The Canada trucker protest against COVID-19 mandates has been simmering for weeks, crippling across three US borders with no end in sight.
So, what are the demonstrations about? Who is leading the protest? How is it disrupting US-Canada trade? And can similar protests flame up in other countries?
Why are the Truckers Protesting?
About two weeks ago, Ottawa saw the Freedom Convoy protests sparked by a mandate requiring cross-border truckers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The protest reflects frustration with the pandemic-related limits imposed in the last couple of years and less a reaction to last month’s mandate.
Also Read: End of the Pandemic: Can We Live with COVID?
The public has been subjected to the imposition and removal of restrictions in ways that haven’t always made sense. Nevertheless, Canadian federal and provincial governments should be commended, as those restrictions have helped keep the country’s COVID-19 death rate to halt at about one-third that of the United States.
This has therefore been a success in terms of public health. Nevertheless, a lot of Canadians are frustrated by the ongoing restrictions.
The Evolutions of the Canada Trucker Protest
In January, the Freedom Convoy of truckers began protesting in the western provinces of Canada to reach Ottawa and continue to protest until the vaccine mandate is lifted.
The protest has attracted the support of thousands of Canadians, including some fully vaccinated individuals, who are calling for all Covid-19 preventative measures to be dropped. This includes mask mandates, lockdowns, and gathering restrictions.
Ottawa was descended upon by hundreds of loud trucks and other vehicles on January 29. They have honked and snarled traffic since then. On Thursday, protesters with over 60 trucks circling the arrivals and departure terminals at vehicles International Airport also disrupted traffic, airport officials report.
Who is leading the Canada trucker protest?
Formerly narrowly focused, the protests have become a dispersed movement supporting, in some cases, far-right, anti–government grievances.
“Freedom Convoy” organizer Tamara Lich is the key organizer of the protest. She has formerly worked as the secretary of the right-center group of the Maverick Party, which was working to separate the three western Prairie provinces from the rest of Canada.
“Our departure will be based on the prime minister doing what is right, ending all mandates and restrictions on our freedoms.”Tamara Lich
One of the main organizers of the truck convoy is a group called Canada Unity, led by James and Sandra Bauder.
The Impact on US-Canada Trade
In terms of disruption, the blockade of the Ambassador Bridge (which links Detroit and Windsor) is by far the most significant. This bridge has no alternatives, which carries about 25 percent of U.S.-Canadian trade.
Since 1965, the auto industry has relied on the bridge for cross–border trade. As a result, plants that operate on a “just-in-time” basis may suffer disruptions by even modest delays in transporting parts; indeed, some disruptions have already occurred.
Because of the closure, the United States is getting involved since there are significant economic repercussions for the United States.
For Ottawa, Canada’s reputation is a major concern. However, Canadians are also concerned about the long-term impact of their role in emerging supply chains.
The Trudeau government is concerned about the “Buy American” mandates of the Biden administration and the possibility that heavy subsidies for US manufacturing of electric vehicles and batteries could force Canadian manufacturers out of business.
Therefore, Canada has deep concerns about its reputation as a reliable supplier. It does not wish to give the United States the slightest reason to doubt its reliability. Canada’s economy faces such a serious threat that governments are under pressure to act.
Canada trucker protest: Not Just COVID Mandates
People often come together in protests around legitimate political issues, such as how tough or long the COVID restrictions should be or whether vaccinations should be mandatory.
However, it is easy to find more extreme views and misinformation beneath the surface, such as that shared by the convoy’s organizers.
For example, video footage from 2019 shows organizer Pat King discussing a “plan to depopulate the Caucasian race… the ones with the strongest bloodlines”.
Thousands of online groups also shared posts criticizing the police’s handling of the convoy, along with false claims that the Covid vaccine was “poison” and an alleged plan to introduce the vaccine to New Zealand’s drinking water.
When people join groups sympathetic to truckers’ grievances, for instance, against vaccine mandates, they can quickly become exposed to more fringe or distorted information.
For similar reasons, more countries are on the verge of breaking into such protests.
Will Similar Protests Erupt in other Countries?
A significant risk exists for that to occur. In the US, right-wing news coverage and protests inspired by Freedom Convoys have shown that Canada has become a model for the right-wing worldwide and that the convoys can be used as effective pressure tactics on governments. So there’s definitely a risk of copycats. Already, they’re popping up.
Fortunately, other governments know what to do. In the United States, both the federal and state governments are prepared to deal with any convoys before they are established. In addition, almost all countries, including the United States and Canada, have laws against blocking public roads.
Protests are likely to continue. A number of prominent far-right figures, including those in the United States, Australia, and Germany, have praised the demonstrations. New Zealand and Australia have already seen copycat protests.