CANADA’S REPUTATION for impeccable politeness is taking a knocking. In recent weeks crowds of semi-drivers and other Canadians protesting against covid-19 restrictions have blocked public highways and camped outside parliament in Ottawa. Many wave placards reading “Fuck Trudeau”, referring to their youthful prime minister, though the expletive often appears with a maple leaf as an asterisk. Nastier messages have cropped up, too. One or two protesters carried flags emblazoned with swastikas, perhaps to suggest, absurdly, that Canada’s covid-19 restrictions are akin to Nazism.

The Freedom Convoy, as the thousands of truckers call themselves, was sparked by the introduction of a covid vaccine mandate in January. This requires all truckers who enter Canada from the United States, as thousands of Canadian drivers do every day, either to be jabbed or to endure a two-week quarantine.