Demonstrating haulier convoys roll closer to Ottawa

The original truck convoy started in British Columbia, but groups are also on their way to the national capital from eastern Canada.

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Several convoys of trucks adorned with Canadian flags and signs rejecting vaccine mandates are ready to drive into Ottawa.

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At the Antrim Truck Stop in Arnprior, owner Tom Orr expected his parking lot to be filled Friday before the final push to Ottawa and Parliament Hill, where truck drivers say they will protest this weekend, with most of them arriving Saturday morning.

Orr is ready to accommodate 150 trucks and up to 100 other cars and pickup trucks. But despite organizers’ claims that over 50,000 trucks are on their way to Ottawa, Orr has heard differently.

“There are 500 trucks crossing the border into Ontario from the west,” he said. “I do not believe they all get here. You know it’s expensive. It’s $ 2,000 to drive a truck from BC to Antrim, and along the way they may lose some momentum and someone will come and say, ‘Hi, I’m have a real job for you. Go and hang on a trailer and go to work. ‘ I’m thinking we’ll get 150, and I think from North Bay down to Ottawa there are another 200 or 300 trucks that will participate, and I do not know how long. “

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In Kingston, according to Orr and social media, between 200 and 300 trucks lined up along Highway 401 on Thursday stood ready to drive to Ottawa.

Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.
Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online. Photo by COLE BURSTON /AFP via Getty Images

Although the numbers are controversial, Orr said even a relatively small number of trucks could wreak havoc in Ottawa. “If you put 1,000 trucks in the center of Ottawa, it’s going to be a shitstorm,” he said. “1,000 trucks take up a lot of space.”

The original truck convoy started in British Columbia, but groups are also on their way to Ottawa from eastern Canada. At least one convoy with an unknown number of trucks is scheduled to drive through Montreal on Friday. Herb’s Travel Plaza, along Highway 417 at Vankleek Hill, east of Ottawa, was also preparing for the arrival of 400 to 500 trucks, Orr said, and trucks gathered at another truck stop in Cornwall.

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Protest groups from Montreal and Toronto have signaled their intention to support the truck drivers, plan events to demonstrate on overpasses while the truck drivers drive past, or organize trips to Ottawa to demonstrate on Parliament Hill with them.

A memo sent by the parliamentary protection service to MPs and staff said it did not expect more than 10,000 people at the protest and Wellington Street, which runs in front of Parliament Hill, to be closed to public traffic.

The two eastbound lanes furthest from Bakken will be reserved for protesters, and the two westbound lanes closest to Bakken will be kept open for emergency vehicles.

Police continued to warn of roadblocks across eastern Ontario. “We advise people to avoid traveling in the Ottawa area at 417 and 416 on Saturday,” PPP spokesman Bill Dickson wrote in an email.

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Dickson also warned those wishing to line roads and crossings to watch the convoy pass. “Whether it’s at a crossroads or next to a busy road, be extremely careful,” he said. “Be aware of the potential for icy conditions and oncoming vehicles, even at level crossings.”

Spectators cheer as a transport truck drives under them on Glen Miller Road in Quinte West.
Spectators cheer as a transport truck drives under them on Glen Miller Road in Quinte West. Photo by Alex Filipe /Postmedia

The Ottawa Police Service on Saturday warned residents to avoid the downtown core. “Expect major traffic disruptions throughout Ottawa and especially downtown,” the service tweeted Thursday. “If you have appointments, kids in activities, expecting food deliveries, then be prepared to adjust your plans.”

Police also said they were aware of “inappropriate and threatening language use on social media related to this event.”

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“We welcome peaceful demonstrations,” Ottawa police tweeted. “That said, public safety is paramount – there will be consequences for people involved in criminal behavior, violence and / or activities that promote hatred.”

At other truck stops where the truck drivers had stopped, they had been peaceful, Orr said, except for “a couple of fringe guys.”

“Ninety-seven percent of them are just hard-working guys who are frustrated,” he added, not just with COVID-19 rules and vaccine mandates, he clarified. The pandemic has been tough for truck drivers, he said. “I support everyone in their faith. I just want to make sure we keep everyone safe and that’s the best I can do for people.”

The truck convoy has triggered polarization on social media. “Freedom truckers 2022” was popular on Facebook, and supporters of the protest donated money on the crowd-funding website, GoFundMe. As of Thursday night, more than $ 6.3 million had been raised. The money would go to help the hauliers with the travel costs, according to fundraiser organizers Tamara Lich and BJ Dichter.

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People also called Orr’s truck stop and offered to donate money to support the hauliers. “It’s incredible,” he said. “People call and donate money to feed people. They just want to pay for coffee and donuts and just take them out to the yard.”

A supporter of the convoy on Thursday shows its appreciation of the truck drivers near a freeway bridge outside Toronto.
A supporter of the convoy on Thursday shows its appreciation of the truck drivers near a freeway bridge outside Toronto. Photo by COLE BURSTON /AFP via Getty Images

Meanwhile, the hashtags “KarenKonvoy” and “Flutrucksklan” were popular on Twitter as Canadians expressed their frustration with truck drivers. More than 81 percent of Canadians aged five and older are fully vaccinated, according to government data, and a large majority of truck drivers are, according to the Canadian Trucking Alliance.

The Canadian Anti-Hate Network described the convoy as an “extreme right project” in a tweet. “If you look at the #FluTrucksKlan organizers and promoters, you will find Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, racism and incitement to violence,” the organization said.

In a blog post, the organization highlighted the convoy organizers’ political connections to the far right, including links to the Canada Movement for Yellow West from 2018 and 2019 and Canada’s People’s Party.

One of the convoy’s initiators, Pat King, who is listed as the contact person for the North Alberta group participating in the convoy, has a documented history with anti-Semitic posts on social media.

With files from The Canadian Press

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