The "Freedom Convoy" protests slowing traffic at Canadian border crossing and creating gridlock in the Canadian capital of Ottawa have come under fire from the country's largest trucking groups. After some demonstrators displayed racist flags and images and defaced war monuments during events in Ottawa over the weekend, Canadian Private Motor Truck Council leader Mike Millian issued a statement decrying those aspects of what started as a demonstration against Canada's COVID vaccination/quarantine requirements for truckers entering the country.
"The PMTC was very disturbed with some of the images we saw and reports we heard out of Ottawa this past weekend," a statement sent to Overdrive and PMTC membership read. "The desecration of national monuments of our fallen heroes, such as the tomb of the unknown soldier, and the statue of Terry Fox, were disgraceful and disrespectful acts."
Millian mentioned protesters seen "carrying the rebel flag, swastikas, wearing the yellow Star of David, engaging in disrespectful behaviors and refusing to wear masks and follow public health guidelines while in public places, as well as stealing food from the Shepherds of Good Hope food kitchen" and dubbed them "reprehensible acts" which "must never be accepted."
The PMTC and the Canadian Trucking Alliance have both long opposed vaccine mandates, and specifically the U.S.-Canada border vaccine mandate, parts of which the government in Ottawa has at times flip-flopped on.
But the Freedom Convoy, and the Canada-Unity organization partly behind it, long ago widened the scope of the protests to target not just the specific vaccine and testing mandates, but any measures aimed at preventing the spread of COVID and even the rule of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself. A "memorandum of understanding" on the Canada-Unity website includes an extremely broad set of demands that includes that the nation's government partly disband.
The CTA estimates that the Canadian trucking industry is expecting a loss of 12,000-16,000 (10%-15%) cross-border truck drivers due to the mandate. "The majority of the trucking industry, and the vast majority of drivers, were not involved in this convoy in any way, and continued to work to ensure our essential supplies were provided for," Millian's PMTC statement continued. A CTA statement echoed condemnation for those who defaced war memorials and other property.
Millian emphasized gestures meant to counter some of the objectionable elements of the events. "We have even heard stories about a group of drivers who went to No Frills and purchased a bunch of food and donated it to the Shepherds of Good Hope," he said. "They also placed flowers at the war memorial after the actions mentioned earlier occurred. Actions like these are what represent the vast majority of our industry and Canadians."
Recent Overdrive reporting highlighted the disorder and delays caused at the U.S.-Canada border by an owner-operator who wasn't wholly unsympathetic to the border vaccine-mandate parts of the cause, but who was nonetheless deliberately delayed by protesting drivers.
The PMTC's Millian called on protesters in Ottawa to "pack up and leave" as their "message has been heard." Additionally, PMTC called on protest fund-raisers and organizers to use some of the $9 million or so raised online to "make reparations for the disgraceful actions of some," by making a donation "to the Terry Fox Foundation, The Royal Canadian Legion as well as the Shepherds of Good Hope" in the wake of some of the damage done.
Millian also used the protests as an occasion to reiterate objections to the vaccine mandate. "To be clear, while we do not support the vaccine mandate regulations for truck drivers," his statement read. "The PMTC Board is still in full support of people getting vaccinated. We believe in the science and the medical experts who tell us vaccinations are our best way out of this pandemic. We encourage everyone who can, to get vaccinated as soon as possible, for the health and safety of all of us."