Explained: Behind the anti-vax truckers’ protests in Canada, a broad far right mobilisation (2023)

Nearly three weeks after dozens of trucks and tractor-trailers started to rumble into the heart of Canada’s capital to begin a bumper-to-bumper occupation of its streets, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked rarely-used emergency powers to crack down on the protests that have since morphed from a movement against vaccine mandates to a broad rightwing uprising cheered and funded by the American far right, and spurred similar protests elsewhere.

As of Tuesday, the number of vehicles in downtown Ottawa was down to 360 from the peak of about 4,000, the so-called tailgate party had lost some of its intensity, and other blockades along Canada’s border with the US had been lifted. The chief of Ottawa’s police has warned of arrests and forced evictions, and vowed to “take back every occupied space” in the “coming days”, Reuters reported.

The only other time the Emergencies Act has been used other than at war time was in 1970, by Trudeau’s father Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, after a provincial deputy premier and a British diplomat were kidnapped by Quebec separatists.

Beginning of the protest

To check the spread of the coronavirus and prevent infections from overwhelming public health systems, Trudeau’s government implemented vaccine passports, mask mandates, and other restrictions including one requiring all cross-border truckers to be fully vaccinated.

The regulation, which came into force on January 15, impacted truckers entering Canada from the United States. Unvaccinated drivers would be required to fulfill testing and quarantine requirements to cross the border. Most of the commerce between these two major trading partners is by the land route.

From January 28 onward, truckers under the banner of “Freedom Convoy 2022” began driving into Ottawa. Another group blockaded a major highway at the Coutts border crossing in Canada’s Alberta province. Protesters in pick-ups blocked the international Ambassador Bridge across the Detroit river between Detroit, Michigan, in the US, and Windsor, Ontario, in Canada, disrupting supply chains and forcing production cuts at major automobile manufacturing units in Detroit.

Changing demands

The truckers’ initial demand seeking a rollback of the vaccine mandate was dismissed by critics as pointless because of the small numbers of the impacted group. Less than 10% of Canadian truckers are unvaccinated, and unlike in the US, the public in Canada, despite harsh lockdowns, by and large supports the government’s measures. Besides, the US too has imposed a similar vaccination mandate for border crossings.

(Video) Canada's Trucker Protest: A fair and objective analysis


Soon, however, the protests in Ottawa and Alberta started to attract many non-truckers, including those whose businesses had been destroyed by the pandemic, and others who were disgruntled after being hit by hefty fines for contravening Covid-19 shutdown rules. The protesters made themselves comfortable in their heated vehicles equipped with beds, in sub-zero temperatures, and developed networks of communication and solidarity that ensured supplies such as food and diesel.

As the days passed, the numbers swelled on the streets, which were transformed into party venues with loud music and blaring vehicle horns, as the authorities, despite the massive disruption and inconvenience caused to residents and businesses, remained reluctant to take harsh action. The truckers, meanwhile, escalated their demands to a full rollback of all pandemic mandates — which Canada is in the process of doing as per a pre-decided timeline — and Trudeau’s resignation.

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Far right presence

(Video) Is Canada Exporting the "Freedom Convoy" Protests? | The Agenda


At the purported people’s movement demanding “freedom”, some extremist elements started to show up: besides aggressive anti-vaxxers, there were members of far right groups, and Nazi sympathisers. There was violence, and unmasked protesters were reported to have urinated on the city’s National War Memorial and defaced other monuments. They flew Nazi and Confederate flags, harassed local businesses and residents, and raised derogatory slogans against Trudeau.

In the province of British Columbia, an anti-mandate protester was caught on camera abusing a student with racial profanities, according to the Canadian news agency CBC News. Police recovered numerous firearms and a lot of ammunition from blockade sites in Alberta and Ottawa.

Support and funds — more than $3.6 million, according to CBC News — came from American rightwing groups and conservative politicians. The Associated Press reported, based on information posted online by a nonprofit group, that of the nearly $10 million of donations funnelled to the protesters through the website GiveSendGo, about 44% were from donors in the US. Canada has since moved to choke the funding.

Here are the campaigns that have attracted most individual donors:
#1: Freedom Convoy 2022
#2: Kyle Rittenhouse Legal Defense
#3: Support COVID19 Federal Whistleblower Jodi Omalley
#4: Facebook Whistleblower Support Fund Morgan Kahmann
#5: Pfizer Whistleblower Melissa pic.twitter.com/fbSnCdrWWx

— Micah (@micahflee) February 15, 2022

The donors included members of groups who had donated to former President Donald Trump, and rightwing TV stations such as Fox News provided sympathetic coverage and visibility to the Canadian protests. American Republican leaders such as Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, called the protesters “heroes” and “patriots”, and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky said he hoped the truckers would come to the US and similarly “clog up cities”, the AP reported.

“What this country is facing is a largely foreign-funded, targeted and coordinated attack on critical infrastructure and our democratic institutions,” Bill Blair, the Canadian minister for public safety and emergency preparedness said.
“Keep in mind that this is a small but increasingly emboldened portion of the population that is engaged in these protests. The organisers, who have long histories of far right engagement, have been adept at capturing a current of anti-state sentiment and amplifying it,” Dr Barbara Perry, Director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism at Ontario Tech University, told The Indian Express in an email.

American and Canadian rightwing groups have been aligned for years, Dr Perry said. “The Trump administration and the events of January 6 (the Capitol riots) in Washington DC exacerbated this, with many Canadian adherents supporting the insurrectionists online and organising ‘sympathy’ protests here,” she said.

(Video) Conspiracy Theorists Are Creating Their Own Nation | Decade of Hate

Echoes elsewhere


More than 79% of Canada’s eligible population is fully vaccinated and around 42% have taken booster shots. While the protests have resonated differently along regional, generational and political fault lines, an Ipsos opinion poll conducted between February 8 and 9 found that over 54% of the country felt that the demands of those participating in the convoy protests were wrong and undeserving of sympathy.

And yet, the protests are spreading. Inspired by the Canadian Freedom Convoy, anti-vaccine protesters in several developed nations, including France, New Zealand, the US, Australia, and Germany, have set up their own “convoys”. In France, a group of anti-mandate protesters announced they would ride motorcycles cross-country and converge at Paris to protest Covid-19 restrictions. In New Zealand, police arrested hundreds of people who had assembled outside the country’s parliament, pitching tents and parking vehicles to block access to the building.

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The far right’s focus on Covid-19 restrictions has resonated with many people, Dr Perry said.
“We are all anxious and tired of the restrictions on our daily lives. Most of us, however, recognise these mandates as a necessary element of the social contract. Not everyone is so disposed, especially those whose livelihoods are threatened,” she said.


What did Trudeau say about the trucker protest? ›

“People need to know that this protest doesn't represent truckers and it doesn't represent Canadians. It represents a very small, very angry group of Canadians who are really trying to lash out.” That's why, he said, the country needs “reasonable, responsible leadership that is focused on keeping Canadians safe.”

What is the right to protest in Canada? ›

Protest in itself is legal as long as you don`t break any law while you`re at it. Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees your right to protest. In some cities, you must have a protest permit. Check your community code if you plan to organize an event.

What did Trudeau call the protestors? ›

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the Ottawa protesters a “fringe minority" and said they reflected the proliferation of "disinformation and misinformation online, conspiracy theorists, about microchips, about God knows what else that go with the tinfoil hats.”

What is the trucker rule in Canada? ›

In Canada, a commercial truck driver must stop driving after: 13 hours of driving time from the end of the most recent period of 8 consecutive off-duty hours. 14 hours of on-duty time from the end of the most recent 8 consecutive off-duty hours. 70 hours over 7 consecutive days, or 120 hours over 14 consecutive days.

Why are dump trucks protesting Toronto? ›

The association is fighting for an increase in wages. Right now, dump truck drivers operate for about $95.00 an hour, but with the cost of diesel on the rise and increased insurance premiums, they say they need closer to $130.00 an hour to make ends meet.

Do US citizens have the right to protest? ›

The First Amendment protects your right to assemble and express your views through protest. However, police and other government officials are allowed to place certain narrow restrictions on the exercise of speech rights. Make sure you're prepared by brushing up on your rights before heading out into the streets.

What is the definition of peaceful protest in Canada? ›

Court rulings going back to 1982 define the right to peaceful assembly as including the right to hold a protest on public streets, to camp in a public park as a part of that protest, and the right to wear masks during a protest. While court rulings guarantee these rights of public assembly, they're not absolute.

What are the Rights of the freedom convoy? ›

The “Freedom Convoy” rallied around rights. The right not to be bossed around by government. The right to keep government from requiring people to put dangerous or iffy stuff inside their bodies. The right to express views in public, in the streets, in the mall, and on the square.

What were the occupation protests in Canada? ›

Occupy Canada was a collective of peaceful protests and demonstrations that were part of the larger Occupy Together movement which first manifested in the financial district of New York City with Occupy Wall Street, and subsequently spread to over 900 cities around the world.

What is irate protesters? ›

adjective. feeling or showing extreme anger. “irate protesters” synonyms: ireful angry. feeling or showing anger.

Can a US trucker drive in Canada? ›

The basic requirement for being a truck driver is essentially the same in the United States and in Canada: the right driver's license, with an excellent driving record to support it. Your US CDL license will likely make it easy for you to get the appropriate license in Canada (for vehicles classes 1 to 3).

Why are truckers striking? ›

The striking workers, represented by Teamster Local 135, said they want better pay, shorter work days and benefits as they clash with management during contract talks. "The key is we should be treated with respect," said Danny Edwards, a truck driver with the company for nearly three decades.

Can US trucks go into Canada? ›

They have to obtain a Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) issued carrier code. The unique code should be on your bill of lading (BOL). You and your carrier will then use two systems to get into Canada and back into the U.S.: Pre-Arrival Processing System (PAPS) and Pre-Arrival Review System (PARS).

Why are truckers blocking the port? ›

Truckers' protests over a labor law block access to Oakland's port. The truckers say they're concerned that a law classifying many freelance workers as employees could hurt their ability to operate independently.

Why are trucks stuck in Canada? ›

Trucks heading to Canada are stuck in heavy traffic after they were diverted to the Blue Water Bridge in Port Huron, Mich., Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2022, after the Ambassador Bridge was closed due to Canadian anti-vaccine protests.

Was the trucker protest violent? ›

The lawless mood at times turned dark, as protesters danced on the hallowed Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, or threatened or assaulted local workers and residents. In general, however, the media coverage of the early days of the occupation treated it as a loud but benign protest.

What is a sleeping dragon device? ›

sleeping dragon (plural sleeping dragons) A tube-shaped device that protestors attach their hands to the inside, particularly when it results in them being attached to a large object, so that they are harder to remove them from an area.

Is it illegal to block a road in Canada? ›

As discussed on the show, section 423 (1) (g) of the Criminal Code makes it an offence, punishable by up to five years in jail, to block or obstruct a highway for the purpose of compelling any other person to abstain from doing anything they that he or she has a lawful right to do, or to do anything that he or she has ...

Are immigrants allowed to protest? ›

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits the government from restricting your right to free speech. This means that you have a right to participate in political protests, marches, and demonstrations. This right applies to all residents of the U.S., regardless of immigration status.

What not to do in a peaceful protest? ›

Here's their advice. Do not go to a protest without knowing what it is you're fighting for. Don't show up and ask someone there to educate you. If you're an ally, do the work yourself and study as much as possible—not only about the actions you're protesting but the context around them.

Does Canada have freedom of protest? ›

The Canadian Charter or Rights and Freedoms is the equivalent to our Bill of Rights. Both guarantee the right to freedom of speech and the press, peaceably assemble, travel, due process, privacy, an attorney and speedy trial in criminal cases, and trial by jury in certain cases.

What happens in a peaceful protest? ›

Participants in a peaceful protest are unarmed, they do not fight back against attempts to stop their actions, and they refrain from damaging any private property.

Can you criticize the government in Canada? ›

In a democracy, people must be free to discuss matters of public policy, criticize governments and offer their own solutions to social problems. Even though these freedoms are very important, governments can sometimes limit them.

Is it illegal to truck in a convoy? ›

Most Convoys are Law-Abiding

Most convoys are peaceful and law-abiding. The police respect the rights of citizens to express their opinions in the form of a convoy as long as they are not designed to block or impede traffic, speed, or violate any other laws.

Where did the money go from the freedom convoy? ›

Approximately $18 million was refunded to donors, while the rest was confiscated and put into a third-party fund pending civil court cases. The $6.2 million that is now in escrow mostly came from online fundraisers by Tamara Lich, one of the protest's main organizers, and cryptocurrency captured by authorities.

What is the largest protest in Canada? ›

Post-summit protests

A total of 1118 people were arrested in relation to the G20 summit protests, the largest mass arrests in Canadian history, while nearly 800 of them were released without charge.

What were the workers protesting about? ›

As the pace of industrialization quickened, and profits accumulated in the hands of a few, some workers began to organize and advocate for unionization. The workers wanted more safety regulations, better wages, fewer hours, and freedom of speech and assembly.

What is the no more movement in Canada? ›

The Idle No More movement generally opposes certain types of resource exploitation, particularly on First Nations territory. The movement takes this stance against resource exploitation, as attributed to First Nations sovereignty and environmental sustainability.

What do you call someone who protests a lot? ›

protester Add to list Share.

What is the difference between protest and terrorism? ›

A terrorist is different from both a protester and a rioter in that a terrorist deliberately uses violence (or threats of it) with a motivation, usually political in nature. A rioter is engaged in a violent disturbance (a brawl, vandalism, etc.), but that disturbance does not necessarily amount to terrorism.

What is a violent protest called? ›

Violent protests are sometimes called riots.

Is there freedom of protest in Canada? ›

right to protest and conduct picket activity is legal and protected under ss. 2(b) and 2(c) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which guarantees freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly.

Do you need permission to protest in Canada? ›

You have the right to protest. That right is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, also called the Charter. The Charter protects many basic rights and freedoms for Canadians, including the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

What are the freedom Rights in Canada? ›

Fundamental Freedoms

(a) freedom of conscience and religion; (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication; (c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and. (d) freedom of association.

What is the truckers movement for justice? ›

Truckers Movement For Justice, a rank and file organization of truck drivers at all levels of the trucking industry, stands in solidarity with Railroad Workers United in a call for public ownership of the nation's railroads.

Does Canada have restrictions on freedom of speech? ›

Freedom of expression in Canada is protected as a "fundamental freedom" by section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, however, in practice the Charter permits the government to enforce "reasonable" limits censoring speech.

What are the 5 basic human rights? ›

Human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination.

What is the 5th Amendment in Canada? ›

In Canada a person has the right not to have any incriminating evidence that the person was compelled to give in one proceeding used against him or her in another proceeding except in a prosecution for perjury or for the giving of contradictory evidence.

Do Canadians have the right to bear arms? ›

DID YOU KNOW? The Supreme Court of Canada has noted on several occasions that, unlike in the United States, there is no “right to bear arms” in Canada. Relevant court cases include R. v.

What is an unlawful protest? ›

Lawful protesting includes holding signs, talking with others, and staying out of the road (unless the protests organizer has gained permission to march in the road – this frequently involves a police escort). Unlawful protesting includes breaking the law, destruction of property and lighting fires.

Why is the right to protest important? ›

The ability to protest safely is an issue that intersects with the right to be free from discrimination. People who face inequality and discrimination, based on their age, race, gender identity and many other factors, face even more dangers to their right to protest.

Is food a human right in Canada? ›

It is more specifically spelled out in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which Canada signed in 1976, and it is included in various other human rights instruments. Canada has a legal obligation to respect, protect and fulfill the right to food.

What is the most important freedom in Canada? ›

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects a number of rights and freedoms, including freedom of expression and the right to equality. It forms part of our Constitution – the highest law in all of Canada – and is one of our country's greatest accomplishments.

What is the most important law in Canada? ›

The Constitution is the supreme law of Canada; all other laws must be consistent with the rules set out in it. If they are not, they may not be valid. Since the Charter is part of the Constitution, it is the most important law we have in Canada. However, the rights and freedoms in the Charter are not absolute.


1. CBC News: The National | Troops move into Ukraine, Russia sanctioned, N.S. shooting inquiry
(CBC News: The National)
2. Dr. Justin Tetrault: Thinking Beyond Extremism: Understanding the "Freedom Convoy"'s Broader Appeal
(Centre for Criminological Research)
3. How should the left respond to the 'Freedom Convoy'?
(The Real News Network)
4. Canada's "Freedom Convoy": The Trucker Takeover Explained - TLDR News
(TLDR News Global)
5. Inside a Neo Nazi Music Festival | Decade of Hate
6. Canada's 'Freedom Convoy': Structure and Working
(International Manifesto Group)


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