A morning snowstorm didn’t detract from the enthusiasm of a convoy of more than 300 vehicles traveling into Windsor Jan. 23, part of Canada-wide trucking demonstrations against Canada’s vaccine mandate for truckers.
The trucks were outfitted with Canadian flags and banners with slogans such as ‘No Jabs For Jobs’ and ‘Stop All Mandates,’ with many cabs sporting hand-written slogans such as ‘Trudeau You Work For Us’ and ‘My Freedom Doesn’t End Where Your Fear Begins.’
It’s all part of a campaign that kicked off over the weekend with local convoys now carrying out daily protests, culminating later this week with caravans converging from across Canada on Parliament Hill.
Known by names like Freedom Convoy 2022, Convoy to End Mandates and Lockdown Ottawa, the organizers vow that “thousands of trucks and vehicles will be surrounding Parliament and blocking all access to Ottawa,” demanding an end to the newly implemented vaccine mandate for cross-border drivers and an end to Covid restrictions generally.
At the Windsor rally there was no question as to who protesters saw as the main culprit: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The federal government mandated the fully vaxxed requirement Jan. 15. The United States followed with its own vax requirement which started Jan. 22.
Many participants verbally singled out Canada’s leader for condemnation.
“I believe in our freedom and the freedom of our children and Trudeau’s taken that away from us,” said owner-operator Peter Unger of Leamington, Ont.
Dave Chiarotti, not a trucker but “a citizen supporting the truck drivers to save this country before it actually falls apart,” said the main problem is the prime minister and “all the BS he’s shoved up our butts – it’s ridiculous – people have got to stand up, this is tyranny.”
The convoy rolled out of the Petro-Pass truck stop in Comber and traveled to the Ambassador Bridge plaza linking Windsor and Detroit 50 km away. They traveled along Hwy. 401, which had been hit with heavy snow, as groups of people waved and held signs atop overpasses.
Once in Windsor, the convoy traveled along Huron Church Rd., a six-lane thoroughfare, taking up two lanes of traffic. Truck horns blared and small groups of pedestrians waved from the sidewalks. The plan was to keep one lane free to allow cross-border traffic. The convoy turned on Wyandotte St., and then looped back along Huron Church, in a several kilometer circular formation that lasted throughout the afternoon.
Ben Peters, owner of ADT Transportation and the protest coordinator, said the plan is to have similar demonstrations early this week and then head to Ottawa Thursday.
At one point protest vehicles were taking up three lanes, which annoyed Peters. He attributed it to late joiners. “And they just decided to take it in their own hands and they’re just blocking and it’s in both directions,” he said.
Peters, who is not vaxxed, said it’s “not right for the government to force it on us as it should be a free choice.” He said each driver should make their own decision. He said some customers have told him truckers should get the vaccine “and I’m like, I’m not,” he said. “If they choose to do it then good, if not then I guess that means that my business is done.”
Another driver told Trucknews.com he wasn’t vaxed for health reasons.
Rick Nicholls of Windsor, driving for an owner-operator, is staying on the Canadian side of the border for now. “I’m a cancer patient and I’ve already been told that there’s a chemical in the vaccine that could attack the area where my cancer was,” he said.
Meanwhile in Sarnia, a caravan traveling 10 kms attracted truckers and supporters along Hwy. 402 into downtown Sarnia, turning off before the Blue Water Bridge.
Brigitte Belton of Wallaceburg, Ont., an organizer, was helping coordinate the protest even though she was still enroute in the U.S., expecting to cross back home Sunday night. She said police reports were that “it was very good, everyone was well behaved.”
Belton, who owns her own truck, driving for a major carrier, said one of the reasons she got involved was because of the hassles she’s had returning to Canada. This included Customs demanding personal contact information for Covid tracing when that is on her FAST card and demanding she wear a mask when she, as a “victim of violence,” said wearing one would cause trauma. “Everything is very heavy handed,” she said.
Meanwhile, in Manitoba, organizers were preparing for a convoy that is to kick off Monday.
“Organizers have been on the phone all day getting everything ready,” Dale Enns said.
He said so far more than 250 people were participating, “way more than I ever thought it was going to be.” An independent operator, Enns said he’s not against vaccines but hasn’t found time to get one. “I don’t have time to make appointments. Every time I go to a walk in (clinic) they don’t have time or I have to stand in long lineups,” he said.
He said the mandates will harm the economy. “You go into a grocery store, there’s nothing there, and now they want to limit truck drivers even more? They want to slow down the supply chain even more?”
Trucknews.com did not receive a response from Saskatchewan convoy organizers.
In Alberta, organizer Cathy Murrell said convoys were meeting up from across the province. There was a slow roll along Calgary’s ring road from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and the same for “many other” cities and towns, she said. “It’s growing by hothead minute.”
Murrell added, “We are hearing numbers like 38,000. Not sure if that’s from B.C. and Alberta or more provinces … all converging on Ottawa.”
Independent groups of truckers are leading the protests.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), the national organization representing the industry, issued a statement Jan. 22 saying it “does not support and strongly disapproves of any protests on public roadways, highways, and bridges. CTA believes such actions – especially those that interfere with public safety – are not how disagreements with government policies should be expressed.”
The CTA also maintains government mandates won’t change as both countries now require vaccinations.
“The only way to cross the border, in a commercial truck or any other vehicle, is to get vaccinated,” president Stephen Laskowski said.