One Reformed Christian seeks his day in court
Should Christians test their arguments against the gov’t, or let sleeping dogs lie?
Harold Jonker has become a familiar face to many Canadians. In his folksy, good-humored, sensible way, Jonker acted as a spokesman for the “Truckers' Convoy” that went to Ottawa early last year. In that role he was asked and able to explain why the truckers went to Ottawa, and what would get them to leave. In a word: freedom! In a few more words, it was a protest against the government’s mandate that truckers crossing the US/Canadian border had to be vaccinated.
Media outlets all across Canada and the U.S. kept him in their rotation of interviewees, partly for his common sense, and partly for his quotable quotes. On Fox News, when asked what he would do if his bank accounts were frozen, the West Lincoln (Ontario) resident responded:
“Go ahead, Mr. Trudeau. If you freeze my accounts, you’re not going to hurt me. You’re going to hurt my wife, my 13 children, my two dogs, and my 15 chickens!”
(One has to wonder what Janice and the kids thought about this!)
The “Jonker Trucking” company was well represented in the truckers’ convoy: partners Harold and Tim, along with brother-in-law Jeff Tenhage, visited Ottawa often and helped organize the event, which brought in truckers, with their rigs, from all across Canada, to park in and around the capital. Ironically, about half of their company’s truckers were vaccinated, and had been able to continue their runs into the U.S. that were not possible for unvaccinated operators, but they still wished to do their part to send the convoy’s message.
Jonker at the time was also a town councilor for West Lincoln Township in the Niagara region, although he tried to make clear that he was in Ottawa with the convoy as a private citizen and business owner, not as a government representative of West Lincoln.
However, fellow town councilors were not happy with Jonker’s outspokenness against both the vaccine mandates and the enforced lockdowns. This led to a complaint being filed, and an Integrity Commissioner investigation recommended that he be suspended from the town council, without pay, for thirty days due to violation of the council’s code of conduct. On what basis? For what was called the “unlawful nature” of the protests. The Commissioner also advised that Jonker should repay about $300 of gifts received, and the town council accepted both recommendations.
At first, Jonker was inclined to just accept the punishment and move on. Thirty days' pay and $300 worth of gifts “is really chicken feed,” said Jonker – that wasn’t reason enough to fight.
But with time, he became convinced that justice had not been served.
“Basically, we in the convoy were exercising our right of free speech as guaranteed in the Charter of Rights. And two Ontario supreme court justices ruled that the protests were legal” .
Then when the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) offered to represent him in a case against the township’s ruling, Jonker accepted. A date has not yet been set for the hearing.
Many who spoke out against what they’ve judged to be government overreach in the vaccine mandates and the lockdowns are eager for this type of review. Now that the world has moved on from this pandemic, it is good to reflect on where any level of government may have overstepped its areas of stewardship, and where unjust judgments were given. Was it really necessary to prevent all churches from gathering for public worship for such a long period of time? Was it lawful to force police officers, members of the military, teachers, doctors and nurses to get what was a relatively new vaccine in order to keep their jobs? While many of us may be tired of the debate, we do well to allow these types of hearings to make judgments that may guide future decisions for different levels of government and publicly correct past wrongs.
Lawyer Jorge Pineda, who represents Jonker in this case, summarized the situation in a Sept. 26 press release from the JCCF:
“The sad truth is that Mr. Jonker has been punished for his political position, in the context of an ongoing dispute with other councillors. In Canada, we must tolerate strong differences in political opinion. Elected politicians should not be permitted to weaponize codes of conduct to silence and intimidate their political opponents. The Charter is intended to guarantee free expression. Canadian democratic institutions cannot survive if such guarantees can be easily ignored through these kinds of tactics.”
WHO ARE YOU GOING TO BELIEVE, ME OR YOUR LYING EYES? A couple of years ago the American news outlet CNN famously declared a riot as being a “fiery but mostly peaceful” protest. A different sort of mischaracterization happened earlier this year in Canada when the Prime Minister linked the Truckers' Convoy with Nazism and racism. He couldn’t make his charges stick, largely because protesters used their social media feeds to bypass the mainstream press and directly share pictures and videos that showed the site was full of folks and families strolling, laughing, and even coming together in song.
Jonker himself bears no animosity towards those who were against him in this particular fight. “I’m not holding anything against people. We all need time to get over things.” When asked if he had any regrets about the events of the past summer, Jonker said: “It would have been nice if the convoy leadership could have taken more time to organize everything,” although in general the truckers were praised for being fairly disciplined and well behaved. “I wish we would have shut down the horns a bit sooner, they were loud! I’m not a horn guy… but people kept asking us to honk the horns!”
Harold is not sure what impact his high profile in the trucker convoy had on him not being re-elected as councilor in October. “I’m not a social media guy, but I know that some candidates painted a pretty radical picture of me.” Jonker is not done with politics yet: he is an active and enthusiastic member of the Christian Heritage Party; he has run as a candidate more than once, and hopes that the Lord can use this party for the good of Canada.
During their time in Ottawa, Harold, Tim, and Jeff were all thankful to be able to witness to many people about the joy that they have to be children of the Lord. Many people told Harold that the convoy had given them hope, when they were in such a dark, gloomy, isolated place. “To have people say to truckers, you are our only hope, that’s pretty sad. I would tell them, God is your hope!”
There were a lot of Christians amongst the trucker convoy leadership team, which met every morning and evening to be able to give direction to the group. “On the first day,” recalled Harold, “one of the older men asked if anyone objected to us starting each meeting with prayer! I was ashamed that it wasn’t my idea. But I was glad to help out, and that’s how we opened every meeting that whole time!” Boldly written on the wall of the meeting room was a text from Ecclesiastes 10, verse 4 (that’s right, 10-4 good buddy!): “If the anger of the ruler rises against you, do not leave your place, for calmness will lay great offenses to rest.”
On one particular weekend, a young man that Harold and Tim had befriended asked if he could come to church with them! They of course were glad to take 16-year-old Logan along, and it worked out really well that most of Janice and the kids were coming up for the weekend. Some time later, the brothers got a text from Logan’s mom, showing herself and Logan all dressed up and ready for church back home in Newfoundland: apparently he insisted to his mom that church should be a regular part of their lives. Praise the Lord that even in unusual circumstances, He can use His people to tell others of the real and eternal hope we have as His redeemed children – not perfect, but forgiven.
For Harold Jonker (kneeling, middle) the Trucker’s Convoy was a family affair.