Convoy to arrive in Waterloo Region on Thursday amid muddled messaging
A convoy of truckers protesting a recent federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate imposed on the sector has arrived in Ontario. The group aims to make it to Ottawa by the weekend.
Three convoys of trucks involved in the “Freedom Convoy” will depart Windsor, ON, on Thursday morning at 5.30am. Those who plan to travel on Highway 401 at that time are being advised to be prepared to add some time to their commute, reports Global News.
While the focus of “Freedom Convoy 2022” was initially the vaccine mandate, protests have taken on a broader political dimension.
Speaking with Brian Bourke of Kitchener Today, Jason LaFace – one of the convoy’s main organizers in Ontario said: “This is no longer about the mandate anymore.” And “This is about Canada, this is about our rights and how the government's been manipulating the population and oppressing us all the time.”
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The controversial figure, who admitted that he himself is not a trucker, raised eyebrows during the interview when he drew comparisons between the current vaccine mandate and Nazi Germany. What those parallels are remain unclear.
LaFace made a series of other claims before hanging up on the interview.
While initially limited to truckers, the protest has picked up steam and garnered support across various industries. Politicians from across the spectrum are also weighing in.
However, the protest seems to have attracted a number of far-right supporters; Ryan Stelter of The Winnipeg Sun claims that that placards during the Winnipeg portion of the protest had “messages riddled with anti-Semitism and racism”.
It has drawn criticism from former supporters who say that the convoy’s initial message has now been sullied.
The group of truckers has raised millions of dollars from contributions of those supporting its protest against the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate to essential workers, including truckers.
The “Freedom Convoy” had garnered millions of donations by Wednesday morning. The amount came from some 67,200 donors. The campaign is hoping to raise $6 million.
“We are asking for donations to help with the costs of fuel first, and hopefully food and lodgings to help ease the pressures of this arduous task,” Tamara Lich and B.J. Dichter, organizers of the convoy’s GoFundMe fundraiser, on the page.
“It's a small price to pay for our freedoms. We thank you all for your Donations and know that you are helping reshape this once beautiful country back to the way it was.”
Harwil Farms Mobile Feeds donated $5,000 to the convoy, one of the highest donations to the campaign, according to the report from The Canadian Press. The company’s 12 drivers deliver feed to farms and livestock to slaughterhouses in southern Ontario.
Wendy Metcalfe, owner of Harwil Farms Mobile Feeds, believes vaccination is unnecessary, according to the report.
“It doesn’t seem to be working very well, does it? You’ve got people that are double, triple vaxxed, and they’re still getting the Omicron,” she said.
“I’m definitely against the mandates, and I’m way more than skeptical.”
Ottawa’s vaccination campaign for truckers took effect on Jan. 15, after initial reports saying that the said mandate will no longer push through.
However, Tamara Lich – another controversial figure and one of the convoy’s organizers – has faced issues in the past.
Lich “was heavily involved with the yellow vest protests in 2019, a global movement that claimed to represent the economic concerns of its members but also devolved into Islamophobic rhetoric and anti-immigrant views,” according to The Canadian Press’ report.
The vast majority of the Canadian trucking industry is vaccinated with the overall industry vaccination rate among truck drivers closely mirroring that of the general public, according to the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA).
The alliance also does not support and strongly disapproves of any protests on public roadways, highways and bridges, it said.
Instead, members of the trucking industry who want to publicly express displeasure over government policies can choose to hold an organized, lawful event on Parliament Hill or contact their local MP, it said. The alliance added that disrupting the motoring public on highways and commerce at the border “is not acceptable”.
“The Government of Canada and the United States have now made being vaccinated a requirement to cross the border. This regulation is not changing so, as an industry, we must adapt and comply with this mandate,” said CTA president Stephen Laskowski. “The only way to cross the border, in a commercial truck or any other vehicle, is to get vaccinated.”