Ottawa

'I regret going': Protester says he spent life savings to support Freedom Convoy

A protester who joined the so-called Freedom Convoy, which occupied downtown Ottawa for much of February, says he regrets taking part after he lost $13,000 and his home protesting something he never really "had a stance on."

No 'stance' on vaccine mandates, but used own money to help protesters, man says

‘I have nothing left’: Alberta man says he regrets joining convoy to Ottawa

3 months ago
Duration 2:49
Martin Joseph Anglehart, who joined the Freedom Convoy in Alberta, says he spent more than $13,000 of his savings to support protesters, thinking organizers would reimburse him. He says that never happened, leaving him struggling to afford food.

A protester who joined the so-called Freedom Convoy, which occupied downtown Ottawa for much of February, says he regrets taking part after he lost $13,000 and his home protesting something he never really "had a stance on."

"I regret going,'' said Martin Joseph Anglehart, who spoke to CBC via Zoom from Hope, B.C.

Anglehart said he has "nothing left" after spending his life savings on gas and food for the occupiers, who disrupted Ottawa's downtown core for more than three weeks.

"I started delivering fuel and picking up laundry. Everything for the truckers." 

From Jan. 28 to Feb. 14, bank statements provided to CBC show Anglehart transferred thousands of dollars and spent thousands more at a gas station near Coventry Road — where he was stationed for the majority of the protest.

Anglehart is currently living out of his SUV, as he said his landlord kicked him out over his "point of view" concerning the protest. 

Martin Joseph Anglehart speaks to CBC via Zoom from inside his SUV, which he says is his current home. (CBC News)

'Never had a stance on mandates' 

Anglehart said he's unable to access his account because it remains frozen. More than 250 accounts linked to people and businesses involved in convoy protests were frozen after the Emergencies Act was invoked. 

Millions of dollars were donated through online crowd fundraisers, but Anglehart said he never saw a cent from those funds. Instead, he said he relied on the roughly $2,000 in cash donations from fellow convoy participants to go home.

Anglehart admits he never had "a stance on mandates" but felt drawn to the movement after he was prevented from visiting a dying friend at a Montreal hospital in June 2020 because of COVID-19 restrictions. 

After hearing about the convoy to Ottawa, he closed his web development business in January and left his home in Fort McKay, Alta. 

"[We] merged with a convoy around Medicine Hat," said Anglehart. "I thought that [it] was a cause that was bigger than me. And I thought … it was worth the effort to go." 

Bank statements provided to CBC show thousands of dollars sent via electronic transfer, and thousands more spent at truck stops. (Martin Joseph Anglehart)

Illegal occupation

On Feb. 11, Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared the protest an "illegal occupation."

Four days later, Anglehart said he was arrested for delivering fuel to truckers and was told to leave. 

He was soon released on conditions that he leave Ottawa immediately. 

Anglehart's Dodge Caravan was also seized. It remains impounded and Anglehart said he can't afford to get it back. 

While feelings of regret take over, there are also feelings of contrition. 

"I would like to apologize to [the] people in Ottawa," said Anglehart. "I'm sorry … All I wanted was to help people."

Anglehart said he was arrested on Feb.15 for delivering fuel to truckers. He said police handed him this offence notice, and was told to leave Ottawa. (Martin Joseph Anglehart)

'Cost for participating' 

When hearing Anglehart's story, University of Ottawa law professor Joao Velloso said he was not surprised.

Velloso conducted his research on the ground in Ottawa during the entirety of the occupation. He was examining the anthropological and sociological aspect of the protest. 

"You may have people that [were] seeking a sense of community," said Velloso. " Everybody was tired of the pandemic … And you see people for the first time in two years … I can totally understand that." 

But there is a cost, he warned.

A screen grab of text messages show Anglehart's plea for repayment. (Martin Joseph Anglehart)

"We are not talking about people with a lot of resources," he said. "They have their trucks, they have some funds … [but] the vast majority of the protesters …[were] middle class, sometimes low middle class." 

Velloso also points to the $300-million class-action lawsuit against protesters launched by downtown Ottawa residents and businesses.

He said it could bankrupt those named in the suit. When it comes down to all the donations, it's hard to track down where all the money went, said Velloso. 

"Not all of the people that were there received the money that some organizers received," he said. "We have no idea if there was dark money to that in the sense that other sources of funding that we don't know."

Clarifications

  • An earlier version of this story did not include the cash donations Anglehart said he received to return home and the date of the offence ticket. The story has been updated.
    Mar 27, 2022 3:16 PM ET

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rachelle Elsiufi is a journalist with CBC Ottawa. She previously worked as a reporter with Citynews in Edmonton. You can reach her at rachelle.elsiufi@cbc.ca

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