'We believe in you,' Scheer tells controversial pro-pipeline movement

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer welcomed a controversial convoy bringing a pro-pipeline message to Ottawa today, assuring participants that "we've got your back."

Protest ongoing on Parliament Hill to draw attention to the energy sector

A protester holds up a sign as a convoy of angry Albertans and other westerners rolled up to Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Feb.19, 2019 to protest federal energy and environmental policies. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer welcomed a controversial convoy bringing a pro-pipeline message to Ottawa today, assuring participants that "we've got your back."

"We're fighting for you. We're standing with you," Scheer said in a short speech to the crowd.

"We believe in you. We celebrate what you've done to build this country."

After leaving Red Deer, Alta. on Feb. 14, the convoy rolled into Ottawa around 10 a.m. today for two days of rallies which are expected to bring parts of downtown Ottawa to a halt.

The United We Roll convoy started as a protest against the Liberal government's energy and environmental policies but — despite organizers' objections — has been dogged by allegations of racism.

One sign on a convoy truck parked near Parliament said NO to "UN/globalism, carbon tax, tanker ban, dirty foreign oil, open borders" and YES to "(Charging) Trudeau with treason, Energy East, yes to pipelines, (looking) after veterans, photo ID & Canadian citizenship to vote."

Lead convoy organizer Glen Carritt, owner of an oilfield fire and safety company in Innisfail, Alta., said the group wants the Liberal government to eliminate the carbon tax and kill both Bill C-69 — which would overhaul how Canada conducts environmental assessments of energy projects — and Bill C-48, which bans oil tankers from the northern coast of British Columbia.

Supporters also have raised concerns about Canada signing on to a non-binding UN compact on global migration. The 36-page document lays out a collaborative approach to dealing with growing global migration and sets out 23 objectives for treating migrants humanely and efficiently.

​Scheer promised the crowd that if his party forms government later this year, he'll scrap C-69 and the carbon tax. The crowd cheered, while one woman shouted, "What about the UN?"

Carritt originally referred to his group as the "yellow vest convoy" but renamed it United We Roll after it was linked to extremist elements. The yellow vest movement started in France late last year when protesters took to the streets against rising fuel prices.

'Yellow vest' association

Carritt said the rally in Ottawa is open to anyone angry with the Liberal government, as long as their actions are not violent.

One of the group's other organizers, Jason Corbeil, was forced to distance the group from a Sault. Ste. Marie, Ont., yellow vest group that had boasted online about being part of the convoy. A blog run by one of that group's organizers includes calls for specific politicians to be executed, refers to immigrants as "sub-human" and argues women don't belong in politics.

Corbeil said the convoy does not condone hate and is about uniting people.

However, the Canadian Anti-Hate Network has been warning the convoy is giving a platform to hateful ideas.

"This convoy is a Yellow Vests Canada convoy, and any well-meaning pro-pipeline individuals involved are in fact legitimizing and breathing oxygen into the broader Yellow Vests Canada movement, which spreads hate, conspiracy theories and death threats targeting Muslims, politicians and other Canadians," said Evan Balgord, the group's executive director.

Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi, who represents an Alberta riding, said it's unfortunate the movement was co-opted by other ideas.

"It's very unfortunate that the convoy that is here today, that their message has drifted away from pipelines to issues that are not relevant to the discussion on pipelines," he said.

"We will continue to focus on the real issues that matter to Albertans, which is building the pipeline capacity that is so much necessary for us to get our resources to global markets."

Patrick King, who drove with the convoy from Red Deer, said the government should be listening to the group's key message on pipelines.

"The message is focused with the united pipeline," he said.

Alberta Conservative MPs Arnold Viersen, Jim Eglinski and Kevin Sorenson, as well as Ontario Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre, also addressed the rally in support of the Alberta energy sector.

People's Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier also greeted the crowd.

So far, there's no plan for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to meet the convoy.

With files from The Canadian Press