Before the Crackdown: The Faces and Voices of the Canadian ‘Freedom Convoy’

By Richard Moore
Richard Moore
Richard Moore
February 23, 2022Updated: February 25, 2022

Canadians—whichever side of the Freedom Convoy protest they sit on—will be counting the cost of the three-week demonstration in the capital Ottawa for some time to come.

By Feb. 21, police had made 196 arrests, with 110 people charged with an assortment of matters including obstructing police, causing a disturbance, disobeying a court order, mischief, and assault.

Police said some unlawful protesters returned to the area after being arrested and released, and now face new charges.

Authorities towed away 175 vehicles, including heavy trucks, pickups, and cars.

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Canadian police in helmets and carrying long batons halt protesters near Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 20, 2022. (Richard Moore/The Epoch Times)

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson estimated that the protest action was costing the city upward of $626,000 a day, while Ottawa police put the bill of policing the first 18 days of the blockade at about $14 million.

The truckers with rigs that have been towed away are likely to lose their livelihoods, since Watson wants to confiscate their vehicles to help pay for city costs.

After 10 days of interviews with truckers and those who supported them, it was clear that opposition to what many protesters saw as government overreach wouldn’t end even after the streets of Ottawa were cleared.

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Police walk a detained person away outside the Westin Hotel in Ottawa on Feb. 18, 2022. To the rear, the protest heats up, leading to many arrests. (Richard Moore/The Epoch Times)

Mike Jamieson’s white whiskers made him look like a lot like a certain character who flies around the world at Christmas; while his transport was no magical sleigh, it certainly was an attention-grabbing, bright yellow Freightliner big rig.

Amid dozens of other vehicles parked on the eastern end of Ottawa’s Wellington Street, its size and color—complete with two distinctive flags of Nova Scotia sitting on either side of its engine—made the truck impossible to ignore.

So much so that on Feb. 16, young Rupert Jack and his mom, Julia, of Ottawa, brought along a Valentine’s heart to give to the trucker and let him know he had their support, and that he and the other drivers were all doing an important thing.

Julia said she thought the Canadian government’s vaccine mandates were illegal under the Nuremberg Code, a set of principles developed after the Nazi atrocities in World War II, during which people were subjected to cruel medical experimentation.

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Mike Jamieson and visitor Rupert Jack in his truck at the Ottawa blockade on Feb. 16, 2022. (Richard Moore/The Epoch Times)

After delivering his heart, Rupert’s next wish was to honk the truck’s horn.

Jamieson, of Windsor, Nova Scotia, was tickled by the youngster’s attention and helped him into the cab, where he was able to sound the truck’s warning claxon.

The boy was thrilled.

Jamieson, who told The Epoch Times that he’d been a trucker for 47 years, arrived at the protest site in Ottawa on Jan. 28. He said he came to stand up for freedom.

That word was the one most frequently used by people who spoke to The Epoch Times in the Freedom Convoy encampment in the Canadian capital, directly across from Parliament Hill.

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Mike Jamieson, from Windsor, Nova Scotia, in his truck at the Ottawa blockade on Feb. 16, 2022. (Richard Moore/The Epoch Times)

It was used by speakers on the stage in the center of the protest area, protesters with megaphones, and in quieter conversations between truckers or those who came into the city to show their support.

The word was featured on signs, flags, and messages that adorned the rigs, and placed along the fleur-de-lis-topped metal fence that edges the parliamentary and governmental precinct.

The second-most-common word was “peace,” and none of the hundreds of Canadian truckers there seemed the slightest bit interested in doing anything other than staging their protest against pandemic mandates and government surveillance in a peaceful manner.

“I’m here to fight for your rights. I think there is a higher power above us that knows what is going on and how unfair the world has been. And what is going on in the world,” Jamieson said, adding that he would stay until the protest was over.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Feb. 14 declared a state of emergency to break the trucker protest, invoking what was previously known as the War Measures Act. At the press conference announcing the state of emergency, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland announced a number of measures to reduce funding to the protests, including giving banks the power to freeze the accounts of those involved in the protests. Freeland said companies whose trucks were used in the blockades would have their corporate accounts frozen and their insurance suspended.

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Protesters confront a police line backed up by mounted officers in Ottawa on Feb. 18, 2022. (Richard Moore/The Epoch Times)

Jamieson said he wasn’t scared about losing his truck.

“I’m not scared if I lose anything,” he said, chuckling. “I’m 69 years old. What’s there to be scared of?

“If you have to live in fear, there is no point. We should be able to walk in peace and do what is right. I’ve always lived within the law and about the law.

“I’d like to have freedom for my kids so that they can have a better life … to have things more fair for people.”

Jamieson said he felt the world was in chaos—not just in Canada.

“I don’t like to put people out of their comfort zones, but, sometimes, you have to. You have to fight for what you believe in and fight for your freedom,” he said.

Two days later, on Feb. 18, Jamieson was arrested by two police officers for refusing to move his truck. He wore a red cap that day with the words “Save Canada.”

He exited the cab of his truck peacefully, put his hands behind his back, and was handcuffed and escorted to an area where other protesters were being processed.

Bill Dykema, 71, from Grimsby, Ontario, was one of the first truckers to block Wellington Street, which borders the parliamentary precinct. He has a deeply lined face, glasses, a twinkle in his eyes, and a friendly smile.

Asked why he was protesting for the first time, his answer was simple.

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Trucker Bill Dykema, from Grimsby, Ontario, was one of the first protesters to park his rig in the center of Ottawa. He says he is taking action for his 19 grandchildren. (Richard Moore/The Epoch Times)

“I have 19 grandchildren. [It’s] for them, and to give them their freedom,” he told The Epoch Times. “My grandson wants to go to university, but he can’t because he’s not shot, not injected.

“I don’t call it a vaccine or injection because it’s bad stuff in my book. Our best friend, she got one shot—we buried her.

“I’m just a 71-year-old, poor old working man. Our freedoms are gone. You can’t go to a restaurant unless you’re shot.”

Dykema estimated that he probably was losing $1,400 to $1,500 a week while living in his truck at the protest camp.

“I have never before done anything like this. I am doing it for my grandchildren,” he said.

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Armand Theriault, who came from Quebec to support the truckers, patrols the protest area at night. (Richard Moore/The Epoch Times)

Armand Theriault, 57, is a retired worker from Quebec. He went to Ottawa to support the truck drivers.

“What these guys do is for everyone,” he said on Feb. 11, “[for] freedom for us and your children.”

Dressed in a green winter jacket, a business shirt, and a tie, Theriault had a quiet determination about him.

He arrived on Jan. 10 and spent his first evening walking among the vehicles, keeping an eye out for anything amiss.

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One of many signs being held by Ottawa residents at an ambush of vehicles heading toward the truckers blockade on Feb. 13, 2022. (Richard Moore/The Epoch Times)

Not everyone in Ottawa was happy with the protest.

As Theriault spoke with The Epoch Times, a man walked by and loudly berated him in French, saying, “You crashed the economy.”

He shrugged it off, and said it was important to provide extra security at night.

“We do everything we can,” he said.

“This is a peaceful protest, and we want to know the truth. It is not just us who will win; every country around the world will.”

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Protester Dana-Lee Melfi holds a Canadian flag in one hand and makes a peace sign with the other. (Richard Moore/The Epoch Times)

One of the icons of the protest was Dana-Lee Melfi, 50.

With a long gray beard and hair to match, he stood silently for up to 10 hours a day with a Canadian flag in one hand while flashing a peace sign with the other.

“I have been here since before the beginning. I was born in Ottawa, and I can’t stand to see what our country is becoming,” Melfi told The Epoch Times.

“We are here in peace, but there were a couple of bad actors and jokers in front of these trucks. So the truck drivers have asked me to stand here and hold the line.

“I stand here 10 hours a day and show our simple message that we are here in peace.”

What does Melfi do for a living?

“I am a government employee … maybe,” he said, laughing.

“They all have to go,” he said about the vaccine mandates and restrictions. “No one can force me to do anything to my body that I do not wish.

“It’s very un-Canadian.”

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Denis Cadieux, shown here on Feb. 12, 2022, supports the Ottawa protests, but would like to remove some negative messages. (Richard Moore/The Epoch Times)

A nearly retired carpenter from Orleans, Denis Cadieux, told The Epoch Times he liked almost everything about the protests and the way that people had behaved.

If there was one thing he would have changed, it would have been to exclude the negative signs and messages.

Cadieux said the main phrase he didn’t like was the one that said “[expletive] Trudeau.”

“Trudeau is a human being like anybody. He makes mistakes and, unfortunately, he is making such a big mistake he needs to step down,” Cadieux said.

“And that we understand, but we cannot hate him for that. Hate is a big word.”

He said Trudeau and the mainstream media had made it sound like the protesters were disrupting the economy, “but actually, it is their delays in not sitting down to speak with us that are disrupting the economy.”

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Chris “the Beeman” from northwest of Toronto said on Feb. 13, 202, “I’m not worried about losing my truck, but before I get tossed in the basket, it will lose all four tires.” (Richard Moore/The Epoch Times)

Chris “the Beeman,” a trucker and honey farmer from northwest of Toronto, was with the truck protest in Ottawa “since the start.” The Beeman and his fellow drivers were in a residential part of the central city near Bank and Slater streets on Feb. 13.

He told The Epoch Times the protesters were mindful of being where people lived and had been respectful to the residents.

“We don’t blow our horns, we don’t honk our horns. There was a birthday party across the street last night. We talk to the kids; it’s all good. It’s like a little family on this street,” he said.

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A protester signals no surrender in downtown Ottawa on Feb. 13, 2022. (Richard Moore/The Epoch Times)

Was he worried about what was coming from the police?

“No, we have a right to demonstrate our rights to freedom,” he said.

“People are going to get arrested because they fought for their freedoms. What they are doing to the people—lockdowns and everything—is criminal.

“It all needs to come to an end because our people are hurting. Our people can’t even go to church. We have rights of freedom and religion, so why can’t people go to church? You can’t tell me only 10 people can go to a funeral now?”

When asked to move on?

“I’m not worried about losing my truck, but before I get tossed in the basket, it will lose all four tires,” he said.

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Louis Lassard from Quebec says the protesters are on the right side of history. (Richard Moore/The Epoch Times)

Nearby, Louis Lassard of Quebec told The Epoch Times that the Ambassador Bridge protest blockade was “beautiful” and that his fellow truckers “are holding the line.” He hadn’t heard that police had moved in that morning and cleared the way for about $400 million in goods to resume running across the span linking Ontario to the United States.

Disappointed with the news, Lassard said: “I’m going to stay as long as it takes.

“I don’t care about them taking my truck. I don’t care.

“How many times did Gandhi or Nelson Mandela get arrested for doing the right thing? So I don’t mind. We will face the consequences of whatever has to happen, but something has to happen.

“We are on the right side of history here.”

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Eric (R) and Patrick, truck drivers from Montreal, say they are at the Ottawa protest until the end. Eric says he is fighting for his rights and those of his children. Photo taken on Feb. 13, 2022. (Richard Moore/The Epoch Times)

Two other truckers from Quebec, Eric and Patrick, who declined to give The Epoch Times their last names, said they were protesting against mask and vaccine mandates.

“In Quebec, we have no more rights,” Eric said. “I’m here because I want my rights back—for my children, for the other children, for the future generations.

“I’m not going to move until this [expletive] is done.”

Early on Feb. 16, Gaston Lanthier, an Ottawa resident, and Stephane Elia, a trucker from Quebec, were in a central café having coffee.

Lanthier said he supported the trucker protest.

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Quebec trucker Stephane Elia (L) and Ottawa resident Gaston Lanthier in a central Ottawa cafe on Feb. 16, 2022. (Richard Moore/The Epoch Times)

Lanthier said he had a few friends who were truckers, and he’d met others recently in the city.

“To be quite honest, they are very nice people,” Lanthier said.

Elia spoke little English and so Lanthier did most of the talking to The Epoch Times.

“People are divided 50-50 on the issue. We live in a very selfish world. It’s me, myself, and I,” Lanthier said.

He said it took the truckers to come in to have other leaders follow, “because nobody else would have done it.”

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Andre Landry is a trucker from Quebec whose vehicle is almost at the center of the Ottawa protest. Photo taken Feb. 16, 2022. (Richard Moore/The Epoch Times)

On Feb. 16, Andre Landry of Quebec, wearing a black beanie and an almost constant smile, told The Epoch Times he had been at the protest for 20 days and wasn’t worried about losing his truck.

His vehicle was one of the closest to the protest’s center.

“I have 15,” he shrugged.

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Protester Doug Day, from Toronto, has been with the blockade for six days. He said he was not likely to move when asked to by police. (Richard Moore/The Epoch Times)

Trucker Doug Day, from Kitchener, Ontario, had been at the site of the protest for about six days and admitted living in a small truck cab wasn’t comfortable, particularly with his large three-legged dog Lucky with him.

“It’s a little rough sleeping in the truck, but, hopefully, we can stop the overreach of the government,” he said.

“I’d like to see Trudeau stand down. He’s the laughing stock of the world, and he’s doing the wrong thing.

“History will not be kind to him.”

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Howard Spencer joined the blockade to regain the freedoms he says Canadians have lost. (Richard Moore/The Epoch Times)

Howard Spencer, 44, from near Vancouver, said on Feb. 11 that he had been at the protest for two weeks.

“I’m here to stand up for everyone’s rights and freedoms,” he said.

“I’m not an anti-vaxxer. We have a Bill of Rights, and I think that’s been lost by the powers that be, and we need to get back to that and get back to our freedoms. I think they are eroding.”

Dressed in a red-and-black checked lumberjack shirt and leaning up against the bullbar of a friend’s truck, Spencer said he was planning to stay for as long as it took.

He said he was losing money, but that was not of concern. Spencer said it was all about the principle.

“I feel this is the right thing to do.”

His goal was for politicians to “drop all the mandates and get back to our lives that we are used to.”

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Marie Eye of Quebec is happy preparing soup for whoever wants it during the protest. (Richard Moore/The Epoch Times)

Toward the western section of Wellington Street, Marie Eye from Quebec was at a long table chopping onions for soup.

“I’m cooking for everybody. We are all in this together, and we’re all Canadians, and we all need to eat, and we all need to breathe, and we all need to live,” she said.

“I came from the first morning, and it kind of evolved; now, I have this nice little soup project.

“I never liked making soup so much. It just brings people together.”

She said it was “just like a magic potion.”

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Protesters and police face off in Ottawa on Feb. 18, 2022. (Richard Moore/The Epoch Times)

On Feb. 14, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino linked an alleged seizure of weapons in Alberta by Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers to the Freedom Convoy. However, a street captain representing a number of truckers on Wellington Street rejected the minister’s claims.

“That sounds like fearmongering and that the government is getting really desperate to discredit us,” David Paisley said.

“We’ve been very peaceful and are cooperating with the city.

“The government is starting to play dirty.”

He said that nobody in the protesting groups wanted violence.

“If I knew of it, I would be shouting it from the rooftops. We’d be the first to deal with it,” he said.

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Benita Pedersen holds her symbol of hope, freedom, and strength—a steer horn—on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Pedersen is a “Freedom Leader” and is supporting truckers in their Freedom Convoy protest in central Ottawa. (Richard Moore/The Epoch Times)

Among the protest community of truckers and their supporters who converged on the downtown area of Ottawa, organizers were known as freedom leaders.

One such freedom leader was Benita Pedersen—a seemingly always smiling, cheery woman who saw using her organizational skills as her calling.

Pedersen, of Westlock, Alberta, told The Epoch Times that she became involved with the Freedom Movement in February 2021.

“I said to our Lord, ‘Your will, not mine.’ And I surrendered,” she said.

“What happened then … basically, something came over me, telling me I had to do everything I can to help the Freedom Movement.”

Pedersen said she used every skill she had ever developed—“as a DJ, karaoke hostess, workshop facilitator, and presenter”—to organize rallies.

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Protest signs adorn a fence around Parliament Hill in central Ottawa on Feb. 11, 2022. (Richard Moore/The Epoch Times)

“There are a number of goals,” she said.”And some of those goals have already been reached. One of them is the uniting of the people, and that has already happened.

“We have people from coast to coast—we have Americans, people from Mexico supporting what is happening here.

“It’s happening all over the world: Australia, Great Britain.”

Pedersen said that ending the mandates isn’t enough.

“We actually have to go beyond that, and there has to be some sort of transformation in governance, not just in Canada, but in other areas as well. And that transformation needs to happen in such a way we truly have governance for the people, by the people, and not what we have now.

“Because what we have right now is some form of dictatorship, because our elected representatives are not listening to the people.”

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Signs supporting the Freedom Convoy 2022 adorn fences along Wellington St. in the center of Ottawa on Feb. 12. (Richard Moore/The Epoch Times)

Pedersen led “Jericho Walks” around the city’s parliamentary precinct for seven days to knock down the walls around the minds of politicians. At the end of each circuit, many followers blew horns.

“The horns are the sound of hope and represent freedom,” Pedersen said, “and your own strength. It is a way of making your voice heard.”