Calgary witnesses support on Freedom Convoy
By Leonardo Galindo, Contributor
On the afternoon of Feb. 5, the Calgary Central Memorial Park echoed with the sound of honking cars and a voice reverberating through a megaphone repeating: “Freedom, freedom, freedom…”
This is one of the many protests in several Canadian cities following the Freedom Convoy in Ottawa.
Protestors also gathered across the Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre in solidarity with the said convoy, denouncing public health measures. The same afternoon, a separate convoy of vehicles also took to the roads of Calgary around 16th Avenue in support of the same Ottawa convoy.
Protests in Calgary
“Violence and threats are not our mandate,” said Tamara Lich in a Facebook page video, one of the Freedom Convoy organizers currently stationed in Ottawa. She also instructed that participants should report anyone acting violently or in a threatening manner to the police.
Bobby-Joe Borodey, the vice president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), who represents Alberta’s healthcare sector, said the protests worries healthcare workers. Borodey stated in a press release that the protests have been going on for weeks and have gotten worse because of the trucker convoy.
“Protesters have blocked the ambulance bay, they have harassed workers and patients… they’ve banged on the windows of the facility… they have blocked roads around the centre. One worker had to sit in her car for an hour after finishing her shift because of the traffic congestion,” Borodey said.
The Calgary Convoy, which named themselves as Operation Bearhug, seemed to have minimal impacts on local traffic according to the Calgary Police Services (CPS).
“There were minor traffic slow-downs as a result, but there were no blockades. The convoy organizer remained in contact with police for the duration of the event,” CPS said in a Facebook post on their own page.
Protests in Alberta
Aside from Calgary, protests have also been happening within different parts of Alberta.
Since Jan. 31, a blockade of trucks has been active on the United States border crossing at Coutts. At the time of writing, protestors have reversed their decision to vacate the area. RCMP Corporal Curtis Peters said at a news conference on Feb. 3 that “through ongoing conversations that we’ve been having with protest organizers and people involved here, restoration has been made to get traffic flowing.”
Despite this, the public has been encouraged to avoid the area, and the protest has had serious disruptions in the provision of services in Coutts. In a news conference on Feb. 1, Premier Jason Kenney condemned the actions of some protesters and urged for a peaceful protest. This is following RCMP reports that protesters have breached police barriers, and a head-on collision occurred leading to an assault.
The RCMP has mentioned in a Twitter post that several investigations are underway regarding unlawful actions during those protests.
Protest Convoy in Ottawa
The organization Freedom Convoy founded by Lich has garnered national and international attention lately. The convoy was rallied in response to a federal public health mandate introduced on Nov. 19, 2021, that requires all essential service providers, including truck drivers crossing the international border to be fully vaccinated after Jan. 15, 2022. The movement has attracted support from many groups, such as Lich’s own political party, the Maverick Party and conspiracy groups like Canada Unity. Many anti-hate experts have also reported that some organizers of the protest have a history of white nationalism and Islamophobia.
The first convoy departed from Prince Rupert, B.C. on Jan. 22, followed by others in Alberta, the Territories and the Maritimes. Consisting of three main routes, they passed through cities and towns across Canada, arriving in Ottawa at Parliament Hill on Jan. 29. This is just in time for the start of a winter session of Parliament. The movement has entered its second week of protests, vowing not to leave the capital until COVID-19 public health measures are lifted, and the vaccine passport policy is rescinded. Ottawa police, at the time of writing, are expecting 400 more trucks and 2,000 more people to arrive this weekend to join the growing group of protestors.
Many politicians have come out expressing support or condemning the protest. Conservative MP for Carleton Pierre Poilevre has come out with statements discussing his support for the convoy. The protest “was not just for truckers, but for the 60 per cent of Canadians who say they worry they can’t afford food,” a CBC news article obtained a quote from Poilevre with him concluding “Freedom, not fear. Truckers, not Trudeau.”
The protest has led to disruptions in Ottawa, with pro and anti convoy groups having brief standoffs in the downtown core. Shouts of “Go home please” and “take back our city” are heard amongst all the cheering and honking by the freedom convoy participants. Many Ottawa residents are frustrated with the disruption being caused by the convoy. Despite brief confrontations between both groups, Ottawa police say things remained largely peaceful. Amid growing concerns surrounding potential violence, the majority of the popular anger is being directed towards Justin Trudeau. Protestors were seen carrying flags adorned with expletives directed at the prime minister and some have even called for him to be tried for treason or to be beaten up, a CTV news article stated.
Reports have also come out where the Terry Fox statue was defaced, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was desecrated and protestors were seen with images such as swastikas and Confederate flags on their signs.
Fox is regarded as a national hero for his efforts to cross Canada to raise money and awareness for cancer research. Many Canadians are denouncing the vandalism of Fox’s statue. Brad West, mayor of Port Coquitlam, where Fox grew up, is among those who see this as an affront.
“Whatever your cause, you don’t get to appropriate his legacy and you don’t touch his statue. Ever. This should be removed immediately,” West said in a tweet.
Chief of Defence Staff, General Wayne Eyre also had some words for protesters dancing on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
“I am sickened to see protesters dance on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and desecrate the National War Memorial. Generations of Canadians have fought and died for our rights, including free speech, but not this. Those involved should hang their heads in shame,” he said.
On Feb. 6, Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson declared a state of emergency for the city. The state of emergency was enacted so that the city could have “greater flexibility within the municipal administration to enable the City of Ottawa to manage business continuity for essential services,” a press release stated.
After 11 days of honking horns that have plagued Ottawa residents and reflect the sentiments of many counter-protestors, an Ottawa judge on Feb. 7 granted an interim injunction to silence all horns for the next 10 days. “Tooting a horn is not an expression of any great thought I’m aware of” said court Justice Hugh Mclean during a court hearing.
An emergency debate was held in the House of Commons yesterday, called by NDP leader Jagmeet Singh. “The eyes of the world have been on Ottawa and the situation has reached a “crisis point,” the NDP said.