Freedom Convoy’s Chris Barber takes stand in Emergencies Act hearing

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Chris Barber, a Saskatchewan owner-operator who played a central role in organizing this year’s Freedom Convoy, appeared before the Public Order Emergency Commission on Tuesday, describing a grassroots protest beset by internal power struggles once it reached Ottawa.

It marked the 14th day of mandatory hearings into the federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act, which was used to freeze protester bank accounts and empower police to clear Ottawa streets after a standoff that lasted close to three weeks.

The self-described “internet troll” said he initially expressed anger with public health mandates through his social media accounts and was ultimately pushed to action when Canada announced that cross-border truck drivers would have to be vaccinated. But he is personally vaccinated.

Canada began to enforce its mandate Jan. 15, while corresponding U.S. rules were introduced Jan. 22. The Canadian rules have since been lifted, but the U.S. mandate remains in place.

Chris Barber
Owner-operator Chris Barber is among the first Freedom Convoy organizers to appear before the Public Order Emergency Commission. (Screen capture: Public Order Emergency Commission)

“I trucked through the whole pandemic. I never stopped,” Barber said of the early days of Covid-19. Two weeks into the pandemic, he wondered if it was even worth it. “The restaurants were closed. Gas stations were closed. Bathrooms were closed. It was really tricky.”

But his focus shifted to another sort of action after connecting through TikTok with Brigitte Belton, an Ontario truck driver who first streamed her frustration about mask mandates when blocked at the Ambassador Bridge.

Birth of the convoy

Barber said she posed the idea of a slow-rolling convoy. And when he connected with Tamara Lich in mid January, Lich described work with the United we Roll convoy to Ottawa in 2019. When Pat King joined the cause, Canada Unity already had an identified route and planned stops outlined. Then several organizers participated in a Facebook Live meeting to discuss the convoy on Jan. 13.

“Everything just literally fell right into place,” Barber said, noting how the wheels began to roll weeks after organizers met.

Once the convoy began to travel through Western Canada, he was at the wheel of the lead truck, and was moved by the number of supporters, which he said included 500 to 2,500 vehicles at a time.

“Looking in the mirrors, it was incredible to see the lights behind you,” he said.

“Kids wanted to be truck drivers again, and I haven’t seen that since I was a child.”

Barber said the initial plan was for the convoys to converge at Major Hill Park and Confederate Park rather than downtown streets, but they were led down Sir John A. MacDonald Parkway by police and found other supporters parked on streets when they arrived.

“Parking all over the city was never why we came,” he said, noting police did the best they could.

“I don’t know how things went so wrong when we first arrived.”

Power struggles

Once the protests were established, though, Barber said different groups including Canada Unity and Taking Back our Freedoms became involved in a “power struggle”. But he insisted that convoy participants remained peaceful, and that he didn’t agree with a Memorandum of Understanding that called for the federal government to be overthrown.

“You put 200 truck drivers in a room and somebody’s going to get a black eye and a broken nose,” he said. “There was none of that … They were extremely well behaved. They listened to the rules of the road.”

Barber also said he did everything he could to get protesters to silence their horns in Ottawa, but the commission was then shown a video in which he was openly laughing about the sounds.

Confronted with his past racist social media posts, as well as a Confederate flag that he displayed, Barber admitted he had been wrong.

“I was a different person nine months ago,” he said. “It changed me.”

Hearings of the Public Order Emergency Commission continue.

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John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, TruckTech, Transport Routier, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.


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  • I was watching Chris Barber on TV and he seems to feel he did nothing wrong but not once did he mention anything about the people that he and this so called freedom convoy made their lives a living hell for three weeks, nor did he mention about the freedom or rights of those same people, nor about the dirty pigs that desecrated the Terry Fox or Veterans memorials. Although some people may have agreed with him and the sheep that followed did not have the right to speak on behalf of all Canadians and to be honest he and the rest that started this stupid convoy took no one else’s feelings into consideration, far as I am concerned all involved should face charges to the full extent of the law for putting not only babies and children through that kind of hellish nightmare but Seniors as well. Everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves but I realize that they are that self centered that no one else matters.

    • It took a bunch of truck drivers to help lift the mandates Canadian people need to stick together no matter what nationality or weither your wearing a cowboy hat a baseball cap or a turbin together we stand dividend we fall ….. Mr. Barber learned that lesson in Ottawa

    • You call these people self centred for giving up their time and money to stand up for all Canadians against a Prime Minister who acts like a dictator, who would not even give a few minutes of his time to negotiate or even talk to these heroes. I’m guessing that you just kept on working, making money while this peaceful protest was going on. You want to live in a dictatorship? That’s what you will get. Not me, and I thank each one of these heroes who gave up so much. Trudeau could have ended this protest at day one if he had just met with the convoy and negotiated with them. Not once did he come. What a chicken leader we have.

  • Some revisionist history going on here. Is Barber a bad guy? Maybe, maybe not. At least he is owning some of his behavior but he seems to skating around some other things. Some ding dogs in that movement but the Trudeau government was out of line to use a sledgehammer to kill a gnat by activating the Emergencies Act. Afraid of the people maybe?