Truckers and Anti-vaccination Protesters Cause Chaos in Ottawa

The Canadian capital was an extremely cold place last weekend. The temperature with windchill was -21° C (-6° F). Yet that didn’t stop thousands of protestors demonstrating against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s vaccine policies. After a week-long drive from Alberta to Ottawa, dozens of truckers had descended on the capital late on the afternoon of January 28, blocking roads and causing chaos in the capital.

What started out as a rally of truckers against a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for cross-border drivers morphed into an anti-vaccination protest against the Canadian government.

“Small fringe minority”

PM Trudeau’s reference to the protesters as a “small fringe minority” is backed by facts. As Transport Minister Omar Alghabra pointed out, almost 90% of Canada’s 120,000 cross-border truckers and 77% of the country’s population have had two COVID-19 vaccination shots. Since January 15, Canada has required truckers crossing the U.S. border to be vaccinated and the U.S. also announced that foreign truck drivers must show proof of vaccination to enter the country.

Symbol of vaccine resistance

The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), which represents some 4,500 carriers, owner-operators, and industry suppliers, opposed the demonstration and expressed its disapproval of all protests on public roadways, highways, and bridges. On Saturday, a CTA spokesperson asked the Canadian public “to be aware that many of the people you see and hear in media reports do not have a connection to the trucking industry”. What happened over the weekend in Ottawa was that the truckers’ “Freedom Convoy” turned into a symbol of vaccine resistance. Similar demonstrations are occurring regularly in other countries like Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

“Criminal incidents”

Over the past weekend, the Ottawa protests got out of hand and the police are now investigating several “criminal incidents”. Some protestors carried Nazi swastika flags, others desecrated the National War Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Volunteers at the Shepherds of Good Hope soup kitchen for the homeless were harassed by protesters demanding they be served after they had been turned away by restaurants for refusing to wear a mask. Security concerns led PM Trudeau and his family to leave their downtown Ottawa home to move to a secret location on Saturday.

Politically motivated protests

The dozens of protesting truckers felt their livelihoods were threatened by the cross-border vaccine mandate and their refusal to be vaccinated for personal reasons. The thousands of other protesters were simply motivated by their opposition to vaccination, vaccine mandates, or Trudeau’s Liberal government. After talking to some truckers last Friday, Canada’s Conservative leader, who opposes mandatory vaccination, expressed his support for the protest. The political nature of the protest was further underlined by former US President Trump’s expression of support.

How long will the traffic chaos in the Canadian capital continue? Hard to say: the CTA has urged the truckers to demonstrate peacefully and then leave the capital. The protest organizers said they would stay in Ottawa until the government abandons the mandates. On Monday, January 31, the protesters were blocking streets in the capital. Will this act as a precursor to another major supply chain disruption?