On Friday, January 28, people from West Nipissing stood for hours in parking lots and on embankments, in temperatures hovering around -25C, to greet and support the trucker’s convoy making its way to Ottawa.
The gatherings were not huge, but they were significant. Driving from Verner, a largish group gathered in the parking lot of The Cutter’s Edge. Along Hwy 17 to Cache Bay there were a few smaller family groups, and in Sturgeon Falls itself the crowd became more significant, lining both sides of Front Street. The convoy supporters started gathering around 11:30 in the various locations as regional social media instructed that the trucks were expected around 11:45. However, it took several more hours for the convoy to arrive. Indications were that there were several delays along the Hwy 17 route. The convoy itself did not come in as one large parade, but sporadically, and mostly consisted of pick-ups wielding flags, banners, and other signage. They did receive the enthusiastic support of many West Nipissing residents carrying and posting Canadian flags, and the supporters in turn received acknowledgement with drivers blasting their horns in response.
Among the supporters there were signs which decried vaccine mandate policies, supported body autonomy, cries for freedom of choice, and other signs or flags which angrily and/or insultingly targeted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the media, politicians in general. One group had signs supporting the PPC (People’s Party of Canada), others floated Canadian flags held upside down. There was a mix of messages, both from those lining the streets and messages on the trucks coming through, ranging from the primary cause of removing mandatory vaccine requirements as public policy to others which promoted the idea that the vaccines are part of a more sinister objective and that the pandemic itself was fake.
The majority of people on the sides of the road were expressing support for the idea of maintaining freedom in Canada. None of the protesters seen by Tribune photographers were wearing masks or practicing social distancing. While there was a small percentage of signage which was uncivil and inflammatory, the majority of supporters were civil and cheerful in exercising their freedom of speech and protest. There also seemed to be a sense of overwhelming frustration at the disruptions caused through the process of dealing with the pandemic, a frustration that brought people out. For many it was a day of joyful expression of solidarity across Canada.