A large convoy of trucks heading to Ottawa to protest the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate on truck drivers is rolling through Alberta today and set to arrive in Regina this afternoon.
The “Freedom Convoy 2022,” which started from northern British Columbia on Jan. 22, arrived in Calgary, Alb., late on Jan. 23. The convoy will continue making its way through the province on Jan. 24, stopping in Medicine Hat, Swift Current, and then Regina en route to its final destination in Ottawa.
The protests come after the federal government mandated proof of vaccination for all truck drivers crossing into Canada from the United States starting Jan. 15.
Under the mandate, Canadian truck drivers must be fully vaccinated if they want to avoid a two-week quarantine upon returning to Canada. U.S. authorities announced similar requirements starting Jan. 22 for non-U.S. nationals crossing into the United States who are not vaccinated, including non-U.S. truck drivers.
Drivers from across Canada are rallying under a group called Canada Unity, which is set to stage a large demonstration in Ottawa on Jan. 29, with up to 10,000 vehicles participating.
In addition to the Western Canada route, two other routes will later join the convoy with drivers starting in Atlantic Canada to cross the eastern provinces, and a southern route beginning in Windsor, Ontario. The trucks will converge in Ottawa in what Canada Unity calls a “bear hug” of the nation’s capital.
A video posted by the group showed a large crowd of supporters gathered at the Flying J truck stop in Calgary on the morning of Jan. 24, with many chanting “What do we want? Freedom!” Some vehicles were seen carrying signs, including one that says “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.”
The group’s GoFundMe campaign launched on Jan. 14 had grown to over $3.4 million as of Jan. 24, with more than 45,000 people making donations, and the number growing by the minute.
Experts have warned that Canada’s supply chain is already vulnerable due to pandemic disruptions, and they say the government’s vaccine mandate on cross-border truckers will worsen the shortages seen in grocery stores.
The mandate could see 10 to 15 percent, or about 12,000 to 16,000 of truck drivers off the road, estimates the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), which said it does not support and strongly disapproves of the demonstrations.
Sylvain Charlebois, professor and senior director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, wrote on Twitter on Jan. 24 that higher logistical costs involving the supply chain “will catch up to consumers.”
“And with fewer people driving around, major buyers will be prioritised over smaller ones. Many processors will have a harder time getting the ingredients they need to manufacturer the food we buy every day, on both sides of the border,” he said.
“Higher logistical costs, like anything else involving the supply chain, will catch up to consumers. That’s the reality of supply chain economics.” https://t.co/Rks826vU41
— The Food Professor (@FoodProfessor) January 24, 2022
When asked about the inflationary impact caused by trucker shortages, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters at a press conference on Jan. 24 that the greatest risk to Canada’s supply chain is COVID-19 and that “the best way to continue to prevent interruptions in our supply chains is that everyone gets vaccinated.”