Truth, Inspiration, Hope.

Masses Undeterred as Freedom Convoy Weathers Police Action

Published: February 14, 2022
A protester holds up a sign condemning the vaccine mandates introduced by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on February 5, 2022 in Ottawa, Canada. (Image: Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

This article first appeared in the Toronto-based print edition of Vision Times on Feb. 11.

The Freedom Convoy protest in Ottawa, which has been ongoing for almost two full weeks, appears to have entered an impasse: the liberal government refuses to meet the protesters, and the Ottawa police has started to use force to stop the peaceful protest. Meanwhile, the convoy movement is garnering more support from the masses and gaining momentum at home and abroad.

The protest movement started out as a demonstration by truck drivers opposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates for cross-border travel but has since become a much larger demonstration with people from across Canada joining in to oppose various COVID-19 mandates and restrictions. Protest convoys first drove from different parts of Canada to Ottawa on Jan. 29, and many have stayed in the city, saying they will remain until the government lifts the vaccination mandates.

Convoy organizers say they want to sit down and talk with the government, but so far no representatives from any level of government have contacted them.

“The first thing they’ve got to do is call us… we’re sitting here, we’re waiting by the phone,” protest organizer Benjamin Dichter said in a press conference in Ottawa on Feb. 6.

PM denouncing the protest

In an earlier press conference on Jan. 26, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dismissed the protesters as being a “small fringe minority” who do not hold the views of the majority of Canadians.

Trudeau’s denouncement of the protesters has continued since their arrival in the nation’s capital, while he has also refused to meet with them.

“Over the past few days, Canadians were shocked and frankly disgusted by the behaviour displayed by some people protesting in our nation’s capital,” Trudeau said in a press conference from an undisclosed location on Jan. 31, where he supposedly stayed in quarantine after contracting the virus.

Trudeau called the protest “an insult to memory and truth” while saying on Twitter that protesters had displayed “antisemitism, Islamophobia, anti-Black racism, homophobia, and transphobia.” He also said he would not be “intimidated” by the protesters.

On Feb. 7, Trudeau posted on Twitter, saying, “Canadians have the right to protest, to disagree with their government, and to make their voices heard. We’ll always protect that right. But let’s be clear: they don’t have the right to blockade our economy, or our democracy, or our fellow citizens’ daily lives. It has to stop.”

In a tweet on Feb. 8, Trudeau said Canada has to “keep listening to science” before the country can be safely reopened.

Ottawa Police taking action

On Feb. 4, Peter Sloly, chief of the Ottawa Police Service, said in a press conference that police will be implementing a “surge and contain strategy” to deal with the protesters camped in Ottawa. The strategy includes deploying more police officers, barricading the protest area with concrete and heavy-equipment barriers, as well as “increased efforts” by national, provincial, and local intelligence agencies to target those “who are funding/supporting/enabling unlawful and harmful activity” by protesters.

“He effectively announced that he is going to be taking away Canadians’ charter right of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression… He announced that very specific measures that we normally only see instituted by oppressive regimes around the world, would be initiated,” said Keith Wilson, a lawyer with the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) – the legal entity representing the convoy organizers.

On Feb. 6, Ottawa’s mayor Jim Watson declared a state of emergency, saying that the move reflects the “serious danger and threat to the safety and security of residents” posed by the ongoing demonstrations.

The JCCF immediately countered Watson’s claim, saying that the protesters have been law-abiding since arriving in Ottawa on Jan. 29, and that Watson has no basis for calling a state of emergency without divulging publicly how the truckers are posing “a danger of major proportions”.

During the city council meeting on Feb. 7, Watson described the truckers’ demonstration as “an aggressive and hateful occupation of our neighbourhoods,” adding that the honking of horns heard intermittently during the protests in the city’s downtown core was “tantamount to psychological warfare.”

Meanwhile, Ottawa police said that anyone attempting to bring supplies such as gas to the demonstrators after midnight on Feb. 7 could be subject to arrest. Protesters on the ground have said on Twitter that a larger police presence has begun to move in to seize major fuel supplies.

Protest organizer Tamara Lich wrote in a Feb. 6 tweet that Ottawa police will effectively be “starving truckers and their families” if they cut off fuel and supplies.

“People who bring food, water, gasoline or other supplies to peacefully protesting truckers are not breaking any law. There is no basis for this police threat,” JCCF lawyer Nicholas Wansbutter said in a statement on Feb. 7.

On Feb. 8, city manager Steve Kanellakos said in a press conference that all tow-truck operators on contract with the City of Ottawa have refused to remove the heavy vehicles in the protest.

‘Overwhelming support’

Despite Canadian legacy media outlets having aligned with the Prime Minister to portray the movement as a “fringe minority” group of white supremacists and racists, Benjamin Dichter, the convoy coordinator, said that they have been overwhelmed by people’s support for their efforts to end mandates and restore personal liberties.

“The response has been amazing and overwhelming, and something I never would have thought I would experience in Canada, the amount of support and unity amongst people,” Dichter told the host of NTD’s The Nation Speaks program, on Feb. 5.

Dichter said participants of the convoy have mostly received the support of the local police because of their upright and orderly conduct.

Dichter estimated that there have been about 40 to 50,000 people in attendance over the weekends, even more amazing to him as the temperature is minus 30 degrees Celsius in Ottawa.

The convoy was able to raise over $10 million Canadian ($8 million USD) before being shut down by the owners of the GoFundMe website on Feb.5, due to pressure from the Ottawa police.

The crowdfunding effort has since been directed to another platform, GiveSendGo, and as of the morning of Feb. 10, donations had reached another US$8 million.

Dichter said people have made their voices heard by giving money to the convoy in support of freedom.

“Because that’s their vote. It’s not even about the money at all. The money’s going to the truckers, but it’s not even about that. It’s them signaling to the political class and to everybody, you’re the official opposition,” said Dichter.

Candice Bergen, immediately upon being elected interim leader of the Conservative Party on Feb. 3, used her first opportunity at the helm during question period to raise the issue of the convoy protest and ask how the government is planning to help resolve it.

“The protesters and, to be more accurate, the trucks have been parked outside in Ottawa for almost a week now, and instead of presenting a plan, which is what I think a lot of people in this country would like to see, to work with the people who are out there to help them feel they have been listened to, the prime minister is threatening Canadians with more vaccine mandates for interprovincial trade and travel,” Bergen said.

“Can the prime minister please tell Canadians what role he feels the government can play and what it can do to help solve the impasse?”

On Feb. 4, Bergen issued a press release calling the truck drivers to “remain peaceful”.

“Canadians and Conservatives have heard you loud and clear. Regardless of political stripe, we all want an end to the demonstrations, and we all want an end to the restrictions.”

Conservative MP Rachael Thomas, who represents the Lethbridge riding, made the same point when interviewed by the Epoch Times on Feb. 9. She said truckers protesting in Ottawa deserve to have their voices heard and the PM’s refusal to meet them shows a disregard for democracy.

“They came to Ottawa because they’re desperate. They’re desperate to have their lives back. They’re desperate to be able to provide for their families. They’re desperate to be able to travel to see family. They’re desperate to have loved ones be able to access the healthcare that they deserve. They’re desperate to see our country flourish economically the way that it should.”

According to Thomas, with an attitude unwilling to hear the truckers’ voices or give weight to their concerns, Trudeau “is willfully turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the situation that is taking place in Canada.”

Influential in Canada and beyond

The ongoing Freedom Convoy in Ottawa to protest federal COVID-19 mandates has inspired more protests in different parts of Canada, as well as a growing number of trucker convoys worldwide that are gaining in momentum.

On Feb. 5, thousands of demonstrators in Toronto walked to the grounds of the Ontario legislature at Queen’s Park and held a rally there to oppose COVID-19 lockdowns and mandates. Trucks and other vehicles parked away from the grounds beyond the barricade. A convoy of farm vehicles also joined the protest.

In Quebec, thousands of protesters gathered at the National Assembly in Quebec City to stage a demonstration. In Alberta, a convoy of trucks and other vehicles blocked a highway near the Canada-U.S. border.

Outside Canada, in the Netherlands, Austria, the United States, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, truckers reportedly launched convoys to demonstrate in different cities, and are driving to the capital city of their countries to urge their governments to remove the pandemic mandates.

By Legere Hope