Convoy of trucks

The Fools on The Hill

They came. They honked. They scattered.

After several weeks occupying the nation’s capital to protest Canada’s COVID policies, the self-proclaimed Freedom Convoy truckers were finally and unceremoniously booted off Parliament Hill.

Over the course of three days, Ottawa police moved swiftly, arresting 191, 103 of which face a total of 389 charges. Key organizers were also arrested and charged with mischief.  Additionally, 70 vehicles were towed and a freeze was slapped on over 206 bank and corporate accounts totalling millions of dollars relating to the protests. 

The truckers may have left Ottawa, but as the old saying goes, it ain’t over ‘til it’s over. As of this writing, dozens of trucks are gathering in various small towns outside of Ottawa, including Vankleek Hill and Alexandria, awaiting their next move.  

It was a different scene at the end of January when truckers landed in Ottawa, setting up a blockade in front of Parliament Hill and taking up residence on numerous streets around the downtown core. With a protest that ostensibly began in opposition to the federal government’s mandate requiring all cross-border truckers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. It didn’t take long for that baseline to expand into a defiant stand against most COVID directives, including wearing masks. 

It didn’t take long for reports of harassment and various acts of racism and vandalism to surface either. 

The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) was quick to condemn the convoy, even before it got off the ground: “The Canadian Trucking Alliance does not support and strongly disapproves of any protests on public roadways, highways, and bridges,” the statement read. “CTA believes such actions — especially those that interfere with public safety — are not how disagreements with government policies should be expressed.”

Furthermore, CTA President Stephen Laskowski added, “This regulation is not changing so, as an industry, we must adapt and comply with this mandate…  The only way to cross the border, in a commercial truck or any other vehicle, is to get vaccinated.”

According to the CTA, about 90% of Canadian truck drivers were already vaccinated, but a minority of truckers objected to the new requirement for drivers hauling goods between Canada and the U.S.

The U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics estimates that close to 30,000 trucks move across the border each day carrying about $850 million in freight, according to 2020 figures. 

The CTA and its American counterpart estimate that up to 26, 000 of the 160,000 truckers who make regular trips across the Canada- U.S. border would be sidelined as a result of the vaccine mandate of both countries.

Let’s be perfectly clear here. The protesters in Ottawa—as well as in various cities across the country—do not, repeat, do not, represent the majority of people in the trucking industry.  

And whether or not the Emergencies Act needed to be invoked (it didn’t) is the subject of another debate. Could the government and police have managed their responses better than they did? Of course! Watching the media coverage documenting the protest it was somewhat amusing to hear some convoy supporters refer to the protesters as “heroes.” 

Really?

Allow me to disagree. 

Why? Because the real heroes of this pandemic were too busy to attend the little tea party on the Hill. They were working ‘round the clock, often in frustrating conditions, to ensure that food and other products reached their ultimate destinations in a timely manner.

The real heroes of the pandemic were complying with policies and mandates set forth by two countries that reinforced the reality that public health trumps personal interest. 

One can only hope that the squawking and bleating whipped up by this appalling minority doesn’t draw any more negativity to an industry that’s been struggling for years with driver shortages and a plethora of other challenges. These people are the real, often  silent and forgotten heroes during this Pandemic and it is only right we celebrate their resilience and express gratitude for the sacrifices they make to get the job done.

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