Trucker convoy reaches Ontario amid fears of violence from fringe groups in Ottawa
The trucker convoy making its way across Canada in protest of federal vaccine mandates has arrived in Ontario amid concerns of a violent rally in Ottawa.
The truckers are protesting federal mandates such as the end of the vaccine exemptions at the U.S. Canada border. The organizers have said it is also in protest of "rules and mandates that are destroying the foundation of our businesses, industries and livelihoods," regulations which are implemented at provincial not the federal level.
The convoy, called Freedom Rally 2022, arrived in Kenora, Ontario, on Tuesday night with hundreds of truckers — the Kenora Ontario Provincial Police said approximately 200 to 300 vehicles were heading through the city.
Along the way, the protest has picked up supporters and funds — a GoFundMe has now raised more than $5 million for the cause — although the crowdfunding platform announced on Tuesday that the funds raised to date would be temporarily frozen.
The convoy is now making its way to the Toronto area and is scheduled to depart from Vaughan Mills around noon Jan. 27. Truckers from the east and west are expected to converge in Ottawa on Jan. 29.
A key player behind the convoy travelling to Ottawa to protest a vaccine mandate for truckers is distancing her movement from the increasingly extremist rhetoric online being associated with the protest. https://t.co/EWHuYfiVCx— CBC News (@CBCNews) January 26, 2022
The organizers insist this is a peaceful protest.
"This movement should have no tolerance for hatred," the Freedom Convoy 2022 posted on Instagram. "There should be no tolerance for violence. Seeing so many Canadians from across the country uniting and cheering each other on is something beyond special."
But there are growing concerns of a fringe movement of radical protesters comparing the trucker convoy to Canada's version of the U.S. Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021.
I think we should be very careful about ascribing violent motives to this lot, or reporting that we've got an impending insurrection on our hands.— Justin Ling (@Justin_Ling) January 26, 2022
But we should also be paying attention to the fact that they expect to topple the government when they arrive.
Fringe groups have taken to social media to encourage their followers to descend upon the capital when the convoy arrives, calling on them to destroy property and threaten elected officials.
"Some of the organizers are trying to get people to dial back the rhetoric, but the genie's already out of the bottle," Kurt Phillips, founder and former lead writer for Anti-Racist Canada, told CTVNews.
"People are energized in an incredible way right now, and it's hard to see something not happening. I don't know if it would be on the scale of Jan. 6 in the United States, but there are so many angry people."
The truckers Convoy has the real potential of getting very ugly in the next few days as they converge on Ottawa. Fringe groups can use this protest by encouraging violence and creating Canada’s own January 6th insurrection. We can’t let that happen.— John Brennan (@jmbprime) January 26, 2022
Aware of growing concerns, Freedom Convoy 2022 organizer Tamara Lich suggested convoy participants are registered and anyone misbehaving "will be immediately removed."
"If you see participants along the way that are misbehaving, acting aggressively in any way or inciting any type of violence or hatred, please take down the truck number and their licence plate number so that we can forward that to the police," she said.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance estimates that the vast majority, more than 85 per cent of the approximately 120,000 Canadian truckers who regularly cross the border, are vaccinated, and say they "strongly" disapprove of protests on highways and roadways out of fear of public safety.
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