Freedom Convoy approaches Ottawa
It’s rare that a story will dominate transportation headlines for three weeks in a row. However, because of the Freedom Convoy 2022, here we are again talking about the new driver vaccine mandate at Canada US border. If you’re not caught up with the story you can read about the controversy and confusion leading up to the mandate HERE, and the initial fallout that occurred last week HERE.
As a brief refresher: on January 15th new rules from the Canadian government came into effect which forced all Canadian unvaccinated truck drivers crossing the border to be vaccinated, less they face a two-week quarantine upon their return. There was a large amount of pushback from industry groups and cross-border carriers to leave truck drivers exempt from the mandate in order to keep the already stressed supply chain from experiencing any more disruptions. For a moment, a few days before the mandate came into effect, the Canada Border Security Agency (CBSA) even put out a statement saying that truckers would be exempt from the mandate, though the federal government walked with statement back within a day and the mandate came into effect as scheduled. When the rule came into effect there were immediate protests and a large “Freedom Convoy” of truckers heading to Ottawa to voice their disdain was quickly organized.
The protest gets rolling
The protest started in western Canada and picked up more drivers as it moved east. The convoy has stopped in a few cities to hold demonstrations, but most of the protest has been a “rolling protest” with drivers driving slowly in packs across major roadways, displaying signs and slogans. Because the convoy is a conglomerate of many smaller protests it’s hard to tell exactly how many truckers are part of the convoy at the moment or how many will make it to Ottawa. Most reports say that only about 10% of drivers in Canada are unvaccinated, however, the protests are also picking up support from non-truck drivers who are tagging along in order to show support for the overall anti-restriction / anti-lockdown message that the convoy represents. There has also been a wave of monetary contributions
Reactions from around the country
Though the protest is gaining steam it seems that the federal government is not blinking in its stance on mandatory vaccines. On Monday Prime Minister Trudeau reaffirmed his focus on the mandates saying”the best way to continue to prevent supply chain disruptions is to ensure that everyone gets vaccinated”.
In addition, a joint statement was released Tuesday from the Minister of Transport, the Minister of Labour, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, and the President of the Canadian Trucking Alliance, stressing the need for truckers to get vaccinated. Even opposition leader Erin O’Toole voiced less outright support for driver vaccination, saying “I support getting as many people vaccinated as possible, including truckers”.
There were some comments to the contrary made by members of O’Toole’s party, however. Former Conservative party leader Andrew Scheer said in a social media post: “Thank you Truckers! Trudeau is attacking personal liberty and threatening everyone’s ability to get groceries because of his overreach on vaccine mandates,”. a few other conservative MPs expressed their support for the protests heading to Ottawa, with some even offering to meet with the protestors when they arrive.
When the protestors arrive in Ottawa Tomorrow they may be met with a warmer welcome than initially anticipated. however, its unlikely that even with the support of a few voices in parliament, they’ll be able to make the government budge on their vaccine stance.
Controversy Over Funding
One recent development in the story that has whipped up a lot of press is the Freedom Convoy fundraiser started by Tamara Lich of Medicine Hat. The fundraiser aimed at covering costs for truckers making the trek to Ottawa has raised over 5.1 million dollars as of Wednesday morning and is continuing to grow. The page was briefly shut down for a while earlier this week by go fund me, the site suspended the campaign over concerns that the organizers did not have a clear plan to distribute the money. Organizer Tamara Lich assured donors that they were providing the documents to GoFundMe and the campaign would continue as planned.
One other element of controversy actually stems from the organizer herself. Lich is not a trucker and has no clear direct ties to the industry. However, she has been associated with the controversial Yellow Vest and Wexit Alberta movements. Because the funds are deposited directly into Lich’s bank account upon completion of the fundraiser, many worry about if the funds will be distributed properly and how the organizers will be held accountable.
We’ve written similar articles about these protests here.