Sudbury

Truck convoy protesting vaccine mandates crosses Ontario's northeast en route to Ottawa

Hundreds of people showed up as a convoy of Canadian truckers against COVID-19 vaccine mandates rolled through areas of northeastern Ontario on Friday en route to Ottawa for a national protest.

Organizers say they want to peacefully protest COVID-19 issues and extremists aren't welcome

Hundreds of people showed up as a convoy of Canadian truckers against COVID-19 vaccine mandates rolled through areas of northeastern Ontario on Friday en route to Ottawa for a national protest.

This convoy is part of a larger protest, called the Freedom Convoy by organizers, that includes transport truck operators from across Canada. On Thursday, it made its way through southwestern Ontario, and is destined to arrive on Parliament Hill on Saturday.

As the convoy trucked through Ontario's northeast, those who showed up in support included Theresa Paradis and her daughter Sam Laforest.

The two stood on the side of Highway 17 in Thessalon in the bitter cold with a cardboard sign reading "Freedom of Choice." Both said they're double vaccinated, but don't believe in government mandates.

"We're in Canada. We're living in a free country. We should be able to choose," said Paradis.

Dozens of people stood along Highway 17 in the cold to greet the convoy as it made its way through northern parts of Ontario on Friday. (Erik White/CBC )

"That is what our country is built on," said Laforest, a retired Canadian soldier who served in Afghanistan.

"Obviously I believe in vaccination and doing whatever we can do to end the pandemic ... That's our choice though."

Stewart Holman, who recently retired to the Thessalon area after driving a truck for 42 years, said "unfortunately it takes a guy with a 100,000-pound vehicle to make a point."

He said he recently lost his wife. He did get three doses of the COVID-19 vaccine so he could visit her in hospital, but is skeptical of how the government is handling the pandemic.

"Time to do something about this and get it straightened out," Holman said, watching the convoy go by on Highway 17. 

"Something's wrong. Something needs to be re-looked at."

Kaija Nordgren was standing on the side of the highway in the hamlet of Sowerby, holding her son Zeke, who is "almost two and loves trucks."

The Sault Ste. Marie woman said she didn't want to get vaccinated, but it was required to keep her job as a child welfare worker. 

Sam Laforest and her mother Theresa Paradis were among those who came out to watch the convoy roll through Ontario's northeast. They say they are both double vaccinated, but don't believe in mandates. (Erik White/CBC)

"I had to take that jab for my family to keep food on the table, keep our bills paid," Nordgren said.

"Just let us live. Let us get on with our lives." 

She said she's saddened to see Canadians becoming more polarized during the pandemic. 

"You're allowed to have your opinion without somebody saying you're wrong," she said.

"It's OK to have different viewpoints."

The western branch of Freedom Convoy 2022 — which according to a count by Ontario Provincial Police contains about 100 trucks and some 200 other vehicles — split in two Thursday when it reached Nipigon, with one group taking Highway 11 and the other continuing on Highway 17.

They are expected to meet up again in North Bay on Friday afternoon before heading to Ottawa.

Since the convoy of trucks and other vehicles left British Columbia for Ottawa, extremists and fringe groups have taken to social media to encourage followers to descend on the capital, and destroy property and threaten elected officials — all denounced by convoy organizers.

They say those views are not welcome and their focus is to peacefully protest vaccination rules. 

Kaija Nordgren and her son Zeke came out to support the convoy in Sowerby, Ont. The Sault Ste. Marie woman says she had to get vaccinated to keep her job as a social worker. (Erik White/CBC)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Erik White

journalist

Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to erik.white@cbc.ca

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