A picture of a mixer board.

A Look at the Freedom Convoy

The country I live in is experiencing conflict and division between its citizens as people choose sides either for or against the Freedom Convoy.  Blog’s like this one will one day be used as a primary source to refer to when looking back some years later. I have spoken to friends, neighbors, and fellow students and will share their anonymous opinions as secondary perspectives.

My intent is to share the experience I am having through as non-judgmental of a lens as possible. At the beginning of my research, I thought I sat in a neutral position. By the end, I explain the opinions of others and my own as a comparison to a mixing board; there are many variables and components. It seems there is not a fence dividing sides so much as many perspectives and opinions.

**Although I will reference many news articles, everything I share is my opinion and not to be used as fact. Some content or opinions expressed may be offensive or sensitive to some readers.

A picture of a mixer board.
A photo of a mixer board credit to Photo by Anthony Roberts on Unsplash

When I became aware of the Convoy?

I first noticed the convoy on January 29, 2022, when I was driving on Highway 1 towards Vancouver. I was in the slow lane and traffic came to a standstill. When I was able to move over, I wondered why there was a long line of traffic exiting off at 200th street. When I was able to see the overpass, I could read signs that said it was the Freedom Convoy. On my way back, the protestors were heading towards Vancouver, lined up from the Port Mann Bridge to the 200th exit. According to google maps, that is 22km and the line went even farther into Langley. What I noticed was that everyone was in the slow lane until they reached the bridge. They were driving safely and seemed to be in good spirits. Each overpass I drove under was packed with people waving flags and honking. I turned on news 1130 and found out the local truckers were joining up with the national convoy to show their support to, “end vaccine mandates” (https://vancouver.citynews.ca/2022/01/29/b-c-truckers-vaccine-mandates-ottawa-convoy/). When the trucks returned, hours later, I was walking around Albert Dyck Lake with a group of kids. The sound of horns from the highway could be heard over their excited voices, for a long time.

Social Media and News

For the next few days, my entire Facebook feed was filled with pictures, news articles, people’s opinions, requests to sign petitions, and a lot of negative comments in opposition to the posts being shared, from all perspectives. I saw people comment that it was wrong to support the convoy and everyone should get vaccinated. I read another comment that said everyone should quit wearing masks and are stupid if they buy into the fear. The news shared updates on the progress of the drivers and told the world when they arrived in Ottowa. According to the Ottowa Citizen, hundreds of vehicles were gathered and police were prepared for the protesters on Friday, January 28, 2022: https://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/truck-convoy-updates-truckers-begin-arriving-in-ottawa.

The article said they were protesting to end vaccine mandates and someone added they want Justin Trudeau to step down. Another person said they just wanted peace.

Many of the people posting on social media said the news was not showing the truth. Many claimed it was peaceful while others said it was racist, and more. One article showed the iconic statue of Terry Fox being defaced https://globalnews.ca/news/8580543/terry-fox-statue-trucker-rally/ and another showed it being cleaned up https://globalnews.ca/video/8582676/trucker-convoy-protesters-clean-up-terry-fox-statue-in-ottawa-following-outcry/. 

Some of the people I spoke to were furious and shared how meaningful Terry Fox was to them growing up. The Terry Fox Foundation said that Terry Fox backed science and thanked everyone that helped to support his cause to cure cancer. Other people said on social media they felt that it was taken out of context and that the news was focusing on the “bad apples” in the barrel. Twitter post here. 

I posted on my personal Facebook page and invited people to share their perspectives for the writing of this article. I was surprised that no one commented but people phoned me, and sent videos and private messages  sharing their perspectives. It is my opinion that people do not wish to disclose their feelings about it for several reasons:

  • Most everyone has witnessed someone’s opinion in cyberspace being attacked despite the perspective they expressed. They may not want to be judged by their peers, friends, or family.
  • There has been public questioning of “professionals” expressing their support for the convoy. The Abbotsford News shared a story where a Police Officer was questioned for giving a thumbs up to protesters. It said he was giving a thumbs up to a different group and then countered to say he was supporting the convoy. The article also says that Police Officers are to keep neutral at a protest. Many people hold jobs and do not want to publicly express their opinion and chance they are seen to cast a bad light upon their employer or business. You can read the article here: https://www.abbynews.com/news/b-c-cops-thumbs-up-to-vax-restriction-protesters-called-into-question/?fbclid=IwAR0Y6ztnUfUYVMysgdSi4yDOU_X7SjGx2v94_lfEqH33303Sh00ZJu69YPE.
  • Some people expressed their disbelief in the support that has been gained and worry it will undermine democracy. Democracy is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as a form of government in which people choose leaders by voting. Politics is not my area of expertise and I found an article written by The Squamish Chief editorial staff expressing the opinion that the right to rally is in our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms yet they said, “There were calls to overthrow the current, democratically-elected government.” You can read the entire article here: https://www.squamishchief.com/opinion/editorial-truck-rally-freedom-for-whom-5020645.

What it is about?

There seems to be disagreement about what the core message of the Freedom Convoy is. Some people say it is to support truckers and remove the mandate that they must be double vaccinated to cross the border and not have to isolate upon return. Let’s take a look at some perspectives.

By January 30th the demands had expanded. According to trucknews.com, James said that it was never about the trucker’s rights. He said, “…by the time the convoy rolled through Ontario it had already fully morphed into something much bigger – and more dangerous – than what truckers were ever told. https://www.trucknews.com/blogs/the-so-called-freedom-convoy-was-never-about-truckers-or-border-mandates/.

At that time, a GoFundMe campaign supporting protestors had not yet reached 1 million dollars and within a week, reached $8.5 million. He said that the organization of the fund was not by truckers. He acknowledges that he feels for the truckers and tells them that if it was about them their issues would be looked at, a quote from the article said: “I feel bad for the truckers who thought this was about them. It never was. There was never any discussion around the real issues you face every day. Lack of safe parking. Poor road conditions. Access to clean restrooms. Unpaid detention time at shippers and receivers.”

On Feb. 03, 2022, CTV News Winnipeg shared the press conference where the leaders of the Freedom Convoy shared their perspective and demands; ending all mandates and restrictions on their freedoms: https://winnipeg.ctvnews.ca/leaders-of-freedom-convoy-hold-news-conference-in-ottawa-1.5766468. The youtube video shares the entire conference and is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elEOtg8dNT0.

Fundraising 

As of Feb. 2, 2022, the GoFundMe is said to be over 10 million dollars. It has been paused while the company works to ensure it meets its terms and services. An article on Global News said that $1 million was released when a plan of how to use the funds was met https://globalnews.ca/news/8590302/trucker-convoy-gofundme-stopped/.

Other important Canadian issues haven’t received the same attention. There are several GoFundMe campaigns for clean drinking water for Indigenous communities. According to the Daily Hive, “Megan Howarth, the organizer of Canadians for Clean Water, is asking people to “use our frustration, our anger, our disappointment” to show the “government and the world what Canadians are capable of.” https://dailyhive.com/vancouver/gofundme-clean-water-indigenous-truck-conoy 600 thousand dollars was raised as of Jan. 2, 2022, with a goal of 5 million dollars.

An article on Feb. 04, 2022, provided by GoFundMe said they made the decision to refund the donations and a small excerpt says:”

Peaceful or Dangerous?

When I interview people around me I hear that the rally and events held around Canada have been peaceful and hateful. There is disagreement amongst my peers.

Let’s begin with the viewpoint that it has been dangerous. One of the posts someone shared on my Facebook feed said that the entire convoy has been dangerous and backed up their opinion by sharing an article explaining why the news did not cover the protest. In the article, the Prince George Citizen wrote about the dangers of reporters covering protests: https://www.princegeorgecitizen.com/opinion/editorial-why-we-didnt-cover-the-local-convoy-rally-5019451. Another article that was shared above highlighted similar issues and you can read about them here: https://www.squamishchief.com/opinion/editorial-truck-rally-freedom-for-whom-5020645.

An article by the Ottowa Citizen written on Feb. 04, 2022, listed the issues to be: hate speech, harassment, and intimidation. Global wrote an article on Feb. 05, 2022, to say the risk of violence included: loud honking and music disturbing the public’s peace, the smell of exhaust was in the air: https://globalnews.ca/news/8597478/ottawa-trucker-convoy-risk-of-violence/. You can read more on this above, under Social Media and News.

Many people say it has been peaceful. One of my friends shared pictures from the Victoria Legislature where they said 1000’s of people gathered and sang “Amazing Grace” together in peace. She did say that the noise was intense and understands why some people would be bothered by it.  She expressed her opinion that the mission of the Freedom Convoy is necessary despite the problems that have come as a result.

Rachael Thomas – MP for Lethbridge wrote an article on Feb. 05, 2022, sharing her experience walking through the crowd on Feb. 3, 2022, where she spoke to the people there and found it to be peaceful: https://lethbridgeherald.com/news/lethbridge-news/2022/02/05/rights-of-convoy-participants-deserve-to-be-respected/.

Is it Supported?

I have been speaking with people in the community all week and have come across a variety of opinions. One person expressed they are very tired of the restrictions yet don’t feel the protest is the right way to deal with it. Another person told me they are 100% behind the movement and have deleted their passport to be in solidarity with the demands to end all mandates. Another shared that they have family members that are vulnerable to illness and are 100% against it. One of my friends speaks about the dangers of our Civil Liberties being under attack. A person told me that they don’t discuss it in their home because the members of the family have differing opinions. Some of my peers have lost friends because of a disagreement of opinion over the protest.

A person holding her hand up to the back of another to show a disagreement.
A person holding her hand up to the back of another to show a disagreement. Photo by Obie Fernandez on Unsplash

Justin Trudeau, Canada’s Premier, said that he will not meet with anyone from the protest group and will continue to stay with the mandates that were put in place when he was re-elected. He said in a “responsible democracy” he will stand by the Canadian’s that are vaccinated: listen on Global News https://globalnews.ca/news/8592149/trudeau-freedom-convoy-ottawa-negotiate/ or the full conference on Youtube at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zmm4D5t-wts. (January 31, 2022).

The gap between the two leaders’ perspectives is wide. The Freedom Convoy leaderships conference said that they are feeding the homeless, and cleaning the streets. Justin Trudeau said, “freedom of expression, assembly, and association are cornerstones of Democracy but Natzi Symbolism, Imagery, and desecration of War Memorials are not.” He said that we will not give in to these awful things, racism, theft from the homeless, or vandalism.

Some people claim that “a few bad apples spoiled the whole barrel” and that the media is using them to taint the whole peaceful protest while others stand behind Justin Trudeau and believe it is despicable.

Elon Musk shares his support, an article in the New York Post said “Elon Musk throws support behind anti-vax mandate Canadian trucker protest”. https://nypost.com/2022/01/31/cops-investigating-after-protesters-allegedly-urinated-on-canadian-monuments/.

An article on Global News, Feb. 05, 2022 titled, “South Asian truckers say freedom convoy protests miss the mark on key issues affecting the industry. A quote shares the hardship and opinion of Gagan Singh:

“After a two-day wait, Singh was forced to make a six-hour detour through B.C. which cost him almost $500 in gas. “I know the majority of truckers are not supporting this protest. They are also working everyday”: https://globalnews.ca/news/8598256/south-asian-truckers-say-trucker-convoy-protests-miss-the-mark-on-key-issues-affecting-the-industry/.

Censoring of Media

Some people have told me that the media is censoring the information that we can read and hear on the news. To look into this let us take a big step back and focus on the media and censorship about Covid. Joe Rogan has a number one podcast on Spotify and was the topic of contention recently. Quite a few influencers voiced their opinions about censorship when he interviewed a doctor and people felt it spread false information: https://globalnews.ca/news/8582473/joe-rogan-response-spotify-covid-protests/ According to Global News, Dwayne Johnson “The Rock” is siding with him causing a divide amongst fans. The article said that Joni Mitchell and Neil Young removed their music from the platform because they said he promoted “disinformation”. https://globalnews.ca/news/8595450/joe-rogan-dwayne-johnson-the-rock-spotify-comments/. (Feb. 4, 2022)

Brene Brown made an announcement on Jan. 29, 2022, that she would not be putting any new episodes out until further notice. Her announcement resulted in fans sending a lot of anger towards her in the comments on her platforms. *Full disclosure that Brene Brown is one of my favorite social workers and writers. She met with Spotify and once she was satisfied with their misinformation policy and felt it addressed most of her concerns she hoped her podcast would be back next week. Brene supports free speech and a snippet from her blog post reads,

“2. I do not support censorship. I have a long history of supporting free speech and supporting organizations that protect free speech. My support for the First Amendment has been unwavering—even when what is being said turns my stomach…”: https://brenebrown.com/articles/2022/02/01/an-update-on-my-decision-to-pause-the-podcasts/

It looks like the idea of what should be censored and what should not be censored is debatable among different people. There are many claims that information about the vaccine, Covid, and other Pandemic related issues has been censored. An article written about the US on Forbes shares Facebook’s journey through the decision to censor or not to censor: https://www.forbes.com/sites/petersuciu/2021/05/28/social-media-about-face-facebook-wont-remove-claims-covid-was-man-made/?sh=6bda71586aa1. Some of my personal friends have told me that the live stream of the Convoy, many interviews or posts about Covid, and information about vaccines have disappeared from their feed or saved media lists. I found that quite a few of the videos that were sent to me were no longer available to view at the time of writing this article. I was not able to find out the reason why.

Looking into the Convoy, an article published on Fox News on Jan. 31, 2022, said that the Freedom Convoy baned mainstream media from attending their press conference. The reason they gave was that they shared a “fake story” https://www.foxnews.com/world/freedom-convoy-canada-ban-mainstream-media-first-press-conference.

US truckers said that Facebook removed a page used to organize the freedom convoy on Feb. 02, 2022, in an article published on Fox News: https://www.foxnews.com/media/facebook-dc-trucker-page-freedom-convoy-censorship. It said that the personal account of the person that started it was removed and that Meta said it violated their policies, you may read the full article for all the details.

Conclusion

The Freedom Convoy has stirred up a lot of emotions for people. Instead of seeing it as black and white or choosing one side over the other, I see that there are multiple perspectives. Similar to a mixing board that has many controls, there are many wants and needs being voiced. It seems most Canadian’s are tired of restrictions and mandates but are not sure the Convoy is the answer. The polls and voting results show that it seems most Canadian’s are vaccinated and don’t support the Convoy. The Freedom Convoy and some advocates say that Canadian’s Rights and Freedom are under attack.  If the Freedom Convoy succeeds in having all mandates removed, and all restrictions dropped, how will we keep our most vulnerable people safe? If our democratic system fails, how would we work together to ensure that everyone’s needs are respected and safety is ensured? If the government doesn’t hear their voices and no changes are made, how will we honor the voices that were not heard?

These are all valuable questions. The only opinion that I wish to leave for anyone that has read this far is this: please continue to love your neighbor as you love yourself despite differing perspectives. There have been countless people advocating for a non-violent resolution to our problems in the past and if we can continue to treat each other with love and respect despite our different perspectives we will be stronger as a country. Thank you.

Sources and Photo Credit