By Andrea Arnold
Truckers across Canada are uniting with anyone who wants to join them as they travel from the outer edges of the country to Ottawa in a peaceful protest against all government-issued COVID-19 mandates. The convoy was sparked by the Jan 15th vaccine mandate affecting truckers, but those involved want to see mandates lifted across the board.
The Freedom Convoy BearHug2 began on Jan. 22nd as the first vehicles rolled out of Prince Rupert. Drivers from the southern part of the province hit the road Sunday morning, and the two groups converged in Calgary. Drivers from the east are scheduled to meet up with the west group in Ottawa on Jan. 29th. The route outline is available at https://canada-unity.com/bearhug/. They plan to drive safe highway speeds until they reach communities, where they will slow, or stop for refueling.
As the group rolled into McBride Jan. 23th, they were met with cheers, horns, flags, violin music and a flag bearer on a horse. Although the group arrived later than they had predicted, the group did not dwindle. People stood along the road for over an hour waiting to show support to those making the trip.
Convoy participant Art Meise has a background in protests and freedom rallies and felt very strongly about the cause when he discovered the Canada Unity website.
“We want to get our freedoms back,” said Meise. “We are protesting mandates for everyone. It is not right that people lose jobs due to decisions they make about their own bodies. We want to unite Canada for our rights and freedoms.”
Meise said many of the participants intend to stay in Ottawa until the mandates are removed.
“Vaccinated or not, it doesn’t matter,” said Meise. “This convoy is for everyone. I am amazed by the support we have been shown so far, I can’t imagine what is to come as we grow.”
Originally, organizers estimated 23,000 participants heading to Ottawa. However, now they are looking at closer to 100,000.
Pamala Rouse is on the road to Ottawa and has been overwhelmed by the support seen so far, and wants to see the whole country united over this peaceful and respectful fight.
“This isn’t about a vaccine, it isn’t about whether you have one or if I have one, it’s about a vax mandate,” she said. “I heard on the news the Prime Minister call me a misogynist, and every other woman behind me that’s supporting their family, called extremists. I believe we have one single man in our country creating hatred, and I do not want the next generation growing up with that mindset,” Rouse said as she choked back tears.
The Canada Unity website has a memorandum of understanding and a call to action for people wanting to be a part of the movement, but unable to physically attend. Also, they are inviting people to keep in contact, and ask questions through the Walkie-Talkie style app Zello available on any smartphone.
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the drivers cover costs. Convoy participants have to register with the organizer, then can submit receipts to have their travel costs covered, or prove their participation to have funds e-transfered as they go. On Mon. Jan. 24th the fund had approximately 3.5 million dollars in it, and growing every minute.
Meise estimated that as they departed Calgary Monday morning, the convoy had grown to approximately 1000 participants. An hour after Meise left the Flying J in south Calgary, the end of the line had not yet pulled out of the parking lot.
As the group rolled into McBride they could be heard over LADD2 on the radio. One participant summed up Freedom Convoy 2022. “One goal. One voice. We are united.”