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‘Freedom Convoy’ Protests Spread Across Canada, Major Border Crossing Shut Down

Published: January 31, 2022
Inspired by the “Freedom Convoy” protests have sprung up in numerous cities across Canada with protesters demonstrating against COVID-19 measures intended to limit the spread of the virus. (Image: Alex Kent/Getty Images)

Inspired by Canada’s “Freedom Convoy” numerous other protests have sprung up across Canada mirroring the dissent expressed by thousands of Canadian truckers and their supporters opposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates that organisers say are government “overreach.” 

A protest in Canada’s energy capital of Calgary, Alberta drew some 5-thousand participants on Saturday composed of people in support of the ongoing protest in Ottawa which saw no arrests despite the protests attracting thousands, some estimate 100’s of thousands, of people.  

On Canada’s West coast, hundreds of supporters drove through Vancouver city streets on Saturday in support of the Ottawa convoy. 

“Hundreds of vehicles jammed downtown Vancouver and Victoria’s streets Saturday, decked out with signs on their rooftop and Canadian flags, honking their horns to show their support of the cross-Canada ‘Freedom Convoy’ simultaneously rallying in Ottawa against a range of COVID-19 restrictions,” The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Canada’s state-funded media outlet, reported. 

Hundreds of protestors jammed St. John’s Newfoundland’s streets and gathered outside the Confederation Building holding signs and waving Canadian flags in protest of vaccine mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions while a similar show of support was seen in Edmonton, the capital of the province of Alberta.

In Saskatchewan similar shows of support were expressed as truckers converged on the province’s capital Regina. Saskatchewan Premier,  Scott Moe, released a statement on Jan. 29 asserting that “An unvaccinated trucker does not pose any greater risk of transmission than a vaccinated trucker,” adding that “the current federal policy does pose a significant risk to Canada’s economy and to the supply chain in our Saskatchewan communities, where you and I live.”

Coutts border crossing shut down

The Coutts border crossing, the only border crossing into the province of Alberta from the U.S., has been essentially shut down for three days by a convoy of hundreds of trucks demonstrating in an effort to convince authorities to drop COVID-19 measures.

Provincial Premier, Jason Kenney, said in a statement on Sunday, “If participants in this convoy cross the line and break the law, I expect police to take appropriate action,” adding that, “The current blockade of Highway 4 at the Coutts border crossing violates the Alberta Traffic Safety Act. It is causing significant inconvenience for lawful motorists and could dangerously impede the movement of emergency service vehicles. This blockade must end immediately.”

The Sweegrass-Coutts border crossing connects the town of Sweet Grass, Montana with the village of Coutts, Alberta. It is the busiest port of entry for both the province of Alberta and the state of Montana. 

Are the convoy’s goals achievable? 

While the Freedom Convoy was originally formed in opposition of a recently implemented vaccine mandate on all cross-border truckers, the goals of the protest have evolved with many protest supporters demanding the lifting of all COVID-19 measures in the country and for workers, dismissed for refusing a COVID-19 vaccine, to be reinstated to their jobs. 

The Trudeau government does not appear to be swayed by the massive unrest. In a press conference on Monday, Trudeau denounced the protests and refused to meet with the protest’s organizers instead choosing to thank compliant Canadians for their patience and support.

Another hurdle faced by the protests is that, in the United States, the Biden administration has also implemented a cross-border vaccine mandate on all truckers. Not only does the Freedom Convoy have to convince both the Canadian federal and provincial governments to rescind its policies but also the Biden administration, a task that may be insurmountable. 

Despite the massive hurdles participants with the main convoy in Ottawa say they will be staying put until their demands are met. Some say the protesters have significant staying power after raising close to $10-million via a GoFundMe campaign and having collected mountains of donations along its trek across the country.

Sentiment in the country may be changing due to the protests. A recent Angus Reid poll suggests that 54 percent of Canadians now want COVID-19 restrictions lifted, a sharp increase from when the same question was asked in early January. 

“A majority (54%) now say it is time to remove restrictions and let Canadians manage their own level of risk, an increase of 15 percentage points since this question was asked in early January,” the Angus Reid Institute said.