Written by Wendy Gray with files from Mohammed Fahim
A convoy of truck drivers from British Columbia is making its way to Ottawa.
They will be joined in the nation’s capital by other big-riggers from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, the Atlantic provinces, and Quebec.
The “Convoy To End Mandates”, also known as “Freedom Convoy 2022”, is challenging Ottawa’s mandatory vaccination policies for truckers which went into effect earlier this month.
One of the convoy’s volunteer coordinators, Tim Coderre of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario tells the Vista National Newsdesk the movement is based on drivers’ frustration that their job now depends on whether they have to take a vaccine.
Coderre says there are other issues, but from where the organizers stand, all they want to have is freedom of choice. He adds they aren’t anti-vaxxers but they feel the vaccine mandate is an overreach by the government.
“Everything I have in my house came by virtue of a trucker. Including the vaccines, masks and everything that the health industry claims is important for me,” says Coderre. “So if they are just going to throw truckers to the curb then it’s a thing where eventually you have to stand up.”
Coderre says the convoy just wants “sanity” back in the system by not depending “on a forced compliance to a potential threat where people feel physically threatened.”
“It’s going to hurt our economy,” he says. “If our truckers are afraid to go and truck because of this forced mandate, who’s going to bring all the health and safety gear and protections required for the hospitals?” He says if the government is prepared to throw truckers to the curb, what else are they prepared to do, “It’s time for the people to rise up and take our country back, we have got to get some degree of normalcy back into our society.”
He says the convoy’s goal is to have the mandates completely lifted, “It should be like it was old-school, if you’re sick you stay home.”
“It’s a question of managing it,” he says. “These truckers in a large part get there, then other people are unloading their stuff. They are in their trucks, social distancing is honoured. They can wear a mask to go someplace to submit paperwork but it’s not good enough.”
He says it’s not good enough to have two jabs, now you have to get a booster, “It never ends.”
A GoFundMe page for the convoy has raised over $5 million (as of January 26th) in donations to help offset costs of fuel, food and lodgings.
Coderre says everything that has to do with the funds raised is documented. He says every trucker who registers will get reimbursed, “So they keep the receipts and all the receipts are tallied up and as long as they are on the registration then they have access to the funds. The transactions are tallied out for all the truckers and if there are any excess funds that are there, which I highly doubt, from my understanding their intent is that it will be allocated as a veteran’s fund,” he says.
GoFundMe has placed a temporary hold on the funds raised to protect the donations until the organizer is able to provide clear documentation to GoFundMe about how the money will be properly distributed.
In a statement to Vista Radio a GoFundMe spokesperson says, “We require that fundraisers be transparent about the flow of funds and have a clear plan for how those funds will be spent.”
The spokesperson says a team is on standby to safely and quickly deliver the funds once a plan is provided by the organizers about how funds will be properly distributed. The spokesperson adds, “The trust and safety of our global community is our top priority. That is why we’re following our standard verification process and working directly with the campaign organizer to ensure the funds are distributed as stated by the organizer and in compliance with the law and our Terms of Service.”
The GoFundMe was organized by Tamara Lich, who is listed as the Secretary of the Maverick Party, formerly known as Wexit Canada.
Lich said, in a video posted to the convoy’s Facebook page, she was working with GoFundMe on handling the issue adding, “Trust me, we got this covered.”
Jay Hill, Interim Leader of the Maverick Party says the party itself is not involved in the fundraising or in the “Freedom Convoy” but does support freedom of choice and the right to protest, “Maverick does not support anti-vaccination but does support freedom-of-choice and a citizen’s right to decide what they do with their own bodies. Maverick supports Canadian’s right to participate in peaceful protest when they feel compelled to draw their government’s attention to important issues.”
On Saturday, January 22nd, the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) released a statement denouncing any protests on public roadways, highways, and bridges.
The CTA says the vast majority of the Canadian trucking industry is vaccinated with the overall industry vaccination rate closely mirroring that of the general public.
“CTA believes such actions – especially those that interfere with public safety – are not how disagreements with government policies should be expressed. Members of the trucking industry who want to publicly express displeasure over government policies can choose to hold an organized, lawful event on Parliament Hill or contact their local MP,” the statement says.
The CTA says what isn’t acceptable is disrupting the drivers on highways and essential business at the border. President Stephen Laskowski added, “The only way to cross the border, in a commercial truck or any other vehicle, is to get vaccinated.”
Coderre says his opinion is that the convoy has been peaceful, adding that there have been protests going on for two years. He says the vaccination rate is high now, “but let’s remember that rate is only true until the next rollout for the next booster.”