In less than a month, what began as a small convoy in rural British Columbia, Canada, has become a movement that has seen protestors clog the streets in the Canadian capital of Ottawa and brought the largest US-Canada border crossing to a virtual standstill. Nearly 80% of Canadians are fully vaccinated. The percentage of Canadian truckers who are vaccinated is also quite high. The protests initially were led by a small minority of Canadian truckers in opposition to vaccine mandates for cross-border truckers, but in light of the fact that a lift of Canadian mandates would be moot so long as the US maintains its mandate, the movement has evolved to oppose a much broader array of perceived transgressions. Freedom Convoy participants now oppose COVID-19 quarantine and lockdown measures, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and the Canadian government in general. The movement has also drawn participants from the fringes of the political right with the makeup of some protestors including QAnon supporters and Great Replacement theorists.
Though originally quite a small demonstration, as the movement gained greater recognition more Canadians joined the protests across the country. The protests gained an increase in international coverage as protestors descended upon Ottawa, honking horns, clogging traffic, and demonstrating at the Capital’s landmarks. Photos of protestors drinking and carousing atop the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and a statue of Terry Fox being decorated with a protest sign triggered outrage from many Canadians, other protestors later cleaned the statue. After over a week of sustained honking by protestors in Ottawa, a judge granted a temporary injunction to halt the noise, a measure which was not entirely effective as many protestors continued honking or instead revved their engines.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose resignation has been a demand of many protestors, condemned the demonstrations and said they must stop, in a speech to Parliament as protests have clogged major transportation lines, many began fearing immense harm to the Canadian economy. The automotive industry, which relies heavily on the movement of goods between Michigan and Ontario, has already felt the serious effects of protestors’ occupation of the Ambassador Bridge. Toyota has temporarily ceased operations in three Ontario factories.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency in response to the sustained disruption caused by protestors, and joined the growing ranks of Canadian officials characterizing the Freedom Convoy and associated movements as being a , “siege,” the Premier condemned those involved saying, “Your right to make a political statement does not outweigh the rights of one million people in Ottawa to live peacefully, free of harassment and chaos in their own homes,”
Inspired by the effectiveness of Canadian protestors, similar movements have begun to pop up overseas. Protestors parked cars and pitched tents in New Zealand’s capital blocking roads, and Australia’s capital has faced a similar prolonged demonstration that has disrupted regular movement. Convoys have also formed to occupy the capitals of France and Belgium. With leaders unsure of what measures to use to disperse protestors disrupting economic and regular life of citizens, and the high probability of the movement growing, it is difficult to predict when the protests will stop.
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