Facing the camera, in the cabin of his truck, Alex, a truck driver from Quebec, films himself: “I am leaving from the eastern convoy to join you in Ottawa (…). Do you realize how big this event is? (…) the whole world is watching us. It is a movement that cannot be stopped. » This convoy of anger was formed following the entry into force, on January 15, of compulsory vaccination for cross-border truckers returning from the United States. If they do not comply, they must quarantine for two weeks. Which makes their job de facto impossible.
Truckers, elected Conservatives and conspirators
Since leaving the Vancouver area (British Columbia) on Sunday, January 23, the movement has grown as the kilometers go towards Ottawa. As far as Winnipeg, more than a thousand brought them food or windshield washer fluid and joined the procession for a few kilometres, honking their horns. The echo chamber of social networks is doing its work and the movement has taken the lead with supporters of elected Conservatives, such as former leader Andrew Scheer, on Twitter: “Thank you truckers! Trudeau attacks individual freedom (…) »
→ TO ANALYSE. Outcry against the Quebec tax for the unvaccinated
The movement also carries its fair share of far-right politicians, including one who called the transport minister a “terrorist”, and also brings together conspirators. The latter call on the participants in the convoy to attack the Parliament of Ottawa or Justin Trudeau when they arrive on site, this Saturday, January 29. The Canadian Trucking Alliance has taken care to disassociate itself from the movement.
For Lisa Young, professor of political science at the University of Calgary, this “freedom convoy”, as it called itself, borrows from several expanding microcosms. “The antivax movement that existed before the Covid has exploded since. It was also amplified by the success at the polls of the far-right party, the People’s Party of Canada(5% of the votes in the last election, against 1.6 the previous one, editor’s note). The anti-vaxxers thought they had a voice and they are using it in this new movement as well. »
This academic believes that these more radical demonstrations are contrary to what she calls “Canadian Spirit”. “Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen demonstrations in front of the homes of politicians or directors of public health. None of this existed before. »
Supporters of a truck convoy to Ottawa gather in Enfield, NS. One of the people addressing the crowd with a megaphone told me they’re fighting “for freedom of speech, freedom to breathe,” adding masks do more harm than good. Passenger vehicles with local plates outnumber trucks. pic.twitter.com/6DANZB58fw
— Brett Ruskin (@Brett_CBC) January 27, 2022
On social networks, references to the attack on the Capitol in Washington last year are flourishing. Building on the public support expressed by Donald Trump Jr for the movement, some hope that Canada will experience “its” January 6 this Saturday in Ottawa. But for Lisa Young, there is little chance that such an event will occur in the federal capital of Canada. “The police are prepared and the base of this movement does not have the same profile as that of Trump supporters. » For Frédéric Boily, professor of political science at the University of Alberta, the proximity of this movement to the American far right is not obvious: “It’s a very Canadian movement, born in the West, pro-oil, in opposition to the government, and which was already challenging measures to reduce carbon emissions. It is found here in the antivax trend. »
→ EXPLICATION. Brussels, European capital of antivax and antipass mobilization
How big will the convoy be when it arrives at its destination? Ottawa expects the arrival of 10,000 people, while the organizers are counting up to… a million. Even if the convoy grows, Justin Trudeau does not intend to back down on the vaccination requirement: “I remain focused on defending Canadians who have made so many sacrifices over the past few years to protect frontline workers. »