Freedom Convoy reaches Ottawa, protesting vaccine mandates and more

by Madalyn Howitt

Even truck drivers admit the Freedom Convoy that rolled into Ottawa on Saturday is no longer just about a cross-border vaccine mandate. It isn’t even limited to truckers.

Thousands of people flocked to Parliament Hill over the weekend amid the sounds of blaring horns and chants of “freedom!” as trucks clogged Wellington Street.

Freedom Convoy in Ottawa
Protesters were calling for more than an end to the vaccine mandate that applies to border-crossing truck drivers. (Photo: Madalyn Howitt)

“I think enough is enough. All the freedoms keep getting eroded away. It’s not the same Canada I grew up in,” said truck driver Andrew Moore of Glencoe, Ont.

“It’s pretty much made it so we’re unable to run a business,” he said of the vaccine mandate imposed on border-crossing truck drivers. “This is extremely frustrating being put in this position. Nobody should have to make a choice like that, either your career or medical experiment.

“I gotta draw the line somewhere and this is the hill we’re dying on.”

Fighting health restrictions

While Canada began to enforce its vaccine mandate on Jan. 15, the U.S. version of the rules were introduced Jan. 22. It means that, even if Canada dropped its mandate, unvaccinated Canadian truck drivers would still be unable to travel to the U.S.

Regardless, Moore said he’s determined to see Canada’s federal government repeal health restrictions.

“I just wanted to make this quite clear that this is going to continue to happen until all the mandates and vax passes are scrapped,” he said of the protest.

Alongside hundreds of Canadian flags and numerous anti-Trudeau messages, many signs that displayed anti-vaccine and anti-health restriction messages were waving through the air at Parliament Hill.

Jenny Levasseur, a bar manager and small business owner in Ottawa, said she came out to show her support for dropping all mandates.

“I’m pro choice, do whatever you want with your body,” she said, adding that she knows many truck drivers who are vaccinated. “It’s not about the vaccine mandates. It’s pretty much about their choices at this point.”

She said she felt “overwhelmed” at the protest.

“The media has been silencing us and now we actually get to have a voice,” she said.

As of Sunday afternoon, no official numbers of the crowd size had been released, but early estimates suggest about 10,000 people were at Parliament Hill on Saturday, with hundreds of trucks parked throughout downtown and outside the city core.

protest convoy
Hundreds of trucks lined Ottawa streets. (Photo: Madalyn Howitt)

No arrests, but investigations

While the Ottawa Police Services announced no arrests had been made on Saturday, it has launched investigations into multiple incidents, including one where a protester was seen dancing on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and another in which a statue of Terry Fox was defaced with an upside-down Canadian flag and an anti-mandate sign.

Swastikas and Confederate flags were spotted in the crowd Saturday, along with several “Don’t Tread on Me” signs and at least one large “Trump 2024” sign.

Organizers behind the convoy’s $9-million GoFundMe campaign — with the promise of covering fuel and lodging for protesting truck drivers — have been linked to separatist groups such as the Maverick Party.

The Shepherds of Good Hope, which runs a downtown shelter and soup kitchen, announced that protesters who demanded free meals on Saturday had also harassed staff and volunteers, and a truck blocked access to the facility’s ambulance entrance for 12 hours before being towed by police.

The downtown Rideau Centre shopping mall closed early on Saturday and remained closed on Sunday when groups of maskless protesters began wandering through stores.

vaccine protesters
Calls for “freedom” were repeated throughout the rally. (Photo: Madalyn Howitt)

Gridlock and disruption

Many downtown Ottawa residents expressed frustration on social media with how authorities have handled the convoy. The gridlocked traffic and disruption downtown forced many businesses to close, and noise pollution from honking horns rang throughout Saturday night and into the early hours of Sunday morning.

By Sunday, live feeds of Parliament Hill and Wellington Street showed that crowds had dwindled significantly and many vehicles had left the scene, leaving space for trucks that had been unable to enter downtown on Saturday to come closer to Parliament.

Many truckers still on the scene Sunday were steadfast in their beliefs that the protest will pressure governments to repeal health restrictions.

Martin Roy drove from Stanstead, Que. He said he arrived early on Saturday but had to park about 5 km away from Parliament Hill due to the gridlock. He said he joined the convoy for his family.

“South of the border they can be unvaccinated, vaccinated, with masks or no masks, and everybody can go to the same place, and that’s what we’re fighting for,” he said. Roy said he wants to see all vaccine and mask mandates disappear in Canada.

“We’re not here for the mandates for the truckers at all. We’re here for him to stop everything,” he said, referring to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. “He’s gonna have to come out of his hole sometime.”

anti-vaccine convoy
Protesters argued that the public health restrictions infringe on their personal freedoms. (Photo: Madalyn Howitt)

‘Freedom for my kids’

Hanns Unger of southern Manitoba, where some of the first convoys emerged in the fight against vaccine mandates, also arrived Saturday and slept in his truck overnight. On Sunday, the truck was still at a standstill about eight blocks from Parliament Hill.

“I have a family at home and it depends on my kids’ future. I want freedom for my kids, and where this is headed is beyond the vaccine and restrictions. It’s getting to something far worse than we want and that needs to stop,” Unger said. “I think people have the right to choose what they want. I’m not against anybody who does get vaccinated, but they need to respect people who choose not to.”

He wants to see restrictions on gathering sizes lifted along with all other pandemic health restrictions. Such limits on gathering sizes are set by provinces.

“It’s doing a lot of damage, these restrictions, more than the virus. We need to prioritize what is more important,” Unger said. “We’re not leaving. We’re not going nowhere.”

The Canadian Trucking Alliance, which previously denounced the convoy, issued a statement on Saturday that reiterated its stance on the cross-border mandate.

“The only way to cross the border, in a commercial truck or any other vehicle, is to get vaccinated. As an industry we must adapt and comply with this mandate and the vast majority have,” president Stephen Laskowski said.

The alliance estimates close to 90% of truck drivers are vaccinated, based on general vaccination rates.

Have your say

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  • Mr. Laskowski must be good friends with Trudeau and apparently is not a fan of protesting for Freedom of Right to choose . The US border can drop their imposed restrictions just as Canada should. All mandates should be reversed and the Trucking Freedom Convoy has stepped up for Canada. You should be proud and not oppose this. Canadians have much respect for those in the Convoy. Very UN-CANADIAN for anyone to be opposed to this fight to save our Rights.
    The mandates and the Vaccine are not about safety. They are the beginning of the end of Freedom.
    Anyone can see that.
    I believe some of the public are not well informed and therefore sit on the fence. They are manipulated by the media and adopt a fearful attitude and continue to watch the Government controlled news.
    But for those who know well what is going on…and frankly considering the position Mr. Laskowski holds, I do believe he may well know what is happening to our country and our freedom….We as a country have to wonder what people in agreement with those in higher positions like Mr Laskowski) gain by supporting the current government imposed restrictions and over reach.

  • James that was an awesome story. They started with a mandate in mind but ended with not having an understanding life f their own mandate.

  • A group of disabled homeless is there from Toronto tried to access the shelter I ottawa Sunday
    Overall very peaceful it would have been better to have a different mix and more drivers allowed to come from major trucking companies. We are getting a lot of support from non trucking providers. My phone has not stopped ringing . Getting support from a lot of people in powerful positions. This is not about vaccines but choice and the gov using their unlimited power against working people. This could easily become a major shift in the labor movement around the world. I am getting a lot of support and calls from workers on work permit that can not join us for fear of being deported.

  • What a mess! What sticks out most to me is the multitude of issues the organizers claim. No longer just vaccine mandates, but everything from “this isn’t the Canada I grew up in” (it boggles the mind to think what this list might include!) to the character of the Prime Minister. And the level of disruption and pure misery experienced by Ottawa citizens through the day and night doesn’t sound like peaceful protest to me…it sounds like mass confusion and disruption, fear-mongering, harrassment and bullying with neither clear goals nor a focused message. This clearly wasn’t about the views of the vast majority of truckers; the question is, was this even about Canada?

  • I totally agree with the push back on our rights and freedoms but the trouble that gets noted in the news is from the outside interests who always ruin the point of any protest.. Toss out the trouble makers that are not even from Canada. They make a life of nothing but trouble and focus on the root cause of the protest…

  • You guys are as bad or worse than main stream media. This freedom rally is much bigger than you are depicting in your article. The CTA and OTA are part of a small fringe. They are trucking associations that represent trucking companies, not truck drivers. This is a truck drivers rally/protest they are a very much different group of people.
    I would advise you start covering this in greater truth or you’ll not have a paper when this is over.

  • Look around the world at all the massive protests, yeah nothing to see here right? We won’t forget your stand truck news. The globalists have plans for us and they aren’t good, anyone with a brain has figured out we are at war.

  • The CTA doesn’t speak for everyone in the industry and what they fail to mention is the CTA is a sponsor of the liberal government with all their donations. Ain’t that right Mr. Laskowski.

  • Come on people these “protesters” paraded through the mall unmasked, complained they couldn’t get served at restaurants because they were unmasked, it’s the law in Ontario and they know it. So some of them went and accosted a soup kitchen for the homeless intimidating the staff to give them meals, disgusting behavior. They paraded around with don’t tread on me flags, Canadian flags defaced with sickles & needles, swastikas. Desecrated the Terry Fox statue and some monuments, danced on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, parked on monuments. No end to their disrespectful behavior.
    The political people who grabbed on to the idea and took it over demand the government be taken over for 90 days by the Governor General, Senate and them. They know that there is nothing in our laws, rules or procedures to allow this, they know that it cannot and will not ever happen. It is a delusional fantasy but they also know it gives something for some of these people who don’t know better to grab on to. It is just the same as Trump and his enablers lying continually and still about the election down there being stolen. Maybe believe the lies and it makes them do outrageous things like that Jan. 6 riot, which some of the people involved in the Ottawa protest yapped about leading up to it. So much of this is exactly like the stuff going on in U.S. politics that its frightening. People have yet to grasp how dangerous this stuff is. It is the playbook that has been used by dictators all over the world forever. We need to realize it and put a stop to it or we’ll be sorry.
    I saw a comment elsewhere and to paraphrase it said these people are cavorting freely and unimpeded across the country whining about having their freedoms curtailed.
    None of what these folks are demanding is ever going to happen, they should just accept that fact and go on about their business before something stupid happens with some hotheads frustration.

  • One more thing much has been made of how much money has been raised on this go fund me campaign. It would be good to see how many are from outside the country. Also the last time I looked at it the other day it was at 86,000 donators, that works out to less than a quarter percent of the population. It is a lot of money but is it really that popular when you look at it from that perspective?

  • If you don’t want freedom then you like communism, I am supporting truckers to the end, Globalist Trudeau gone, normal life returns .

  • Smart lawyers out there, are any of you getting something lined up to go to court and get an emergency order to stop Go Fund Me from dispersing any more money to these people? One would hope so because all of those businesses in Ottawa certainly have a claim against this this group and it’s ridiculous actions causing them all kinds of losses.