CANADA: Truckers’ vaccine protest spirals into calls to repeal all public health rules

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.
Protesters drive over the Nipigon Bridge on the Trans Canada Highway as part of a trucking convoy against Covid vaccine mandates on 27 January. Photograph: Canadian Press/REX/Shutterstock
in Toronto Fri 28 Jan 2022 10.45 GMT – The GUARDIAN
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Ahead of Saturday’s protest in Ottawa, the prime minister, Justin Trudeau, dismissed the group as a “small fringe” that held “unacceptable views” and didn’t reflect the majority of Canadians.         

VACCINATION FOR TRUCKERS

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 2.93 million 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 from 70,000 donations on GoFundMe.

GoFundMe announced earlier this week it had frozen the funds until it could determine with the organizers how the money would be dispersed. One former intelligence analyst said the “speed and anonymity” of the donations has raised red flags.

“It’s not really clear to me how many of those supporters donating online are actually even Canadian. A lot of the donations have been made anonymously and there’s very clearly some activity from foreign countries,” said Jessica Davis, a former intelligence analyst for the Canadian government and head of Insight Threat Intelligence.

“It’s really difficult to get a sense for how many Canadians actually support this versus how many people globally are trying to oppose vaccine mandates and the associated political objectives,” said Davis.

The convoy highlights the way in which public health measures such as vaccine mandates have become increasingly tied to political divisions.

One of the main groups behind the protest is Canada Unity which has opposed what it says are “unconstitutional” Covid rules. The group recently posted a “memorandum of understanding” to its website, saying that members plan to present it to politicians on Parliament Hill. The group claims that the leader of the senate and the governor general will sign the document to create a governing committee, which they claim would work to revoke the vaccine mandate.

“This document is largely incomprehensible and is completely divorced from our political reality,” said Davis.

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 former leader Andrew Scheer and deputy leader Candice Bergen, who called for peaceful protest.

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.

“The supply chain is flexible, but it’s also fragile,” said Simon Somogyi, a professor at the University of Guelph who studies the food business and supply chain management.

“The Canadian food system really rides on the back of a truck because of our short growing season,” he said of the C$21bn worth of food imported from the US each year, and trucks play a key role in moving it.

In many way, Covid-19 has exposed both the necessity of the trucking system as well as headwinds within the system, including a shortage of drivers.

“At the end of the day, we need more trucks on the road. If everyone came to the table for an honest discussion about this, rather than making political statements, it’d be better for everyone.”

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Trudeau says Conservatives stoking fear over Canada’s trucker vaccine mandate

Prime minister says claims that Covid-19 measure will disrupt supply chain and boost inflation are ‘fearmongering’

Justin Trudeau: ‘I regret that the Conservative party and conservative politicians are fear mongering to Canadians about the supply chain, but the reality is that vaccination is how we’re going to get through this.’
PHOTO: Justin Trudeau: ‘I regret that conservative politicians … are fearmongering … but the reality is that vaccination is how we’re going to get through this.’ Photograph: Blair Gable/Reuters
Reuters in Ottawa – Mon 24 Jan 2022 19.05 GMT

PM Justin Trudeau has accused Canada’s conservative politicians of stoking fear that Covid-19 vaccine mandates for cross-border truck drivers are exacerbating supply chain disruptions and fueling inflation.

The United States imposed a mandate, meant to aid the fight against the fast-spreading Omicron variant of the coronavirus, on 22 January, while Canada’s started on 15 January. The trucking industry has warned that the measure will take thousands of drivers off the roads during what is already a dire labour shortage in the industry.           

Alberta’s conservative provincial leader, Jason Kenney, called for a pause of the mandate last week, and on Monday posted pictures on Twitter of empty shelves in supermarkets, calling for “immediate action” by the US and Canadian federal governments.

“This is turning into a crisis,” Kenney wrote.

“I regret that the Conservative party and conservative politicians are fearmongering to Canadians about the supply chain, but the reality is that vaccination is how we’re going to get through this,” Trudeau told reporters when asked about supply chain disruptions resulting from the policy.

Pierre Poilievre, shadow finance minister for the main federal opposition Conservative party, last week called the requirements a “vaccine vendetta against our hardworking truckers” that would drive up inflation and result in “empty shelves” at stores.

Trudeau has resisted industry pressure to delay the mandate, saying everyone should be vaccinated and Canada is aligned with the United States, its largest trading partner. More than two-thirds of the C$650bn (US$521bn) in goods traded annually between Canada and the United States travels on roads.

Canada’s inflation rate hit a 30-year high of 4.8% in December and economists said the vaccine mandate may contribute to keeping prices higher for longer. In the United States, inflation surged 7% on a year-on-year basis in December, the largest rise in nearly four decades.

The Canadian Manufactures & Exporters president and chief executive, Dennis Darby, said he and other manufacturing lobbies spoke with the industry minister, François-Philippe Champagne, on Friday about problems caused by the vaccine mandate.

Manufacturers are already seeing delays and price increases, Darby said.

“Our supply chain in North America is a very, very efficient supply chain, but it’s not very resilient,” Darby said in an interview on Monday. “It doesn’t have a lot of slack.”

After the meeting with Champagne, Darby’s group and approximately 30 other trade associations called for concrete action to tackle supply chain problems, including reversing the trucker inoculation mandate.

A convoy of truckers started off from Vancouver on Sunday on its way to protest against the mandate in the capital city of Ottawa.

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Comments

  • Clyde Duncan  On 01/29/2022 at 2:51 am

    I am with the Prime Minister of Canada – This protest is MADNESS ….

    Brain-Dead Madness!!

    • Brother Man  On 01/30/2022 at 6:52 am

      Trudeau is one of the worst and most incompetent PMs in Canadian history. Governing with 33% of the vote does not give the moral authority to bash anyone, let alone the truckers who help put food in his table.

      • Kman  On 02/02/2022 at 12:59 pm

        With all these truckers protesting, l wonder who is putting food on the table now.

  • wally n  On 01/29/2022 at 10:35 am

    “I am with the Prime Minister of Canada” .yuk!!!!!… that makes two of you..good to know

  • Jim  On 01/30/2022 at 1:46 am

    The grifter who profits from the donations should be investigated if they have any ties to America’s enemies or terrorist organizations abroad.

  • wally n  On 01/30/2022 at 9:52 am

    How do Americans see trudeau/truckers???

    pretty funny

  • Dizy W  On 01/31/2022 at 11:19 am

    This was ALWAYS ABOUT ALL of the tyrannical mandates/restrictions!! It didn’t’ spiral’ at all Talk to the truckers themselves

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