Freedom Convoy: Why are Canadian truckers protesting and what are the other effects of their action outside of Ottawa? | world news

Canada’s capital, Ottawa, has been jammed by truckers who have been protesting for nearly two weeks now.

Truckers started protesting in the west Canada on January 9 about new COVID legislation that requires people crossing the Canada-US border to be fully vaccinated.

Although up to 90% of Canada’s 120,000 truckers working on cross-border routes are thought to be fully vaccinated, fears of supply chain issues and that others could be forced out of their jobs have sparked fury .

The protests then began to move east towards Ottawa in a so-called “freedom convoy” beginning January 28.

Truck blockades in Ottawa carry signs saying ‘freedom mandate’

Read more: Trudeau calls for end to trucker protests

Since then, they have spread to other Canadian cities, the United States and New Zealand, attracting celebrity attention and widening to become a broader rejection of Justin Trudeau’s government and its COVID policies. -19.

Here, Sky News looks at what truckers want, what they’re doing to achieve it and how the movement has spread beyond Canada’s borders.

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Hundreds of trucks and cars took part in a “freedom convoy” in Canada, to protest the vaccination mandates.

How did the protests start?

On November 19, the Canadian Department of Transport announced that from January 15 “essential service providers, including truck drivers” who were previously exempt from mandatory vaccinations would have to be vaccinated to leave the country.

This meant that any unvaccinated trucker would have to be quarantined upon returning to Canada, leading to driver shortages, supply chain issues and loss of income for employees.

Similar rules for foreign truck drivers have been in effect in the United States since January 22.

Protesters block a highway in Milk River, Alta., last week.  Photo: AP
Protesters block a highway in Milk River, Alta., last week. Photo: AP

Angered by the new measures and Prime Minister Trudeau’s strict policies on COVID in general, a coalition of trucking associations and conservative groups organized a cross-country drive from western Canada to the capital.

Led by the organization Canada Unity, the so-called “Freedom Convoy” saw thousands of trucks traveling 3,100 miles to Ottawa, Ontario, which began arriving around January 28.

Signs sit on a police barracks as truckers and their supporters continue to protest coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination mandates, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, February 7, 2022. REUTERS/ Patrick Doyle
A barricade in downtown Ottawa. Photo: AP

What is Canadian unity?

Until the end of 2021, Canada Unity was a relatively unknown group.

He had previously tried unsuccessfully to stage nationwide protests, but gained real momentum after Mr Trudeau’s Liberal government announced the new laws for truckers in November.

Its founder, James Bauder, is a supporter of the QAnon conspiracy theory and has openly called for Mr. Trudeau to be tried for treason for his COVID policies.

He and his supporters believe that mandatory vaccines are against the country’s constitution and that an election should be called to oust Mr Trudeau.

Other key figures include Tamara Lich, formerly of the Maverick Party, a far-right fringe organization calling for independence for Western Canada; QAnon supporter Romana Didulo, who describes herself as the “Queen of Canada”; and Benjamin Ditcher, who publicly condemned “the growing Islamization of Canada.”

According to the Canadian Trucking Alliance, between 85% and 90% of Canadian truckers who regularly cross the US border are vaccinated.

The alliance has expressed concern many of those protesting have no connection to the transportation industry after neo-Nazi, QAnon and far-right symbols, including the US Confederate flag, were seen at rallies .

How do they protest?

Protests have largely been centered in Ottawa, with thousands of trucks traveling from across Canada in late January to rally around Parliament Hill.

Nearly two weeks after the arrival of the Freedom Convoy in the capital, an estimated 500 trucks are still blocking the main roads in the city center.

Downtown Ottawa
Canada Unity protesters flock to the streets of downtown Ottawa

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said emergency state to deal with the crisis on February 6.

The city’s deputy police chief, Steve Bell, warned this week: “Our message to protesters remains the same: don’t come. If you do, there will be consequences.

Protesters take to the streets of Toronto on February 5.  Photo: AP
Protesters take to the streets of Toronto on February 5. Photo: AP

On February 7, an Ottawa judge ruled that prohibit truckers from honking for 10 days after residents complained of widespread antisocial behavior.

Although the protests were largely peaceful, violence erupted at several protest locations, with up to 80 criminal investigations opened into protesters’ conduct, including criminal damages and hate crimes.

Police bosses have also expressed safety concerns over claims that 25% of vehicles currently still in Ottawa have children on board.

Mr Bauder and his team had asked their supporters to sign a ‘memorandum of understanding’ outlining Canada Unity’s demands, but it has since been withdrawn as it ‘does not reflect the spirit and intent of the movement Freedom Convoy”.

Police and protesters come face to face in Vancouver.  Photo: AP
Police and counter-protesters come face to face in Vancouver. Photo: AP

Where have other protests taken place?

On February 7, about 800 miles from Ottawa, on the Canada-US border in Ontario, truckers blocked the Ambassador Bridge, which accounts for 25% of all trade between the two countries.

As up to 60 business leaders called for an end to the blockade, carriers were forced to change routes and travel hundreds of extra miles to cross the United States.

Ambassador Bridge, Detroit Monday.  Photo: AP
Ambassador Bridge, Detroit Monday. Photo: AP

Authorities were forced to close the bridge in both directions, with only the Canadian side now open.

Anti-vax protests and counter-protests by healthcare workers also took place in Toronto, Quebec, Vancouver, parts of Alberta and Manitoba.

Solidarity trucker protests take place near New Zealand's parliament in Wellington on February 8.  Photo: AP
Protests of solidarity between truckers take place near the New Zealand parliament in Wellington on February 8. Photo: AP

People also joined the Freedom Convoy from Alaska and other parts of the United Stateswhile solidarity demonstrations took place in the New Zealand cities of Wellington and Canberra.

The movement has drawn support from celebrities such as comedian Russell Brand, Tesla founder Elon Musk, former US President Donald Trump and Canadian actress Evangeline Lilly.

What could we do to stop them?

Speaking to reporters in Ottawa this week, protesters said they would occupy the city “for as long as it takes” to get the government to scrap mandatory COVID shots.

Returning to Parliament after a period of self-isolation, Justin Trudeau said “everyone is fed up with this pandemic” but “Canadians chose vaccines. They chose science.”

He added that Ottawa residents “deserve to have their safety respected and their lives back,” showing no signs he was willing to negotiate on vaccination mandates.

But in the state of Alberta they were scrapped on January 9, although Premier Jason Jenney denied that was the result of pressure from the protests.

In the western state of Saskatchewan, leaders said they were also ready to lift more COVID restrictions.

Meanwhile, local and federal police chiefs have warned protesters of a new crackdown against the blocking of essential services, anti-social behavior and violence.

Crowdfunder GoFundMe has also set up a fundraising page which has raised C$10m (£5.8m) to pay for protesters’ travel, food and lost income.

A man relaxes in his van as truckers and supporters continue to protest against COVID-19 vaccination mandates in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, February 6, 2022. REUTERS/Patrick Doyle
A protester sits on his truck in Ottawa, Ontario

They said organizers violated their terms, giving hope to Ottawa residents that the protests could be starved of resources and forced to end.

But alternative crowdfunders have already appeared, including one using Bitcoin.

An Ontario resident has filed a $9.8m (£7.2m) lawsuit in the Ontario Superior Court seeking damages for ’emotional and mental distress’ caused by truckers.

The military and companies with large tow trucks known as “wreckers” could also be called upon to dismantle the protests.

But the large number of vehicles still in Ottawa and the towing companies’ ties to the truckers themselves would make this extremely difficult.

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