A Conservative MP in the Kootenays says he supports a convoy of semi-trucks and supporters protesting COVID-19 vaccine mandates that will be converging on the nation’s capital over the weekend.
Rob Morrison, the federal parliamentarian for Kootenay-Columbia, says his support for the ‘Freedom Convoy” is predicated on Conservative opposition to vaccine mandates.
“I’ve never supported mandatory vaccinations,” said Morrison, noting his support for individual liberties and use of pandemic management tools such as rapid testing and proof of negative COVID-19 tests.
COVID-19 vaccine mandates have been a contentious issue that reaches across both provincial and federal jurisdictions.
The provinces have the authority to implement some mandates, such as when the B.C. government implemented mandatory vaccination for health care workers, or putting in place vaccine cards to access restaurants and bars. Meanwhile, the federal government has also mandated COVID-19 vaccination for travel on domestic or international flights or VIA Rail and Rocky Mountaineer trains.
Currently, the U.S. government has implemented a COVID-19 vaccine mandate to cross the border into America. In Canada, Canadians who are unvaccinated can enter the country but must have a 14-day quarantine plan.
Previously, unvaccinated truckers were exempt from the quarantine requirement, however, the federal government is removing that requirement, sparking a weeks-long protest titled “Freedom Convoy” that is set to land in Ottawa Saturday.
Federal politicians and trucking regulators said this week that they are committed to working with the trucking industry to address supply chain constraints and labour shortages.
“The Government of Canada and the Canadian Trucking Alliance both agree that vaccination, used in combination with preventative public health measures, is the most effective tool to reduce the risk of COVID-19 for Canadians, and to protect public health,” according to a joint statement from cabinet ministers and industry representatives.
However, not all Canadians, including vaccinated truck drivers, agree with the pending vaccination policies.
A GoFundMe campaign created to raise money to pay for fuel and lodging for protesters as they head to Ottawa has raised over $7 million. Tamara Lich, who organized the GoFundMe campaign, is a member of the Western Canadian Governing Council with the Maverick Party.
While the freedom convoy organizers are ostensibly protesting vaccine mandates, there has been extremist rhetoric floating around social media, with some calling for violence, such as a Canadian version of the events in Washington, D.C. a year ago, where a mob fueled by conspiracy theories stormed the U.S. Capitol building.
Morrison, a former RCMP member, reiterated the protest is intended to be peaceful, and noted that Ottawa law enforcement will be prepared to manage the situation.
“When you have a huge number of people at a demonstration, you always run the risk of some wayward-type individuals that come in for the purpose of disrupting the demonstration and moving it into an area that it doesn’t want to go to,” Morrison said.
Social media users have estimated thousands of truckers are en route to Ottawa, although policing bodies have not confirmed this. Ottawa Police said Friday they are preparing for hundreds of vehicles on the streets over the weekend, and the convoy has a handful of routes that end in front of Parliament Hill.
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