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Hundreds of truckers headed to Ottawa in ’Freedom Rally’ convoy against vaccine mandate

Mandate for cross-border truckers went into effect on Jan. 15; rally expected to take a week

People hold a banner reading “for freedom” in front of trucks.

The convoy is scheduled to travel to Calgary on Sunday evening and to Ottawa on January 29.

Photo: La Presse canadienne / Darryl Dyck

RCI

Hundreds of truckers set off from British Columbia to Ottawa on Sunday to protest a federal vaccine mandate despite the urging of the country's largest trucking federation to comply.

The protest has been dubbed the Freedom Rally against the federal mandate for cross-border truckers, which went into effect on Jan. 15. 

Canadian truck drivers now need to be fully vaccinated if they want to avoid a two-week quarantine and pre-arrival molecular test for COVID-19 before crossing into Canada.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance and the American Trucking Associations say up to 26,000 of the 160,000 drivers who make regular trips across the Canada-U.S. border are likely to be sidelined as a result of the vaccine mandate.

It sparked a movement online to protest the mandate, with a GoFundMe raising money for the trucking rally raising over $2.5 million as of Sunday.

The goal is we're going to get [to Ottawa by next weekend] and demand these mandates get stopped, said rally attendee Candace Hill.

Hill was speaking from Delta, B.C., where supporters and truckers had gathered Sunday before setting off on their cross-country trip. The convoy is scheduled to meet up with another that left from Prince George, B.C., in Calgary on Sunday night.

The protesters were supported by anti-vaccine-mandate protesters throughout the province, including in Kamloops in B.C.'s Interior.

Candice Camille, a photographer who attended the Kamloops rally, said she was pleasantly surprised by the turnout there.

For me, the mandates need to change to fit our society's lifestyle and people's freedoms, she said. 

[The mandates should also] give the people the protection and the support on the other side, the people who feel like they need that protection and support.

Trade associations on both sides of the border have said the restriction would put additional strain on supply chains (new window) amid the latest COVID-19 surge and severe worker shortages.

But the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), a federation of the country's carriers, owner-operators and industry suppliers, released a statement on Saturday (new window) strongly disapproving of the protest.

The statement says that the CTA's members should hold an organized protest on Parliament Hill instead of disrupting public roadways and border crossings for over a week.

Supporters line a highway outside of Kamloops B.C. to support truckers on their way to Ottawa to protest a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Supporters line a highway outside of Kamloops B.C. to support truckers on their way to Ottawa to protest a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Photo: (Candice Camille)

This regulation is not changing so, as an industry, we must adapt and comply with this mandate, said CTA president Stephen Laskowski in the statement. 

The only way to cross the border, in a commercial truck or any other vehicle, is to get vaccinated.

Laurent Flambourari, a truck driver and instructor at PBX Logistics in Burnaby, B.C., said the protests are a bit too late given the vaccine mandate went into effect a week ago.

You have the total right to not get vaccinated. But again, that has an impact on your life and the consequences which comes along, he said.

Anti-vaccine-mandate protesters in Kamloops, B.C., hold up a sign supporting the cross-country rally against a federal vaccine mandate for truckers crossing the U.S.-Canada Border.

Anti-vaccine-mandate protesters in Kamloops, B.C., hold up a sign supporting the cross-country rally against a federal vaccine mandate for truckers crossing the U.S.-Canada Border.

Photo: offert par Candice Camille

The vaccine mandate convoy is separate from a B.C. rally held Saturday, which was organized by the West Coast Trucking Association to protest poor highway conditions in B.C. this winter. (new window)

CBC News with files from Mark Gollom, The Canadian Press, and Chloé Dioré de Périgny

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