Truckers Have Disrupted Canada in Lieu of COVID-19 Protests


Safa Hameed

For the past month, Canada has been plagued by truckers’ protests against vaccine mandates that has devolved into far-right action against Prime Minister Trudeau’s Liberal Government and all COVID-19 restrictions, disrupting the everyday peace of residents’ lives through their named “Freedom Convoy ”.

The protests started out in late January and, at that time,  consisted solely of truckers who were protesting against new regulations that require cross-country truckers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. For the past year, Canada and the United States have exempted these truckers from vaccine regulations due fear of not disrupting the already delicate supply chain. However, this exemption was set to become obsolete around Jan.18-20th, triggering these protests. According to CNN, almost 90% of truckers are vaccinated, so these protests, while they might be loud, do not reflect the majority and this fact was seen in Trudeau’s reaction to truckers, calling them a “small, fringe minority”. This has confirmed Trudeau’s unwillingness to stop these protests by letting the federal government simply give in to these commands.

The protests started out as truckers made their way across Canada’s rural, western provinces, hoping to drive all the way to Canada’s capital, Ottawa, and gain both traction and more people. Their vision became true as the more they drove on the more people joined their convoy, many of them not truckers but other Canadians. The truckers’ fight also changed around this time as well, as their demands changed not only to lifting their own COVID-19 vaccine mandates, but for all mandates–from mask requirements, group gathering limits, and going back to the pre-COVID normal–for all people.

Once protestors reached Ottawa on Jan. 29th, people blocked off roads and areas by parking cars and trucks, refusing to move them along with hoards of people gathered. This has caused great traffic for days, let alone causing the disruption and disturbance of the city; businesses closed for several days, it was hard to move around, and definitely more chaotic than usual with horns blasting so much that a judge had to give a noise order violation to the truckers, telling them to stop. More than a 1,000 tickets have been issued as a result of traffic and disturbances, and moreover, police have been slow to get rid of the trucks unlawfully blocking the streets because most tow truck companies have been unwilling to help due to threats against their livelihood.

Protestors also blocked crucial border crossing between Canada and the US. Ambassador bridge is a bridge that connects Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan; it is also the busiest land crossing between both the US and Canada. Minister of Finance, Chrystia Freeland has estimated that losses of $390 million a day were suffered. 

The protestors for the most part, have held out and are refusing to give into piecemeal victories, wanting their goals to be absolutely met. This same mindset has been met from the government, and as a result not a lot of progress has been made between the federal level and the protestors. As a result, Trudeau has and the Canadian government have used the Emergencies Act for the first time.

The Emergencies Act authorizes the use of the military and can suspend people’s right to assembly. However, so far it hasn’t been used for such drastic measures, instead, financial aid has been cut off to these groups and federal police have been dispatched to help at the local level. For example, many of the truckers have been receiving millions in funding, especially from the US. Under this act, a Toronto bank has frozen accounts that have received a million in funding and a court has ordered a site, GiveSendGo, to freeze its funding (like GoFundMe has) but so far they have refused.

Many people have criticized Trudeau and the liberal government, saying these are too drastic of a measure like the Canadian Civil Liberty Association which says that there is no severe threat that would meet the criteria needed to invoke the act. Trudeau has responded by saying that “the blockades are harming our economy and endangering public safety…We cannot and will not allow illegal and dangerous activities to continue.”