The Citizens Handbook
‘Some 20-year-old’ gets action amid total system failure

Chris Selley / National Post / Canada

Feb 19, 2022

Zexi Li, 21, a Centretown resident in Ottawa, on Feb. 7 got a court to order the truckers occupying Ottawa to stop honking their horns all day and all night.

One of the most telling moments during Tuesday’s jaw-dropping special meeting of Ottawa City Council involved city manager Steve Kanellakos defending his bylaw-enforcement officers against criticism that they weren’t, well, enforcing bylaws amidst the ongoing chaos downtown.

“We’ve been criticized because some 20-year-old — and I commend her — took out an injunction,” Kanellakos told councillors.

If that sentence sounds tonally disjointed, it was. As he began, Kanellakos seemed to be dripping with disdain for this uppity overgrown teenager; then seemed to catch himself, and commended her … for doing the thing that he is clearly still annoyed she did. I’m no expert on Ottawa municipal politics — and from what I saw on Tuesday, I don’t want to be — but it looked to me like a mask slipping, and a lavishly remunerated chief bureaucrat ($377,000 in 2020) showing Ottawans how little their government really thinks of them.

The 20-year-old in question is 21-year-old Zexi Li, a Centretown resident who, on Feb. 7, got a court ordering the truckers occupying Ottawa to stop honking their horns all day and all night. And wouldn’t you know it, it worked. The honking didn’t disappear, let alone the truckers, but by all accounts (including Li’s) life downtown got significantly less unbearable overnight.

It’s a fantastic story. After a week of the occupation, three levels of government were still just staring at it, slack-jawed and gibbered, wondering why their haughty tweets and accusations of Nazism hadn’t yet cleared the streets. And then “some 20-year-old” marches into court and gets satisfaction. It was four days after Li won her inunction that the city finally sought one itself.

It was a well-earned humiliation for a clearly broken city government.

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