It’s now week three of the Canadian trucker “Freedom Convoy” protests. What began as a convoy of eighteen wheelers has become more of a “sit-in” or a “truck-in,” if you will. Critics say the truckers – who were later joined by people in personal vehicles as well – have turned Ottawa into a “parking lot.”
On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, declared a state of emergency, invoking the Emergencies Act, something that hasn’t been done for decades. The Emergencies Act allows the government “broad powers to restore order” in the event something prevents the government from “protecting the sovereignty and security” of the country. Under the Emergencies Act, however, this law may not be invoked “unless the situation cannot be effectively dealt with under any other law of Canada.”
The Freedom Convoy began in late January as a response to COVID-19 mandates involving Canadian cross-border truckers, who were required to be vaccinated in order to come into the country. (This mandate required all coming into Canada to show proof of vaccination.) However, the protests appear to have grown to show a burgeoning despair regarding various mandates the Canadian government has imposed on its citizens. Canada is said to have enacted various mandates then relaxed them “in ways that haven’t always made a lot of sense to the public.” Further reports say that there are many Canadians who are “frustrated with the continued restrictions.”
Truckers would be required to show proof of vaccination when going into the United States as well, so some have said that the protests don’t quite have the desired effect. However, at one time, truckers were considered essential workers as they transported goods to and from both countries, and they were exempt from many Canadian mandates until the latest mandate took effect.
Truckers turned Ottawa “into a parking lot,” but, there would be truckers who closed part of the Ambassador Bridge, which connected Windsor, Ontario to Detroit, Michigan. Police were brought in to remove the protestors, and the bridge reopened on Monday. However, this reopening did not take place before the Ontario premier Doug Ford announced that he would relax the province’s mandate to show proof of vaccination in restaurants, gym, and at sporting events.
Police have also shown up at the Ottawa protests. While most of the police interaction has been positive, a video released last week showed police arresting an elderly man for honking his (personal vehicle) horn. This was after the government announced a ten-day prohibition on horn honking during the protests. There have been at least 2,600 tickets given to participants in the protests. Some truckers have been threatened with a suspended or revoked license as well as warnings that the general public should not provide the truckers with fuel. There are reports that some fuel has been seized as well.
In Ontario, a state emergency was declared on February 6. The cabinet of Ontario issued executive orders that ran the gamut from allowing police to remove vehicles that had been sitting for more than two weeks on major downtown streets to “steep fines” for protestors who “block trade corridors.”
So, what is it that the truckers are protesting?
A truck driver, Harold Jonker, told the BBC (British Broadcasting Company) that “we (Canadians) want to be free, we want to have our choice again, and we want hope – and the government has taken that away.”
The Wall Street Journal reports that most of the protestors simply want their freedoms restored, especially when it comes to requiring vaccinations for travel, work, and other activities. Canada had banned unvaccinated people from entering restaurants and bars, as well as working out a local gyms.
A statement on the Freedom Convoy 2022 Facebook page read, “Freedom is constantly at war with those who want to limit it, and it must be defended.” A spokeswoman for the group, Tamara Lich, related that the truckers and other demonstrators ‘would not stay a day longer than necessary. Our departure will be based on the prime minister doing what is right.”
Although Trudeau is now publicly speaking regarding the protests, at the beginning of the protests in January, Trudeau had left his prime minister living quarters and had been moved to “an undisclosed location.” He later cited that he had been exposed to COVID-19 and was in isolation. Trudeau, according to The Wall Street Journal, has “ruled out” entering into talks with members of the Freedom Convoy, but, on February 11, Trudeau said “everything is on the table” in regards to “ending illegal activity” by demonstrators.
Shortly after the Freedom Convoy began moving to Ottawa, supporters organized a GoFundMe account to raise money for the truckers. GoFundMe shut down the account after it had garnered donations in the millions. GoFundMe originally said they would put the money – the organization had already released $1 million to the group of truckers – into other charities. However, facing a public backlash, GoFundMe decided to refund the remaining money to donors. Shortly after, GiveSendGo announced they would accept and properly distribute donations for the trucking convoy.
Initially, some conservative Canadian lawmakers threw their support behind the convoy. However, some are saying that Canadians are growing weary of the protests and that they should end. Even so, there are American truckers who support the protests, and citizens of Australia, Great Britain and other countries around the world are throwing their support behind the Freedom Convoy 2022 – and they’re considering their own protests as well.