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Regular vehicles far outnumber rigs as 'Freedom Convoy' departs Thunder Bay

The Freedom Convoy 2022 is an ongoing protest that started in opposition to a federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate for cross-border travel, but has grown to encompass other issues, pandemic-related and otherwise

THUNDER BAY – A convoy protesting COVID-19 restrictions headed to Ottawa made an overnight stop in the Thunder Bay area.

Organizers refused to speak with local media and when asked, threatened reporters with trespassing charges, on land they did not own, after calling the reporters “dirty communists” and telling them to “go find a new country” in a verbal confrontation.

The convoy, which is reported to be over 17 kilometres long, began in protest of vaccine mandates for truckers returning to Canada, and grew to include protesters of a wide range of COVID-19 restrictions.

It was funded in part by a GoFundMe started by Tamara Lich, the secretary of the western separatist Maverick Party, though the party has denied involvement, stating Lich is operating on her own.  

More than $5.9 million was raised from more than 76,000 donors, but GoFundMe has temporarily frozen the funds, seeking clarification on how the money would be disbursed. 

The first convoy departed Prince Rupert, B.C. on Jan. 22 and arrived at a truck stop at Twin City Crossroads on West Arthur Street at about 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday evening, with plans to depart the city on Thursday morning. About 113 transports and 276 other vehicles crossed the Ontario border as part of the convoy, according to the Ontario Provincial Police. 

On Nov. 19, 2021, the Public Health Agency of Canada announced upcoming adjustments to Canada's border measures including the requirement for essential service providers, including truck drivers, to be fully vaccinated after January 15, 2022.

The United States Department of Homeland Security previously announced on Oct. 29 that proof of vaccination would be required to enter the United States starting in January 2022.

The protest convoy has been condemned by the Canadian Trucking Alliance and the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association.

“The Government of Canada and the United States have now made being vaccinated a requirement to cross the border. This regulation is not changing so, as an industry, we must adapt and comply with this mandate,” said CTA president Stephen Laskowski.

“The only way to cross the border, in a commercial truck or any other vehicle, is to get vaccinated.”

The protest convoy has also been condemned by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, though some MPs, including former Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, have shown support. Scheer attended a gathering in Saskatchewan in support of the convoy. 

The convoy is expected to arrive in the Sudbury region on Friday morning, with a planned stop at Jeremy's Truck Stop in Nairn Centre.