A Canadian convoy waved the Dutch flag.

During the summer, supporters of the Freedom Convoy movement continued to hold anti-mandate demonstrations across the country, attracting tens to hundreds of people in places such as Sudbury, Ontario, Atchison, Alta, and Regina. rice field.

Like last winter’s protests in Ottawa, these smaller demonstrations featured big rigs, pickup trucks and horns.

But they also featured new and perhaps surprising symbols: the Dutch flag waved alongside the more familiar maple leaf and Fk Trudeau banner.

The red, white and blue flag aims to show solidarity with Dutch farmers protesting the government’s efforts to halve emissions related to nitrogen-based fertilizers by the end of 2010 .

Opposition to Dutch policy was fierce and promiscuous. It is one of the most intensively farmed countries in the world, and the proposed changes would mean drastic cuts in farmland and livestock.

In recent months, farmers across the country have blocked food distribution centers, set hay bales on fire and littered highways with fertilizer.

Farmers take part in a blockade of the A67 motorway near Eindhoven, the Netherlands, on July 4 to protest government plans that may require the use of fertilizers and curtailing livestock. (AFP by Rob Engeler/ANP/Getty Images)

In Canada, many in the convoy movement see Dutch farmers as allies in the global fight against the all too progressive set of policies they maintain, including public health mandates and emissions targets. increase.

“The far right wants to think of it as a transnational movement,” said Barbara Morath, a research fellow at the International Counterterrorism Center (ICCT) in The Hague.

When the Fleet Movement organized a solidarity rally for Dutch farmers in July, its leaders warned that Canadian farmers would soon find themselves in a similar position.

“Why we stand in solidarity [the Dutch farmers] Because these policies actually apply to Canada,” Freedom Fighters Canada founder Jerome O’Sullivan said on a podcast last month.

However, the Fleet Movement’s acceptance of the Dutch farmer’s cause has been fueled by sowing misinformation and deliberate confusion about the policies of the Canadian and Dutch governments.

It also threatens to obscure legitimate concerns Canadian farmers have about how to grow food while coping with climate change.

Morath said there is a difference between “what farmers actually think and what the Far Right wants people to see.”

How conspiracy theories became mainstream

Dutch farmers have come a long way since court rulings in 2018 and 2019 forced the country to drastically cut nitrogen emissions levels, which at the time exceeded commitments made under international climate change agreements. continued to protest.

As farmers escalated their tactics in late June, activists affiliated with the Canadian Fleet pointed to similarities to the Canadian movement and, ultimately, Ottawa’s campaign to reduce fertilizer emissions here. aroused interest in the initiative.

“We stand proudly alongside Dutch farmers in their ongoing battle against government overreach and the globalist elite. Welcome to the Revolution,” said a webcast dedicated to the Canadian Fleet Movement. One Live From The Shed Facebook post said:

People are gathering in the parking lot and waving Canadian and Dutch flags.
Activists gather in an Ottawa parking lot and head to the Dutch Embassy in Ottawa to join the Freedom Convoy movement, a protest in support of Dutch farmers, July 23. (Patrick Doyle/Reuters)

According to Facebook analytics tool CrowdTangle, the July 2nd post was viewed more than 350,000 times and shared more than 16,000 times.

Soon after, Canadian far-right media piggybacked on the Dutch protests, spreading conspiracy theories reinforcing anti-government ideology. Many of these sites were already spreading misinformation about food supply issues.

The Western Standard, a conservative Calgary-based publication, expanded a conspiracy theory in early July, claiming that farms around the world were deliberately set on fire, making populations dependent on governments. .

The column, which was shared more than 450 times on Facebook and posted to an account with a total of 136,000 followers, suggests that the real reason Ottawa decided to fund a cricket processing plant in London, Ontario, is that the facility is primarily Despite producing pets, it suggests that it was a global conspiracy. food.

On July 5, Conservative MP Sherrill Gallant, who has been criticized for spreading conspiracy theories in the past, posted a Facebook page on her Facebook page with a link to an article about Dutch farmers’ protests, along with the caption, “Prime Minister Trudeau is us. wants me to feed him crickets,” he posted.

Facebook post by Renfrew–Nipissing–Pembroke Conservative MP Cheryl Gallant. (Facebook)

Canada’s far-right media then spread more disinformation to their readers.

For example, Mutiny News claims that the Dutch government “pandered to the radical demands of the World Economic Forum,” and that a Swiss think tank is secretly forcing governments around the world to adopt left-wing policies. It reflects a conspiracy theory.

Another far-right publication, The Counter Signal, erroneously claimed that the goal of the Dutch climate change plan was to confiscate farmers’ land and give it to immigrants, commenting a former far-right Dutch politician. was redistributed.

As interest in the Dutch protests grew in Canada, conservative pundits and politicians began suggesting that the Canadian government was also trying to force farmers to use less fertilizer.

This is not what the government said it intended. While Ottawa has committed to reducing its emissions from fertilizer by 30%, it has also committed to meeting that target without mandated reductions in nitrogen fertilizer use.

Nevertheless, Brian Lilley of the Toronto Sun wrote in a widely shared column that the yet-to-be-finalized plan “means a 30% reduction in fertilizer use.”

In a Facebook post, Devin Drieshen, Alberta’s United Conservative MLA, called it a “30% fertilizer ban,” while Todd Lowen (another UCP MLA and candidate for the party’s leadership race) ) said they were supporters of the Netherlands because they were resisting “the very same eco-radical policies” advocated by Ottawa.

Prior to July, a Canadian Facebook post mentioning the phrase “fertilizer ban” had virtually zero response, according to CrowdTangle statistics.

However, in the last week of July, the phrase had nearly 10,000 interactions.

Canola flowers bloom in a field near Lasalle, Manitoba, on July 28th. Canola is he one of the fertilizer-intensive crops grown in Canada. (Shannon Vanleys/Reuters)

Farmers Forum, an Ontario-based agricultural newspaper sympathetic to the fleet movement, interviewed several farmers earlier this month about the possibility of a Dutch-style fertilizer ban coming to Canada.

Nearly everyone is convinced a ban is underway, citing the World Economic Forum (WEF) as the reason.

“It’s kind of scary at the WEF to tell us exactly what they’re doing. Six months later, it’s happening,” said Andy Sen, a dairy farmer in St. Bernardine, Ontario. . .

Misinformation that thrives in the information void

At the same time that social media is flooded with misinformation about Canada’s agricultural policy, the federal government is seeking input from farmers and other industry stakeholders on how best to reduce fertilizer emissions.

“This is definitely a challenge for us in terms of communication. We are working hard to use different methods for communication,” said Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibault.

The target of reducing fertilizer emissions by 30% was set as part of the Trudeau government’s plan to reduce the country’s overall greenhouse gas emissions by 40-45% by 2030. Damage caused by climate change.

Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau has reiterated that the government is not looking to reduce fertilizer use, but to reduce fertilizer emissions. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

When the fertilizer targets were first announced in December 2020, there was widespread confusion in the agricultural industry over whether reducing fertilizer use would impact crop yields.

Earlier this year, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada released a discussion paper outlining strategies for reducing fertilizer emissions. “We will focus on improving nitrogen management and optimizing fertilizer use, rather than forced reductions in fertilizer use.”

It also cites industry and government studies that have concluded that greater emissions reductions can be achieved through greater use of certain techniques, such as fertilizing in the spring rather than the fall.

The discussion paper helped calm fears within the industry.

Cassandra Cotton, Vice President of Policy and Programs for Fertilizer Canada, a leading industry lobby group, said:

The amount of misinformation circulating about fertilizer policy is “harming and preventing this from moving in a positive direction,” Cotton said.

But she also agreed with views expressed by others in the industry.The federal government has been slow to provide details about policies that will ultimately affect what Canadians eat every day.

“Part of this [misinformation] This is due to the lack of details about how the government plans to reach this goal,” says Kelvin Heppner, a farmer in southern Manitoba and editor of trade publication RealAgriculture. says Mr.

“And in that void are the conclusions people are reaching – and they aren’t necessarily based on what the government said.”

According to Morath, this confluence of turmoil and concerns creates opportunities for far-right groups to exploit.

“These are movements that were started because of very real grievances that the government didn’t immediately address,” she said. I regard it.”

A Canadian convoy waved the Dutch flag.

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