Freedom Convoy puts Inuit students in Ottawa on edge

Nunavut Sivuniksavut students say noise, aggressive behaviour from protesters is affecting their mental health

First-year Nunavut Sivuniksavut students Shelby Angalik (left) and Kim Pilgrim (right) say their mental health and sense of security has been impacted by constant noise and disruption caused by the Freedom Convoy, which has set up encampments in downtown Ottawa. “It’s making us fearful,” said Pilgram. (Photos courtesy of Angalik and Pilgram)

By Madalyn Howitt

Shelby Angalik, a Nunavut Sivuniksavut student, says it has been hard to study for more than a week, with the blare of truck horns and shouts of protesters infiltrating her downtown Ottawa home. She says the “incessant” noise is like having a train going past her window.

“Having to focus on doing schoolwork and just anything around the house has been difficult unless I’m wearing earphones or trying to drown it out with something else like a show,” Angalik said.

Angalik, who is from Arviat, is a first-year student at Nunavut Sivuniksavut, an Ottawa school in Ottawa for Inuit youth studying an Inuit-focused post-secondary curriculum.

The school is on Rideau Street, one of several streets in the capital’s downtown that have been blockaded since Jan. 28 by demonstrators calling themselves the Freedom Convoy.

Initially billed as a convoy led by truck drivers protesting vaccine mandates for cross-border travel, the demonstration has grown to include people demanding an end to all pandemic vaccine mandates and health restrictions.

The demonstrations have blocked off streets near Parliament Hill, forcing many businesses to close and residents to endure days of seemingly non-stop noise and disruption. Some city officials call the protest an “occupation.”

Angalik lives near the school and said the noise has affected her sleep and mental health.

“It was driving me crazy because it’s so loud, basically it went on nonstop for three days,” she said. “It would start early in the morning and then they would continue honking till maybe 3 a.m.”

Though classes are still being taught remotely, Angalik said she and other students in Ottawa had been visiting the school for group study sessions. When the Freedom Convoy arrived, though, they could no longer access the school.

Angalik’s classmate Kim Pilgrim, from the Nunatsiavut region of Newfoundland and Labrador, said it’s been “scary” leaving her house in Ottawa’s Sandy Hill neighbourhood.

“It’s definitely taken a toll on my mental health, being afraid of what could happen if I go out downtown near the centre of it,” Pilgrim said. “It’s been in my neighbourhood — there’s been truckers driving around with the flags and honking at all hours of the night.”

Both Angalik and Pilgrim said they’ve been putting off going to the grocery store because of reports of unmasked people entering stores.

“I’ve been more afraid of contacting COVID than before,” Angalik said. Pilgrim added she’s worried for the people who work at grocery stores and any immunocompromised people who could be shopping there.

The pair said they are particularly concerned they’ll be harassed if they go near the demonstrators.

Several organizers of the demonstrations have ties to far-right, extremist organizations. Footage from the first weekend of protests showed some people waving Nazi and Confederate flags, and downtown residents have reported being targeted and harassed for wearing masks in public.

“I’ve been completely avoiding going near downtown from all the horror stories I’ve heard from people being harassed, having things thrown at them, their masks removed and the racial slurs that have been thrown out and the violence that has ensued on people,” Pilgrim said.

“Being a young Indigenous woman, I already have some sort of internal fear of these aggressive men,” Angalik added. “Trying to go to Loblaws to go grocery shopping and seeing these huge, aggressive men without masks standing right in front of the doorway.… I’m afraid of going out.”

Supporters of the Freedom Convoy gather near Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Jan. 29 protesting government vaccine and health mandates. (Photo by Madalyn Howitt)

Inuit organizations in Ottawa have denounced the protests, saying concerns about harassment and noise have impacted their ability to support urban Inuit.

A Feb. 3 statement from Tungasuvvingat Inuit urged demonstrators to “go home” so vulnerable urban Indigenous communities could “feel safe again and regain access to cultural programming and essential services.” The Inuuqatigiit Centre For Inuit Children, Youth and Families issued a statement the following day that the organization has experienced a “major disruption” in its ability to provide programming “in a safe setting” due to the ongoing demonstrations.

Angalik said the impact of the demonstrations on Ottawa’s Indigenous communities worries her.

“It’s surprising how the police and how the government have not really been taking control of the protests here, compared to how they treat Indigenous protesters. It makes me really angry because it’s so clearly so unfair,” Angalik said. “If this were an Indigenous protest, it would not be handled like this.”

“People don’t have the freedom right now to be against this protest. If I were to go and scream at them today, it would be very dangerous, from the things I’ve heard from women in my life and people of colour,” she added.

On Sunday, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson declared a state of emergency in the capital.

Pilgrim and Angalik said they’re hopeful that the demonstrations will end soon, but they’re taking it one day at a time.

“I don’t think it’s right to silence people who want to protest for what they believe in, but when it has the impact that this has had on minorities and people just trying to live their lives, I think there needs to be some steps taken,” Pilgrim said.

Angalik called the demonstrators “hypocritical and very self-centred.”

“This freedom protest is impeding on other people’s freedom of being able to walk safely down the streets,” Angalik said.

“This is not about freedom anymore. It’s freedom for a specific group of people.”

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(36) Comments:

  1. Posted by I feel for you on

    I feel for you, but also for the other thousands of citizens who have the same or even more severe impacts caused by the protests. Just don’t pull the race card on this article please.

    • Posted by I feel for you, but Race Matters on

      Hi I feel for you (but really you don’t)

      Your comment is cold-hearted. Please don’t pull the indifference card when someone is trying to share their story because you think someone else has it worse. Race matters.

      • Posted by How tho>? on

        How does ‘race matter’ within this context?

        • Posted by Social justice is a secular religion on

          Keep in mind, when social justice advocates recite their liturgies they feel no obligation to justify whatever proclamations they might issue… those are taken as articles of faith, not to be questioned but accepted unconditionally.. this is exactly why you never see a response to any question that might probe their logic, this is not about logic, it is about faith. Theirs is a secular religion.

  2. Posted by Ever scariest! on

    The media, our media I should say, just can’t resist the cheap and easy stories about the “right wing boogeyman” under the bed. Throw in a couple victim’s, mention a NAZI flag that someone caught on camera, and viola… you have a yummy ‘spazz cake.” Careful though, it is nutritionally void.

    Bring on the freak out!

    • Posted by How many victims is your rule of thumb? on

      Just a nazi flag and a couple of victims? Huh, I’m curious, how many flags and victims would be suitable for you to start the conversation?

      • Posted by iWonder on

        I have to wonder, do you want to have a conversation.. or deliver a moral lecture?

    • Posted by Ever dumb! on

      Sounds so dumb, the right wingers are doing this protest and are causing people in the downtown area lack of sleep, anxiety and so on. How about listen to the people in that area? Instead of your dumb attempt to make it ok what these right wingers are doing.
      I really can’t understand some of you who think like this and support a bunch of right wing clowns, pushing misinformation and think it’s ok to do so. What does that make you?

      • Posted by Spazz cake on

        YIKES! Beware of the “right wingers”! Look what they are doing, its so not even right!

        How dare you!

        • Posted by Dumb and Dumber on

          He got it right, scientific fact, common sense flies out the window with these right wing bible thumping, spreading misinformation and hate all the while pretending to be gods gift and righteous while doing the complete opposite. Gotta shake your head, smile and have a laugh.

          • Posted by Jim Carrey on

            Don’t forget! The right-wingers are often misogynistic racists. How dare they! Don’t they know their views are unacceptable?!

  3. Posted by Lucas on

    Vaccines are not ticket to freedom it’s just a beginning of total control after if they ever start to control all even businesses what will happen will I have my health or my mental if we don’t get our freedom back it’s ok to vaccinate but it’s not good to force everyone to get it

    • Posted by Tell that to… on

      Tell that to the last person in an iron lung due to the polio disease. Ask them how much they feel like vaccines impinged on their freedom.


  4. Posted by Uncomfortable on

    I do not support the convoy. I really do have to question the stories here and the motives. So what that some people feel uncomfortable? This is the same nonsense in an article earlier this week where a non profit said Inuit feel uncomfortable so the protest should end. Not a single reported incident referred to of criminal harassment for anyone in these articles.
    How about just having the nerve to say it should be ended because you disagree with it? Isn’t that enough? I am often uncomfortable in Ottawa too. I am followed by mentally homeless people on occasion. In Iqaluit I am heckled by drunk people for stealing their jobs. You know, I should write to Nunatsiaq to express my feelings and all these people should be removed from the The city to accommodate my feelings.
    This is literally what these people are saying – white men are outside the store and I’m intimidated BY THEIR PRESENCE ALONE so make them go away. Utter nonsense.

    • Posted by Soothsayer on

      They are terrified because the have feasted on the wildly fashionable pablum of writers like Ibram Kendi and Robin DiAngelo who have successfully marketed their puerile imaginings about race to an intellectually unprepared and unarmed cohort of young undergrads for years now.

    • Posted by Attitudes on

      Yes, the unexamined racism in the students’ attitude is troubling.

    • Posted by Mentally Homeless on

      In your editing, I assume from “mentally challenged” to “homeless”, you’ve now come up with my new favourite term. I think I’m going to start referring to people I find unintelligent as “mentally homeless”.

  5. Posted by 2022 on

    Hopefully their feelings aren’t hurt

  6. Posted by Critical thinking on

    It’s sad and quite frankly scary how many people do not think critically these days. The government and the media are spinning a ridiculous narrative about the convoy that is not even remotely hard to see through. A few bad people among thousands of good ones does NOT mean everyone there is a racist. If you want to understand the full and true picture of any situation, do not believe everything you read and hear, and for the love of God, don’t look past the good people/things that are right in front of you.

    • Posted by No Moniker on

      It’s become utterly formulaic for progressives to denounce people they fundamentally disagree with as “racists” or (because that word has become cheapened by excessive use) “white supremacists” (remember when that term meant something?).

      I sense we are approaching an interesting juncture though. On the one hand this strategy has been wildly successful, which explains its lazy, casual deployment with shameless impunity. On the other (I believe), an increasing number are beginning to notice the emptiness and the cynical manipulation behind these kinds of accusations.

      There is a profound lack of serious self-reflection and mindfulness at play here, resulting in endless and pointless conversations about boogeymen, while many of the fundamental issues animating the current moment, for example, are only barely discussed.

  7. Posted by Where are the bully police now? on

    We’re use to see and hearing about police abusing citizens. Now might be a time for the police to show some aggression towards stopping this chaotic mob. Or are they now afraid of these big slob white intimidation of so called men? I bit the police are looking around for a few weak looking vulnerable to kneel on. Really the police have done nothing to protect people in Ottawa.

  8. Posted by FREE INUK on

    My Freedom doesn’t end where your Fear Begins!!!

    All Inuit are FREE!!!! NO Fear! We are Polar Bear fighters!!!!

    • Posted by Unacceptable Opinions on

      Damn! I love that line. “My freedom doesn’t end where your fear begins” is my new slogan for life.

  9. Posted by What about those that stand with the truckers.? on

    I dont care for these protestors but of course journalism should be impartial and explore different perspectives. For example, on iqaluit rant n rave, I saw a picture of an inuit family waving a nunavut flag at the convoy, presumably supporting them. I Wonder if nunatsiaq would write an article that showed the other side of the story?

    • Posted by iWonder2 on

      “I Wonder if nunatsiaq would write an article that showed the other side of the story?”

      This is the right question to ask. What do you say, Nunatsiaq? Will you break bread with us commoners?

      • Posted by The Tool on

        What give a redneck right extremists a platform? The tool couldn’t contain these clowns in his party and booted him out and you want to give these clowns a platform to spread their lies and misinformation. We really can’t take you right wingers seriously, laughable ?

        • Posted by iWonder on

          Like it or not a significant amount of people at least sympathize with the cause of these protestors.

          So far the government response has exposed the vapidity of Trudeau’s sanctimonious bullshit about listening to ‘other voices’ … to date his entire strategy has been to ‘other’ the protestors; to vilify and marginalize them as all the dirty names he can get away with using: white supremacists, racists, misogynists, anti LGBT rights… it’s surreal to watch.

          I agree with the OP, I would like to see the media actually talk to the protestors and those who support them. Let’s see what they really think, instead of racing to accept narratives that give us license to dismiss and feel good about ourselves for not being “them.”

  10. Posted by Over Childish People on

    As a member of a vulnerable minority myself, I can only imagine how these students are feeling. The chest thumping, “freedom or die” types that are holding Ottawa hostage are the same ones that spit, harass, or beat on people who are different than them. People who aren’t LGBT, female or people of color truly don’t understand how unsafe you can feel just walking down the street. This feeling of unsafety isn’t some boogeyman or unfounded fear; it is based on real hate crimes affecting real people, daily, across Canada. The perpetrators are the same demographic that make up the majority of this protest, white, right wing, young, male, and angry. The statistics can be found for anyone interested on Stats Canada’s website.

    Those of us with friends and family in Ottawa have heard the stories about street harassment, yelling and name calling, to say nothing of the police charges against multiple people for violence.

    The protest itself is childish in the extreme. Whiny people who don’t want to do the most simple of civic duties to keep their community alive, while actively trying to undermine democracy. Vaccine requirements are common for travel between countries and the only reason the COVID-19 vaccine is seen as any differently is because right wing pundits and politicians have made it into a political issue to expand their base, preying on the ignorant and stupid.

    To those saying that the racist or other bad actors in the crowd are just a “fringe minority”, you are judged by the company you keep. If a racist, literal Nazi, or horrible person was agreeing with my position, I would be seriously considering if I was on the right side, or wrong side of history. The fact that this crowd that can stomach Nazi’s being on the same side as them in this fight says a lot about their morals.

    • Posted by Vulnerable on

      Please give an example of what a vulnerable minority is vs an unvunerable minority. Also, can you be a vulnerable majority? Who is that?

    • Posted by Dave on

      “The protest itself is childish in the extreme. ”

      Well, not quite as childish as this: “The perpetrators are the same demographic that make up the majority of this protest, white, right wing, young, male, and angry. The statistics can be found for anyone interested on Stats Canada’s website.”

      Please provide a link to these stats that you pretend exist.

    • Posted by Ko te jebe on

      Could you please let us know where did you hear these horrific stories from? It cannot possible be from the 600 million a year government funded CBC. Can it? As a member of a minority group as you portrait yourself to be, you should know first hand how it is when the government tells you what you can and cannot do. The history of the government interference with how we lived or live is not too distant. Please don’t forget that, but judging by your comments you are well on your way of forgetting that. The only ones undermining the democracy is not the people they branded as the terrorists, but rather the government whom we elected to protect our democracy. As per that student, instead of taking selfies if she could only open the window of her apartment she would notice people of all walks of life, religion, color etc….not just whities. Ottawa is the nation’s capital and as such belongs to all Canadians and not just people of Ottawa. Too bad she has to endure all the inconveniences, but downtown Ottawa has always been noisy and not just during past two weeks. Just because you do not agree with the cause, painting all with the same brush who support the idea of no sagregation and difference between vaxxed and unvaxxed as Nazis is your prerogative. As you seem all for government present rules, ask yourself who were the people back in the 1940’s doing the sagregation and anyone else who dare speak against the ruling party and in the name of the third Reich……I wonder.

  11. Posted by Janice on

    Oh please, go take some more swlfies

  12. Posted by Umingmak on

    Oh enough with this nonsense. The protest has been peaceful, happy, and friendly. It’s only people who support heavy-handed government restrictions who are making nonsensical allegations with zero supporting evidence.

    • Posted by Untermensch on

      Evidence is all a matter of opinion, what really matters is narrative structure. In this case, we have two “marginalized (i’m beginning to wonder if that means anything here at all) victims.” This is what media looks for, dif down a little and see that it’s their chance to be heroic in the face of the brief temporary structure we know as life.

  13. Posted by Patrick Star on

    Agree with the Convoy or don’t, but look, Big Government IS getting heavy handed and redrawing the line in the sand more and more. Today it’s them, tomorrow it’s you, and someday it’s going to be the whole world until there’s nothing left.

  14. Posted by GS Ruddin on

    Fully support the Trudeau government. The terrorist Convoy has stolen, harassed, assaulted, abused, raped, sworn, racially abused its way to infamy.
    Their political, economic, social terrorism must not be allowed. We don’t want to live in a Christian fascist state under bible thumping lunatics with crazy conspiracies, they need a good thumping. Let’s go JUSTIN!

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