Ahead of Saturday’s protest in Ottawa, Trudeau dismisses the group as a ‘small fringe’ that holds ‘unacceptable views’
Protesters drive over the Nipigon Bridge on the Trans Canada Highway as part of a trucking convoy against Covid vaccine mandates on 27 January. Leyland Cecco in Toronto 29-1-2022
A convoy of truckers and their supporters is set to converge on the Canadian capital in a protest which has spiralled from frustrations over vaccine mandates into calls for the repeal of all public health measures – and even the overthrow of the federal government.
Earlier this month, Canada began requiring any truckers arriving from the US be fully vaccinated against coronavirus. Those who are not vaccinated – who are believed to constitute less than 15% of the country’s drivers – are required to quarantine for 14 days. Canada has recorded 2.93m Covid cases and 32,600 deaths from the virus.
The convoy, which left Vancouver earlier this week, has more than 275,000 supporters on Facebook, nearly 40,000 supporters on the encrypted messaging app Telegram and has raised C$5.5m (US$4.3m) from 70,000 donations on GoFundMe.
Despite such fringe ideas, which have prompted comparisons to the January 6 insurrection in the United States, the convoy has received endorsements from federal Conservative politicians, including the former leader Andrew Scheer and deputy leader Candice Bergen, who called for peaceful protest.
The Conservative leader, Erin O’Toole, who has expressed wariness to vaccine mandates in the past, said on Thursday he would meet with the truckers.
But the group have received endorsements from Donald Trump Jr and Elon Musk. The son of the former US president posted a video on social media supporting the truckers for “fighting against medical discrimination”, while the tech billionaire on Thursday tweeted: “Canadian truckers rule.”
Some Canadian conservatives have spoken out against the mandate, arguing it places a burden on truckers when supply chains are already strained. Some have posted pictures of empty grocery store shelves.
But experts caution that the vaccine mandate is just one part of a “perfect storm” to hit the nation’s food system. Poor weather, highway closures and staffing challenges at grocery stores have also made it difficult to get food on shelves.