July 28. Canola is among the many extra fertilizer-intensive crops grown in Canada. (Shannon VanRaes/Reuters)

Farmers Discussion board, an Ontario-based agriculture newspaper that’s sympathetic to the convoy motion, interviewed a number of farmers earlier this month in regards to the prospect of a Dutch-style fertilizer ban coming to Canada.

Virtually all had been satisfied a ban was within the works, and cited the World Financial Discussion board (WEF) as the explanation why.

“It is sort of scary, on the WEF, they let you know precisely what they’re doing, and ‘Bang,’ six months later, it is occurring,” Andy Senn, a dairy farmer from St-Bernardin, Ont., informed the paper.

Misinformation flourished in data vacuum 

On the similar time that social media is flooded with misinformation about Canada’s agricultural coverage, the federal authorities is looking for enter from farmers and different trade gamers about how finest to chop fertilizer emissions.

“It is undoubtedly a problem for us when it comes to communication. We’re working onerous on attempting to make use of alternative ways to speak,” stated Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau. 

The aim of lowering fertilizer emissions by 30 per cent was set as a part of the Trudeau authorities’s plan to decrease the nation’s general greenhouse fuel emissions by between 40 and 45 per cent by 2030 — in keeping with the reductions worldwide specialists say are obligatory to attenuate the injury from local weather change.

Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau has stated, repeatedly, the federal government is just not looking for to chop fertilizer use, however relatively to scale back fertilizer emissions. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

When the fertilizer goal was initially introduced in December 2020, there was widespread confusion throughout the agricultural trade about whether or not it could entail reducing fertilizer use, which might in flip have an effect on crop yield.

Earlier this yr, the Agriculture and Agri-Meals Canada launched a dialogue paper that outlines its technique for lowering fertilizer emissions “will concentrate on enhancing nitrogen administration and optimizing fertilizer use, and never on a compulsory discount in the usage of fertilizers.”

It additionally cites trade and authorities analysis that concluded important emissions reductions will be achieved by increasing the usage of sure methods, like making use of fertilizer within the spring as an alternative of the autumn.

The dialogue paper has helped ease some fears throughout the trade.

“General, we had been actually happy to see these methods included,” stated Cassandra Cotton, vice-president of coverage and program at Fertilizer Canada, a foyer group representing the trade. 

The quantity of misinformation circulating about fertilizer coverage ” hurts and prevents this shifting ahead in a optimistic course,” Cotton stated.

However she additionally echoed a view expressed by others within the trade: that the federal authorities has been gradual to supply specifics a couple of coverage that will in the end have an effect on what meals Canadians eat day by day. 

“A part of this [misinformation] is being pushed by the shortage of element as to how the federal government plans to get to this goal,” stated Kelvin Heppner, a farmer in southern Manitoba and an editor for RealAgriculture, a revered trade publication.

“And so in that vacuum, there are conclusions that individuals are reaching — they usually’re not essentially primarily based on what the federal government has stated it’ll do.”

In response to Molas, it’s this confluence of confusion and concern that creates a gap for far-right teams to use. 

“These are actions that started due to very actual grievances that governments did not deal with quickly sufficient,” she stated. “The far-right sees that as a possibility to unfold their anti-democratic narrative.”

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