Anti-vaxxers protest trucking mandate in Whitby ahead of 401-disrupting ‘Convoy’ to Ottawa

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Published January 24, 2022 at 1:32 pm

Anti-vaxxer activists descended on the Durham Region Headquarters building in Whitby over the weekend in protest of a mandate that would bar a few truckers from the United States from entering Canada.

A couple dozen protesters, including one dressed as the spectre of Death, associated with the anti-vaxxer group Rise Up Durham arrived at the busy Rossland Road and Garden Street intersection in front of the Regional Headquarters Saturday afternoon, as part of the self-proclaimed ‘World Wide Freedom Rally.’

The narrator of the video is seen meandering across live traffic in the intersection that forms a busy artery of Whitby’s downtown as he decries the “death jab.” He is honked at numerous times as he wanders around the street amid traffic, but doesn’t immediately leave the roadway.

When he does step off the road, the man walks to his young children playing in the snow, unmasked amid a crowd of likewise unmasked protesters. “This is why my kids don’t get sick. They eat gross stuff,” he said, referring to the snow he tried to stop his son from eating.

The Whitby “Freedom Rally” is one of numerous events coordinated online encouraging protests across the country. The Ontario Protest Facebook page, a rallying point for anti-vaxxers, featured several protests in Guelph, Hamilton, London, Toronto and Ottawa all scheduled around the same time.

These protests also extended along Highway 401. Anti-vaxxer activist Jody Ledgerwood, recently arrested in Whitby for shouting vaccine misinformation at children entering a children’s clinic, recorded herself exiting her vehicle in live traffic on an overpass to disrupt the flow.

 

These event are organized in advance of a ‘Freedom Convoy’ scheduled to arrive in Ottawa next week in protest of the federal mandate that requires truckers be vaccinated before they enter Canada through the border with the United States.

Truckers were previously exempt from vaccine mandates, but that exemption ended on January 12. The United States also requires truckers entering from the Canadian side to be vaccinated.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) estimates they may lose about 10 per cent of the 120,000 cross-border truckers due to the mandate.

In support of that 10 per cent, a collective of anti-vax activists are gathering in British Columbia looking to reach Ottawa by next weekend. This Convoy will be joined by Durham anti-vaxxers on January 27 when the agitators move through the Region en route to Ottawa.

Numerous traffic disruptions are planned along the route at 401 overpasses along the convoy route on January 27.

While Durham Region Police were not seen in monitoring the Whitby protests, at least one officer had been paying attention. Constable Erin Howard released a statement online in uniform in support of the protests between posts from Rebel News, a far-right political commentary site.

Howard says she is “thrilled and honored” to be a featured speaker at the Ottawa protests next weekend, and called the protests “incredible,” adding “right now it feels a little bit like we’re at war.”

Durham Regional Police doesn’t require officers to get vaccinated, but does require them to submit regular testing or be placed on unpaid leave. Interim Chief Todd Rollauer reported to Regional Council around 90 per cent of the service was vaccinated.

Update: Durham Regional Police have released a statement regarding Howard’s video. “The views expressed in that video do not reflect the views and opinions of DRPS. We are currently looking into this matter,” they said in a tweet.

Numerous political leaders, such as Pierre Poilievre, have spoken out against the mandate, voicing concern it may exacerbate issues in the already problematic supply chain which has caused record inflation, now at a 30-year high of 4.8 per cent, and higher grocery bills for Canadians.

An Ipsos poll conducted for Global News indicated 67 per cent of Canadians support harsher restrictions from unvaccinated community members who they overwhelmingly blame for prolonging the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the CTA is reporting their level of vaccination is on par with the general public with 81.47 per cent of Canadians fully vaccinated. The CTA roundly condemns protests that interfere with roadway like the ‘Freedom Convoy,’ and ‘Freedom Rally.’

“The Canadian Trucking Alliance does not support and strongly disapproves of any protests on public roadways, highways, and bridges. CTA believes such actions – especially those that interfere with public safety – are not how disagreements with government policies should be expressed,” they said in a statement.

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