Why do Canadian vaccine trucks gather in Ottawa? | Far-right news

A convoy of Canadian vaccine trucks and their supporters is making its way to the country’s capital, Ottawa.

The so-called “Freedom Convoy” was formed in response to a vaccine mandate requiring trucks to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus in order to cross the land border between Canada and the United States.

But over the past week, observers and experts have said some organizers of the event, as well as some of its most vocal supporters, have backed anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and racist views – and authorities warn that the rally on Parliamentary Hill could turn violent.

“The Freedom Convoy is nothing but a tool for the far right,” according to the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, a non-profit organization that monitors hate groups. “They say it’s trucks, but if you look at its organizers and promoters, you’ll find Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, racism and incitement to violence.”

Here’s a look at what’s going on:

First, what is the mandate for a vaccine for truck drivers?

As of January 15, Canada has required basic service providers who have previously been exempted from vaccination requirements, including truck drivers, to be fully vaccinated in order to cross the US land border. “Unvaccinated Canadian truck drivers entering Canada will be required to meet pre-entry, arrival and Day 8 testing requirements, as well as quarantine requirements,” it said.

The United States has also imposed a similar requirement on its border; as of January 22, non-citizens traveling to the United States for substantial and insignificant reasons must provide proof of vaccination at land border crossings.

How many Canadian truck drivers are unvaccinated?

The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), a federation of provincial carriers’ associations, said the “vast majority” of Canadian truck drivers were vaccinated – approximately 85 percent – in line with vaccination levels among the general Canadian population.

Nearly 90 percent of Canadian truck drivers have been vaccinated, Transport Minister Omar Algabra said said.

The CTA distanced itself from the convoy, saying it “does not support and strongly disapprove of any protests on public roads, highways and bridges.”

Supporters of truck drivers gather in Toronto, Ontario, Canada to support truck drivers on their way to Ottawa to protest the coronavirus vaccine (COVID-19) mandates for cross-border truck driversSupporters of the convoy gather in Toronto, Ontario, on January 27, 2022. [Carlos Osorio/Reuters]

How many people are in the convoy?

This is unclear. Police in Kingston, Ontario, said that at 9:35 a.m. local time (2:35 p.m. GMT) on Friday, 17 full tractors, 104 tractors without trailers, 424 passenger vehicles and six recreational vehicles were moving east on Highway 401. Others are thought to be arriving in Ottawa from eastern Canada.

What are the organizers of the convoy talking about?

The convoy is organized under the inscription “Freedom Convoy 2022”.

“On January 15, a small team of truck drivers in Alberta, members of their families and friends, decided that the Canadian government had crossed the line by applying for Covid-19 vaccine passports and vaccine mandates,” the statement said. of the group, shared on Facebook.

“We are fighting to the doorstep of our federal government and are urging them to end all mandates against its people,” reads a GoFundMe page in support of the convoy, which has raised approximately $ 5.5 million (over C $ 7 million) so far. .

CBC News reported on Friday that at least a third of these donations came from anonymous donors or were attributed to fake names.

So the convoy is really related to Canada’s COVID policies?

“It’s not about the mandate anymore,” said Jason Lafayette, whom CityNews described as the main organizer of the Ontario convoy. “This is about Canada, it’s about our rights and how the government manipulates the population and oppresses us all the time,” said Lafayette, who is not a truck driver.

Although some participants have well-founded complaints about the Canadian government’s pandemic policy, experts point out that some far-right activists who hold racist views are among the organizers.

Some participants also openly expressed strong views this week. “I stand for civil war,” Jim Dorksen, a convoy supporter, told Global News in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, in central Canada. “If people don’t want to stand up, we have weapons – we will stand up and take them out.”

Canadian media also reported a widespread video posted on social media showing a convoy supporter saying he “would like to see our own event on January 6” – a reference to the deadly riot at the US Capitol Building on 6 January 2021.

Barbara Perry, a professor at the Technical University of Ontario and director of the Center for Hate, Bias and Extremism, said that “this protest against a mandate – a specific mandate within a particular industry – was then fraught with anti-wax sentiment, anti-wax blocking sentiments, anti-government sentiments – and then even beyond that, the far right [is] come into play. “

“They call themselves the Freedom Convoy, so I think that says something about the breadth of fears that are placed under the umbrella,” Perry told Al Jazeera. “It is also the language of anti-states. It is also the language of the far right … It is really part of this broader trend of bringing the far right closer to conspiracy theorists and other types of complaints. ”

Who are the far-right leaders involved?

The organizers listed on the GoFundMe website are Tamara Leach and BJ Dichter.

The Canadian Anti-Hate Network reports that Leach was “the organizer of the yellow vests in Canada, the regional coordinator for the separatist movement Western Exit or Wexit in Alberta, and now as secretary of the Maverick party – another separatist movement and peripheral political party.” .

Leach has published “conspiracies about the Muslim Brotherhood operating in Canada,” the network said, adding that Dichter had also made Islamophobic comments. In 2019, at a national convention for the far-right People’s Party of Canada (PPC), Dichter said: “Despite what our corporate media and political leaders want to acknowledge, Islamist entry and adaptation of political Islam is rotting in our society like syphilis. “

Patrick King, listed as the contact for the convoy group in Northern Alberta, regularly supports anti-Semitic views on social media. “He publicly distorted the established facts about the Holocaust … then referred to the anti-Semitic conspiracy theory that the Jewish people secretly controlled world governance, the media and finance,” said the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.

King said last month, “The only way to solve this is with bullets.”

What did Canadian politicians say?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this week that “the small minority of people who are on their way to Ottawa or who have unacceptable views they express do not represent the views of Canadians.”

“We know that the way through this pandemic is by vaccinating everyone – and the vast majority, nearly 90 percent of Canadians, have done just that,” Trudeau told reporters.

Jagmit Singh, leader of the New Democratic Party, said he was concerned about the “dangerous rhetoric” in the convoy. “I am concerned about extremist elements who are spreading misinformation and trying to turn the convoy into a Canadian version of the terrorist attacks on the US Capitol,” he said. wrote on Twitter.

But Conservative leader Erin O’Toole said she planned to meet with the convoy’s leaders while exposing “anyone who encourages violence” in the group. “The thousands of people who come here over the next few days – the convoy of trucks – are a symbol of fatigue in our country right now,” O’Toole told reporters in Ottawa on Thursday.

Now what?

The convoy members began arriving in Ottawa on Friday, ahead of a protest on Parliament Hill on Saturday. Organizers, who are seeking to distance themselves from more extreme participants, insist the event will remain peaceful.

Another convoy-related group, Canada Unity, has written a “memorandum of understanding” that it plans to present to the Senate and the governor-general, demanding an end to vaccine mandates and other pandemic restrictions.

Police in the capital said they were focused on providing a safe environment, but were aware of the “inappropriate and threatening language on social media related to this event” and warned of the consequences for anyone involved in criminal behavior, violence and / or or activities that promote hatred. “

In a letter to Canadian lawmakers on Thursday, the military sergeant in charge of security in the House of Commons said there were reports that protesters were trying to “fix” politicians with homes in the Ottawa region. He told them to “go somewhere safe” if the protest took place outside their homes or offices, CTV News reported.

Canadian journalists reporting on the convoy also received death threats and were spat upon and verbally and physically harassed, the Canadian Journalists’ Association said. A CBC / Radio-Canada van was also vandalized.

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