About 50 people in Valemount’s Centennial Park to listen to speeches and give their support to protests against COVID-19 mandates. /LAURA KEIL

By Laura Keil

Roughly 50 people converged on Centennial Park in Valemount Sunday morning for a rally in support of the trucker convoy in Ottawa and at the Alberta-US border, one of many such rallies across the country.

People donned Canadian flags, displayed homemade signs, and waved to the passing vehicles that honked in support.

The event was led by a number of local organizers who then opened the mic to anyone who wished to speak.

Evelyne Paredes opened the event and asked everyone to hug the person closest to them.

“Our convoy and our love has shown we have the power to end this,” she said, referring to COVID-19 mandates.

The trucking convoy was sparked after a federal mandate requiring truckers to be vaccinated to continue working, but protesters are demanding an end to all COVID-19 public health mandates.

Many convoy supporters have criticized what they feel is biased media coverage of the convoy as well as biased coverage of COVID-19 issues. Organizer Sherral Shaw had harsh words for what she sees as government-controlled media.

“Our government has been lying to us. They are using mainstream media. It is normal to hear completely biased news in the government’s favour.”

She said people like her are labelled conspiracy theorists for bringing up alternative views.

“They are banking on us falling for it.”

Shaw then called on those gathered to stop complying with mandates.

“It’s time to take off your masks and stop complying with mandates.” She said if a business doesn’t like it, then the maskless person can stop supporting that business.

“Businesses have been destroyed, careers ended, suicide rates up, relationships destroyed, towns divided; our senior citizens isolated in their homes with no contact. People have died alone with loved ones out of reach and no service given to honour their life. Think about this. We all need to bow our heads in shame for what we have allowed our government to do to us all in the name of being a ‘good citizen.’” (Editor’s note: Multiple studies have shown that suicide rates in most countries have not increased during the pandemic. In Canada they decreased, however suicide attempts in youth increased).

She said the mandates are not for safety but designed “to control you and enslave a population of the world, backing it all up with scientific facts.”

She pointed to a new meta-analysis study by John Hopkins University that suggests pandemic “lockdowns” (having at least one COVID-19 mandate) only prevented 0.2 per cent of COVID-19 deaths. (Editor’s note: the researchers—who selected 34 existing studies to analyze—did mention that some mandates, such as the closure of non-essential businesses could have reduced the death rate by as much as 10 per cent).

“It is time to realize that those in authority do not have our best interests at heart,” Shaw went on. “They are following their own agenda and that agenda does not include any of you.”

“Your lives do not matter to them. Your children’s lives do not matter to them.”

She says the Canadian truckers have given people hope around the world.

Lois McTaggart spoke about the bullying nature of the mandates towards the unvaccinated.

“These are tactics used by governments and abusers,” she said. “I know, being a child who lived with every kind of abuse imaginable.”

“People are suffering mentally, physically and financially,” she said. “We all matter. No one is more important than another.”

She emphasized that it’s important to retain relationships.

“Don’t let being right be more important than friends and family.”

Ann McKirdy-Carson echoed the call to stop following mandates.

“Omicron is airborne and these things are not doing anything,” she said, holding up her mask.

Another speaker said he had stopped wearing his mask in businesses, but didn’t want it to end there: he wanted to see the entire government dismantled and built back up.

In an interview, Regena Bergen said the mandates are doing more harm than good by isolating vulnerable populations, such as seniors, many of whom are falling into depression. Others mentioned the opioid crisis which has worsened during the pandemic, with death rates soaring.

Monica Marcu has a background in science and said communist Romania was “nothing compared to what they plan to do to us.”

“Me and my husband, we crossed the Iron Curtain, crawling in the night. We left everything behind. I left a dying father in a hospital. I said, ‘I have to go to have a life, to be free.’ ‘Give me freedom or give me death’—I know the meaning of that. I hope you will never know. And at least we had a place to go to because there was a free world. That’s nothing in the New World Order. That’s nothing in the world they plan for us.”

At the end, someone spotted a bald eagle soaring overhead. Then several attendees played music and some people danced.

While the Prime Minister initially labelled the trucker convoy a “fringe minority,” several surveys show that approx. 30 per cent of Canadians side with the trucker convoy’s concerns.

On Monday, he softened his tone, but didn’t move to change any policies. “This is a time to put national interests ahead of partisan interests. We will continue to follow public health advice. We will continue to follow science … I know people are tired.”

Many have criticized the trucker convoy for the disruption it has brought to the residents of Ottawa and the disrespectful actions and symbols of some protesters, though by and large the protest has been peaceful. The convoy has blockaded several blocks in front of Parliament and some protesters have been honking their truck horns during the night, disrupting the sleep of area residents and making many afraid to leave their homes. Tensions between protesters and residents have been rising.

Since last week, counter protesters have taken to the streets. A counter-protest organizer said they applied for a protest permit at the City of Ottawa but were denied due to COVID-19 concerns. That hasn’t stopped them, however.

Attendees held hands while listening to “Wavin’ Flag” a song by Somali-Canadian artist K’naan. /LAURA KEIL
Monica Marcu of McBride spoke about her experience escaping communist Romania and how she fears Canada is going down the same path. /LAURA KEIL
Evelyn Paredes started out the event and spoke about love and strength. Many people honked in support as they drove by. /LAURA KEIL