What is Freedom Convoy 2022

In early 2022, a series of ongoing protests and blockades in Canada against COVID-19 vaccine mandates and restrictions, dubbed the Freedom Convoy by organizers, erupted. The convoy was formed to protest vaccine mandates for crossing the border into the United States, but it quickly evolved into a protest against COVID-19 restrictions in general. Beginning on January 22, hundreds of vehicles formed convoys from various points and traversed Canadian provinces before converging on Ottawa for a rally on Parliament Hill on January 29, 2022. Thousands of pedestrian protesters joined the vehicular convoys. Several offshoot protests shut down provincial capitals and border crossings with the US.

As of February 17, 2022, the protests are still going on, and protesters have stated that they will not leave until all COVID-19 restrictions and mandates are repealed. Border blockades have been criticized by officials for their economic impact. Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency on February 11, imposing new legal penalties for impeding trade routes, highways, airports, ports, bridges, and railways. On February 11, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and US President Joe Biden spoke about ending border blockades. In response to the protests, the Prime Minister invoked the Emergencies Act for the first time in Canadian history on February 14.

To avoid exacerbating existing supply chain disruptions, both Canada and the United States accommodated unvaccinated cross-border truckers by exempting them from COVID-19 vaccine requirements in the fall of 2021. The exemptions in Canada expired on January 15, 2022, and the exemption in the United States expired on January 22, 2022. By January, approximately 85 percent of the 120,000 Canadian licensed truck drivers who regularly serve cross-border routes had been immunized against COVID-19. A total of 12,000 to 16,000 Canadian truckers are expected to be affected.

The trucking industry and labor unions have both condemned the convoy. According to the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), the majority of protesters had no connection to trucking.
Some people were offended by what happened at the National War Memorial, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and Terry Fox statue in Ottawa. Multiple weapons were seized during a blockade in Coutts, Alberta, and four men were charged with conspiracy to murder RCMP officers. Officials have expressed concern about some protesters’ involvement with far-right extremist groups, including those that advocate violence, and some have called for the overthrow of Canada’s federal government. According to some sources, the ongoing protests are occupation or a siege.

Goals of the protest

During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the protest calls for the elimination of vaccine mandates in Canada. Ben Dichter, a spokesperson for the Freedom Convoy, stated on Fox News that “We want to repeal the vaccine mandates as well as the passport requirement. That passport, on the other hand, is extremely concerning “. As the convoy approached Ontario, it began to stray from its original objectives. Several protesters expressed their displeasure with Justin Trudeau’s perceived authoritarianism and corruption, stating that they wanted him “out of office,” while others stated, “This is not an anti-vaccination movement, this is a freedom movement.” The convoy’s Ontario organizer, Jason LaFace, stated that the protest’s goal was to destabilize the government. Many of the restrictions that the protesters are upset about fall under the purview of provincial governments.

One of the convoy’s main organizers, Canada Unity, stated that they intended to submit their signed “memorandum of understanding” to the Senate of Canada and Governor General Mary Simon, referred to in the MoU as the “SCGGC.” The Memorandum of Understanding, signed by James and Sandra Bauder and Martin Brodmann, was posted on the Canada Unity website in mid-December 2021 and was publicly available until its retraction on February 8, 2022. Bauder, the founder of Canada Unity, is at the top of a CTV News list of “major players” in the convoy.

According to CTV, Bauder expressed hope that the signed Memorandum of Understanding would persuade Elections Canada to call an election, which is not constitutionally possible. In this fictitious legal document, CU demanded that the “SCGGC” halt all vaccine mandates, rehire all employees who had been fired because of their vaccination status, and rescind all fines imposed for non-compliance with public health orders. If this failed, the MoU requested that the “SCGGC” dissolve the government and appoint members of the CU to form a Canadian Citizens Committee (CCC), which is beyond the Governor General’s and Senate’s constitutional powers. The original MoU made no mention of cross-border truckers because it was drafted and delivered over a month earlier, but it was reissued for the protest.

By February 8, there were 320,089 signatures on the MoU Canada Unity had hoped for. According to a February 8 article in The Guardian, the convoy was the result of coordination between QAnon, conspiracy theorists, and “unprecedented coordination between various anti-vaccine and anti-government organisations,” including James Bauder’s vow that the protesters would remain until all of their demands were met. Organizers feared that a surge of new support for the MoU would lead to a new federal election and investigations into Prime Minister Trudeau.

On February 8, there were 320,089 signatures on the MoU Canada Unity had hoped for, out of a total of 1,000,000. The convoy was the result of coordination between QAnon, conspiracy theorists, and “unprecedented coordination between various anti-vaccine and anti-government organisations,” according to a February 8 article in The Guardian, including James Bauder’s vow that the protesters would remain until all of their demands were met. Organizers feared that a surge of new support for the MoU would lead to a new federal election and investigations into Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

When asked by a CBC reporter on February 3 whether he would negotiate with the core organizers knowing the purpose stated in the MoU, Conservative MP Kevin Waugh dismissed the MoU as “nonsense,” saying the organizers are “frustrated like many Canadians in this country.” On February 7, Tom Marazzo, a self-declared protest spokesperson and ex-military officer, held a press conference in which he proposed forming a coalition with the Conservatives, NDP, and Bloc Quebecois.

Truckers and protesters have congregated in Oakville, Mississauga, Vaughan, and other parts of the Greater Toronto Area, as well as Orangeville, Quebec City, Vancouver, Vancouver Island, Kelowna, Regina, and Victoria. On February 12, hundreds of protesters gathered in Charlottetown, most of whom were driving personal vehicles and farm equipment.

Protests around the world

The Freedom Convoy also inspired several Facebook and Telegram groups to organize similar protests in 34 countries, including Argentina, Austria, Cyprus, New Zealand, Australia, and the United States. Demonstrations were partially supported, as in Canada, by local far-right groups; in Finland, by members of the neo-fascist Blue-and Black Movement, Soldiers of Odin, and Power Belongs to the People; and in Germany, by the Reichsbürger movement and Alternative for Germany.

A solidarity protest was organized in the United Kingdom in February 2022, with a convoy driving from Scotland to London with stops in cities across the British Isles. There were also reports of convoys in Wales and parts of England.

Protests related to the Freedom Convoy were banned in Paris and Brussels after organizers of a similar event opposing France’s Health Pass, le Convoi de la Liberté, revealed that five convoys from across France were scheduled to arrive in Paris between February 11 and 14. Tear gas was used by French police to disperse protesters, hundreds of vehicles were intercepted and hundreds of fines were issued to those taking part in the convoy.

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