‘Freedom Convoy’ arrives in Ottawa, demanding change

February 3, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Sam Odrowski

Thousands of protestors united against COVID-19 mandates gathered at the Nation’s Capital over the weekend to protest against vaccine mandates for truckers and all industries, along with other COVID-19 restrictions.

“For us, the reason why we’re here, it’s simple, just end the mandates,” said a Dufferin woman on Saturday (Jan. 29) at Parliament Hill. “I’m in possession of my body, you are with yours. What’s right for you is not right for me.”

Tens of thousands came via the “Freedom Convoy”, which travelled over 4,000 km from British Columbia to the west and around 1,500 km from Nova Scotia to the east, led by thousands of big rig truckers. Many of which are off work due to federal government’s new border restrictions for truck drivers, and came to Ottawa to protest it. The result of the restrictions is up to 26,000 of the 160,000 American and Canadian cross border truckers being taken off the roads, estimates the Canadian Trucker Alliance (CTA).

Along the Freedom Convoys journey, thousands of Canadians lined overpasses and roads near their community to cheer on the truckers as they rolled through their area.

At Parliament Hill, where the masses gathered, many attendees held signs calling for an end to any future lockdowns, restrictions in schools, as well as the proof-of-vaccine system in public spaces, which is being dropped later this month in Saskatchewan.

The province’s Premiere Scott Moe released a statement during the height of the “Freedom Rally” last Saturday, saying he’s against the vaccine mandates for truckers, citing that they don’t stop transmission. He added that this is the reason why his government will soon be ending the proof-of-vaccination system for Saskatchewan.

Impact of mandates/restrictions on local protester

The Citizen spoke with an Orangeville woman at Parliament Hill, who travelled to Ottawa to support the Freedom Convoy. She said one of her key motivations for travelling almost 500 km is to support the right to choose what goes into your body, without losing the ability to work.

“I think the narrative has been really stressful when it comes to people thinking that it is a selfish choice to either be unvaccinated or choose to be vaccine free, when in reality it’s just exercising the choices we’ve always made since we live in a democratic society.”

The stress of talking about being unvaccinated with family or friends has led to issues for her husband, who’s a first responder, as well.

“You’ve been revered as someone who is at the frontline, and helping, and then in a matter of a few weeks, when the vaccine is available, you’re either demonized or applauded based on your choice, because the choice has become so incredibly public,” the Orangeville women said. “First responders, healthcare workers that have been let go for a private medical choice. One where there’s a lot of data that shows it isn’t necessarily helping now in the grand scheme of things [with transmission] – they just feel disposable.”

Another motivator for the Orangeville women to attend the protest on Parliament Hill last weekend was for her eldest son, who’s in Junior Kindergarten, and struggles with speech issues.

The kindergartener had a mask exemption since September but in January it was revoked. The Orangeville women’s family doctor said her child should be exempt, but he’s under legal pressure to not write an exemption, which she finds appalling.

“The reason for not writing the exemption is political, but the reason for the need of the exemption is medical and for the well-being of the child, which should trump everything,” said the Orangeville women.

With respect to the Freedom Convoy rally itself, she said she saw nothing but great things with her husband and group of friends she went with.

“The crowd was overwhelmingly positive. At one point, it was very tight quarters, like people trying to get through the crowd, and it was probably the most Canadian thing I’ve ever seen. Everyone was saying ‘sorry, excuse me, pardon me, thank you’ like it was a chant,” the Orangeville women noted.

“We saw multiple protesters with garbage bags, picking up garbage and cleaning up because they understand it’s all of our responsibility. We’re here because we’re standing up for a cause that’s for everyone, the well-being of everyone. So for the protesters to ensure that the message is the main focus and not the uncleanliness of the protest area was great.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who refuses to meet with members of the Freedom Convoy, called it an “insult to truth” during a press conference on Monday. Prior to the convoy’s arrival to Ottawa, he called protestors a “small fringe minority” who hold “unacceptable views”, lacking respect for their country. He also said a few protestors are being led by misinformation and wearing tin-foil hats. Last fall he categorized “anti-vaxxers” as racist and misogynists.

However, from actually attending the protest, the Orangeville women said she met a ton of reasonable people and the Prime Minister’s comments couldn’t be further from the truth.

“There was a man experiencing homelessness on the side of the street and protesters giving him coffee, food and blankets. And I mean, it was a really good feeling to be there,” she said. “I think also because we have been lacking so much connection, like real in person connection over the past two years, people were so willing to strike up a conversation with their neighbour and talk to them. They’d hear stories of how they’ve been impacted or hear stories of where they came from, or how far they came. People were making connections in the crowd because humans are hardwired for connection.”

Terry Fox Monument and Tomb of the Unknown Solider

Trudeau noted the Terry Fox statue was “desecrated”, when a Canada flag ball cap was put on its head, an upside-down Canadian flag around his back, and sign that read “mandate freedom” in his hands.

Following the incident, a protestor from Southern Alberta, Jeremiah Jost polished the Terry Fox statue, laid down a bouquet of flowers at its feet, and held up a sign that read “We Love You Terry.”

“I’ve been here this whole rally and it’s been amazingly peaceful; people are coming early to pick up garbage, and I got home last night [Jan. 29] and I saw Erin O’Toole post that this rally was defacing our monuments, specifically Terry Fox,” said Jost.

He noted that he’s tired of seeing the mainstream media try to use guilt by association for those who attended the Freedom Convoy protest on Parliament Hill.

“They’re trying to absolutely shame anyone who wants to affiliate with this rally, so I came out here and I created a little bit of my own news to give to them. Hopefully this goes all over the place – that the convoy respects Terry Fox.”

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was covered in flowers on Sunday, following reports of a lone protestor dancing on it, and another allegedly urinated in the area.

Jost said a few bad actors shouldn’t tarnish the entire Freedom Convoy movement, and its heartwarming to see protestors come together to try to offset the negative actions of a select few.

Protestors share motivations to support the Freedom Convoy

In speaking with countless protestors at the rally, the most common reason for people attending was to unify with fellow Canadians and fight back against “no jab, no job” policies.

“I think the biggest thing is probably unity. I think there’s been enough of this us versus them, demonizing the unvaccinated, and I’ll be the first one to encourage anybody to get vaccinated. I’m vaccinated,” said Nick Besner, Ottawa resident. “But coercing people to take some medicine that they don’t want to take – making people choose between livelihoods and getting the shot, it should be their choice.”

With over 90 per cent of people 12 and up in Ontario with a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, Besner noted that there’s no need to fire the unvaccinated. He also shared that Canada should be able to respond to the pandemic more effectively than it is currently.

“You’d think that any G7 competent government would be able to find ways to deal with this [pandemic] without people keeping them in their frigging homes,” Besner remarked.

A Kanata resident, who drove down to Parliament Hill to protest on Saturday (Jan. 29), said he came to stand up against COVID-19 policies.

“I’ve seen a lot of things happening in the past 24 months, I’ve lost a lot of friends, none to COVID,” he said. “Even my little cousin who has special needs, I’ve seen her mental health decline with all of this, her not being able to socialize, go to school.”

The Kanata man said he’s seen many tragedies unfold in the last two years, friends losing their businesses, losing employment due to mandates.

He stressed that “enough is enough.”

“Everything that’s been taken, has not improved our health whatsoever. It was all for health, but everything they’ve done has been the unhealthiest solutions, not even solutions. It’s terrible, what they’ve done, and we’ve ended up no further ahead, no matter how far they brought us,” said the Kanata man.

He told the Citizen his father died in the early months of COVID-19 due to influenza but as a result of strict lockdown policies, he couldn’t visit his father for the final 25 days of his life.

“I really truly think that if we were able to be there with him, he would have pulled through,” said the Kanata man.

With respect to the truckers, he thanked the ones still out making deliveries as well as the ones who convoyed to Ottawa to “fight for freedom”.

Speeches delivered by organizers and an MP

Peace River—Westlock MP Arnold Viersen from northern Alberta shared a few words with the truckers and rally supporters.

“I want to thank the truck rally for bringing us all together. I’ve seen the images from across Canada, the folks lined up in -30 on the side roads to welcome you across Canada. And I want to thank the truckers for bringing us all together to work together,” he enthused.

Tamara Litch, co-organizer of the “Freedom Convoy 2022” GoFundMe which has now raised over $10 million, spoke to a group of a few thousand protestors on Jan. 30. She shared a message with a theme of unity.

“To see all of you here as one, refusing to be divided by race, or culture, or geography, or faith anymore,” she remarked. “We are all Canadian citizen and I’ve never been more proud to be Canadian than I am right now.”

Litch said Canadians have regained the hope and pride that so many had lost through the pandemic.

“I said yesterday, if you have your flag turned upside down, please put it back right side up, and be proud of what you’ve done and be proud of these guys [the truckers],” she said, sparking cheers from the crowd and honks from trucks parked nearby.

“I am not a hero. These are the heroes. These are the people that stood up. Your blue-collar men and women who bring your products, bring your food, and bring your medical supplies. I’m just here to support them and help them.”

Litch’s main message was that the truckers and protestors aren’t leaving until their demands are met.

“We’re not leaving until you can open up your businesses. We’re not leaving until you can hug your best friend. We’re not leaving until you can go and see your parents in a long-term care facility. And for your children to have a birthday party,” she said with resounding applause from the crowd.

“This ends now and we’re going to do it peacefully and we’re going to do it with compassion and we’re going to get through this together, everybody. I implore you to love one another, stretch your hands out to one another and help each other because we’ve all lost so much ­– but no more. Hold your hands up high Canada, we love you.”

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