Truckers protesting border vaccine mandate make way through Thunder Bay
Note: The above video shows the convoy prior to it reaching Thunder Bay.
A convoy of truckers protesting a vaccine mandate for cross-border drivers made its way through Thunder Bay on Thursday, headed for the nation’s capitol.
Police say the truckers spent the night on the Trans-Canada Highway west of Thunder Bay before heading through the city Thursday on their way east.
The journey is prompting Canadian police to prepare for violence and politicians to warn against escalating rhetoric linked to the demonstration.
Ottawa police Chief Peter Sloly said Wednesday officers had been in been in contact with protest leaders whom he said have been co-operative and shared their plans.
But Acting Deputy Chief Trish Ferguson voiced concern about “counter-demonstrations” which intelligence suggests could form as well as "unlawful and violent activity".
The truckers are protesting a new requirement that truckers entering Canada be fully immunized as of Jan. 15. The United States has imposed the same requirement on truckers entering that country.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance has estimated that about 15% truckers in Canada – as many as 16,000 – are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Some with far-right views have latched onto the protest. One online video includes a man expressing hope the rally will turn into the Canadian equivalent of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former president Donald Trump.
Donald Trump Jr. took to social media Tuesday to endorse the Canadian truck convoy’s fight against “tyranny” and to urge Americans to follow suit.
At the meeting in Ottawa, police disclosed they are preparing for a range of scenarios including the potential for violent outbreaks.
Police say they are planning for the arrival of between 1,000 and 2,000 demonstrators, but say the situation is “fluid” and changing by the hour.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there was a “small fringe minority who are on the way to Ottawa who are holding unacceptable views."
While police support the right to peaceful protest, officers would be prepared to move protesters out of the demonstration zone should the situation become violent or threatening, said Soly, the Ottawa police chief.
Some supporters of the convoy, including some opposition Conservative lawmakers, have taken to social media to warn the vaccine mandate for truckers will leave store shelves empty.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra has assured Canadians there’s no reason to fear food shortages will result from a small minority of truck drivers refusing to comply with the vaccine mandate.
"Equally alarming is the promotion by some elected officials that there is a risk of food shortage, trying to spread fear and panic among Canadians," he said.
Moreover, he said there’s been no “measurable impact” on the number of trucks crossing the border since the vaccine mandate went into effect on Jan. 15.
Last week, he said almost 100,000 trucks crossed the border – about the same as usual for this time of year.