Convoy protesting vaccine mandate for truck drivers draws supporters on Winnipeg's Perimeter Highway

A convoy of transport trucks continued on its way through Manitoba on Tuesday, en route to Ottawa to protest the federal mandate that requires truck drivers to be vaccinated to cross the Canada-U.S. border.

Canadian truckers must now show they are vaccinated against COVID-19 to avoid testing requirement, quarantine

A truck convoy drives through Headingley on Tuesday afternoon en route to Ottawa to protest a federal vaccine mandate. A crowd of supporters not with the convoy were also present along the Trans-Canada Highway. (Cameron MacIntosh/CBC)

A convoy of transport trucks continued on its way through Manitoba on Tuesday, en route to Ottawa to protest the federal mandate that requires truck drivers to be vaccinated to cross the Canada-U.S. border.

Supporters waited near the Flying J close to Headingley, just west of Winnipeg, for the convoy on Tuesday afternoon. A crowd that appeared to number well over 1,000 welcomed the convoy with signs of support as it continued its journey around the city on the Perimeter Highway.

Winnipeg's Robert Jorgenson joined the convoy and said he plans to travel with the truck drivers all the way to Ottawa.

"This isn't even about a vaccine anymore. It's not. It's not about a vaccine mandate on truckers," Jorgenson said. "I have been free my whole life and somehow now I'm not. This is Canada."

Salvatore Vetro isn't a truck driver, but the Vancouver man has driven from the West Coast in support of the convoy.

He said he intends to drive to the nation's capital and remain there until Prime Minister Justin Trudeau puts an end to vaccine mandates.

"I am not a terrorist. I am not an extremist," Vetro said. "But we will not leave Ottawa until you say it's over. Period. End of story."

Others, like Terry Manary of Matlock, Man., say the mandate goes too far. He simply wants to see an end to the division COVID-19 vaccines have caused throughout Canada.

"We're tired of too [much] dividing people — vaxx people to unvaxxed people. That's not supposed to happen," Manary said.

"We're all one. We're all in this together. It needs to stop right now."

WATCH | Thousands support trucker convoy through Winnipeg:

'Somebody has to stand-up for Canada and the truckers are doing it': Thousands show their support for truckers

1 year ago
Duration 1:35
A convoy of transport trucks is travelling through Manitoba on its way to Ottawa to protest the federal mandate that requires them to be vaccinated to cross the Canada-U.S. border.

Some, like Trevor Gatchell, brought supplies like food, water and windshield washer fluid for truck drivers.

"I am just supporting them because I want the right to choose for myself as well. I'm not anti-vaxx or anything like that. I want to be able to make my own choice," he said.

Several vehicles were parked along the south leg of the Perimeter Highway waiting for the convoy to arrive, prompting the RCMP to send officers to ensure the safety of people protesting along the highways.

Frustration from industry: transportation minister

Hundreds of truckers set off from British Columbia on Sunday as part of the protest, despite the urging of the country's largest trucking federation to comply with the vaccine mandate.

As of last week, all Canadian truckers must show they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to avoid stringent testing requirements and a lengthy quarantine period. The U.S. has imposed a similar vaccine mandate. 

Industry groups estimate roughly 26,000 of the 160,000 Canadian and American drivers who regularly travel across the border could be sidelined by the vaccine policy.  Trade associations on both sides of the border have said the restriction would put additional strain on supply chains amid the latest COVID-19 surge and severe worker shortages.

But the Canadian Trucking Alliance, a federation of the country's carriers, owner-operators and industry suppliers, released a statement last Saturday strongly disapproving of the protest.

In an email to CBC News, Manitoba Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Doyle Piwniuk said the province has heard frustration from some industry stakeholders who say the federal rollout has been confusing.

"The commitment of these drivers throughout the pandemic have been remarkable and we should not dismiss how critical their role is in ensuring the health and well-being of our communities here and south of the border," Piwniuk said.

He added that the province is monitoring the situation closely to ensure Manitobans will be able to purchase and access the goods and services they need without significant delays or cost increases.

Premier Heather Stefanson says she is worried about the supply chain.

In a Tuesday morning interview with Winnipeg radio station CJOB, Stefanson said she hasn't had any specific discussions with the prime minister about potential supply chain disruptions that could result from the truck convoy.

She also suggested rapid testing could be a possible alternative to mandated vaccination.

In Manitoba, public employees who choose not to get vaccinated have the option to instead undergo regular testing for COVID-19, she noted.

"That's perhaps a place that they could go with that," Stefanson said.

"That's certainly where we have gone as a province and I think that that would be an option. We want to make sure that we're not disrupting the supply chain."

WATCH | Mandate blamed for empty shelves as convoy heads to Ottawa, but experts say numerous factors at play:

Trucker vaccine mandate blamed for empty shelves as convoy heads to Ottawa

1 year ago
Duration 2:00
As a convoy of protesters heads toward Ottawa, the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for cross-border truck drivers has been blamed for empty grocery store shelves. But experts say there are numerous factors, including extreme weather, contributing to reduced supply.

The truck convoy is expected to reach the capital by the weekend.

With files from Cameron MacIntosh and Marina von Stackelberg