Duel of the convoys as yellow vests and Canada Action both set sights on Ottawa

Two convoys will roll out from Alberta for Ottawa in February, to bring the province's pipeline plight straight to lawmakers who protesters say have ignored their concerns.

Both pro-pipeline groups are taking the Trans-Canada Highway and plan to arrive around Feb. 19

Truckers gather in Nisku, Alta., in mid-December to take part in a convoy and rally in support of the oil and gas industry. (Katrine Deniset/CBC)

Two convoys will roll out from Alberta for Ottawa in February, to bring the province's pipeline plight straight to lawmakers who protesters say have ignored their concerns.

But one of the convoys wants nothing to do with the other.

Glen Carritt is a lead organizer with the yellow vest protest movement, whose convoy plans to leave Red Deer for Ottawa on Feb. 14.

But the yellow vests will have to share the Trans-Canada Highway with vehicles from Canada Action, a federally registered non-profit that promotes the oilsands and natural resource sector. That convoy leaves from B.C. on Feb. 13, and will depart Calgary and Red Deer the next day, before following the same route.

'At the end of the day there's one highway'

"They don't want to cooperate with us. We've reached out to cooperate with that group and they want to do their own thing and get the recognition for it," said Carritt.

"At the end of the day there's one highway and we want to make sure that our movement is peaceful and that we allow for vehicles, like the working-class person to make sure they're getting to work, and we don't want to disrupt anybody's life because of this other than when we get to Ottawa."

But, Canada Action wants to make it clear that they have no affiliation with the yellow vests, saying they don't want their pro-pipeline message to stray from its target.

"They've assured us that they're very much focused on energy and resources and pipelines, and I've just expressed to them that … for me personally I just look at the yellow vests as being a French thing from France. And I think we should stay focused on Canadian symbols," said Cody Battershill, the organization's founder.

"And lets make sure that our signs we bring to these rallies are positive and respectful."

Will the real yellow vests please stand up?

But both French and Canadian yellow vest protesters would likely say they don't share motivations.

The violent protests in France have mainly targeted woes over wealth inequality, while Canada's quieter protests have targeted a wider swath of grievances, from the Trudeau government, to carbon tax to immigration. Politicians and other protest groups have distanced themselves from yellow vest protests in Alberta, which have welcomed attendees like members of anti-immigration group Soldiers of Odin and self-proclaimed white supremacists.

One of those distancing themselves from the other yellow vest groups is the yellow vest convoy itself — Carritt says the group has no affiliation with any other yellow vests, and this convoy is the only "official" one.

"There's so many yellow vests," he said. "What is paramount is that the yellow vest movement is what started as a peaceful movement, we are a peaceful movement, what we're trying to do is set Canada apart from the rest of the world … the strongest message for this convoy is our oil and gas industry."

Both convoys have crowdfunded their journeys, with Canada Action raising more than $25,000 and the yellow vests raising more than $18,000 as of Monday evening.

Battershill said the competing convoys, along with recent ones held in Grande Prairie, Medicine Hat, Nisku, Slave Lake and Drayton Valley, show a growing frustration from those who work in oil and gas.

"They're looking for something to join or some movement to attach themselves to, to express their frustration. We want to make sure that people express themselves in a way that's of course positive and respectful."

Both groups plan to arrive in Ottawa Feb. 19 at the earliest, and both say they are expecting hundreds of vehicles to join in.

With files from Dave Gilson