Hundreds of people in Greater Sudbury gathered along Highway 17 on Friday in support of a cross-country trucker convoy enroute to Ottawa in protest of vaccine mandates.
Despite freezing cold temperatures, the sun was shining and the joy in the air was palpable – honking cars lined the roads, children played in the snow, and people young and old, vaccinated and unvaccinated, cheered as the rigs rolled through town.
The trucker convoy, which departed from western Canada on Sunday, initially hit the road in protest of a new federal policy that requires Canadian truckers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to avoid quarantine when they cross the United States border.
But the protest quickly gained momentum across the country as it struck a chord with many Canadians who feel they have suffered as a result of government policies during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Their anger might be the driving force behind Freedom Convoy 2022, but those who lined the streets on Friday expressed another feeling altogether.
“I was driving around this morning, and I don’t know, you can just feel that the vibe is different today. I feel hope,” said Crystal Chalifoux, who stood on the Santala Road overpass in Lively to watch the convoy.
“It’s just so amazing to see so many smiling faces. I’ve been hugged at least 50 times already. You really don’t realize how much you miss something until it’s gone.”
Chalifoux said she attended the protest on Friday because she has spent two years feeling like she didn’t have a voice.
“I can’t even explain the feeling. I am crying, but it’s tears of joy. These truckers have given me the opportunity to use my voice. I can’t thank them enough and every single Canadian standing outside in these frigid temperatures to show their support,” she said.
After two years of isolation and restrictive lockdowns to curb the spread of COVID-19, Chalifoux thinks it’s time for a change.
“I am not saying there aren’t any risks with COVID-19. I don’t think that’s what any of us are saying. I think we just need to concentrate on those that are susceptible to the virus and focus our efforts there as opposed to locking down people who are healthy,” she said.
Chalifoux added that it isn’t fair for politicians to dismiss the movement based on the “inappropriate actions of a few.”
“You’re going to have people like that in any group that say or do things that are inappropriate. That can’t shadow the good work of those who do care and are working hard to make a difference,” she said.
“We don’t want any more fighting. We don’t want any more division. That’s why we’re here. We are not supporting that.”
Ed Vessel, an 81-year-old Lively resident, said he decided to attend the protest because he believes all Canadians have rights.
“I am vaccinated, but I do respect the people that don’t want to be vaccinated. I think it’s time we had some serious discussion about this,” he said.
“It’s easy to dismiss these people as radicals. But even if it’s just 20 per cent of the population – that’s pretty big. I firmly support the truckers, and I think our rights are being violated.”
One woman who works in an industry that has implemented COVID-19 vaccine mandates said that she agrees with Vessel.
“I believe in our medical freedom and our right to choose,” said Tammy Smith, who suffered a vaccine injury after receiving her second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
“I am now living with a neurological disorder because of this, so I am here to fight for my daughter’s right to choose when she comes of age and starts her career,” she said.
Smith takes issue with the way that vaccine injuries are being handled in Sudbury. In particular, she said the health unit offered her little in terms of follow up and even recommended that she get her booster dose.
“Now I know that if I give my daughter a shot, and she becomes injured, nobody’s going to take care of her but me. There’s no compensation fund unless you’ve suffered a severe injury,” she said.
“I’ve been forced to just deal with it – to live and work and try to get through the next four years until I am eligible for my pension.”
Crowds continued to grow as the day progressed, and everyone in attendance expressed a unique reason for being there. Protest signs most commonly had slogans related to freedom and unity.
Although the convoy did not arrive in Greater Sudbury until late afternoon, traffic was slowed near Coniston as vehicles lined both sides of the highway.
Drivers, however, didn’t seem to mind. Except for two passengers who made rude gestures towards the protesters, most drivers were honking in support.
“I’m out here righting for our rights and freedoms, for the freedoms of my kids and my grandkids, and everyone to follow,” said Ginette Carroll, who was protesting on Highway 17 at Second Avenue in Coniston.
“It’s not right what’s being done to us, and it’s time we fight back. I am against losing the freedom of choice. Everyone should have a right to choose. They’re taking that right away from us.”
Carroll added that she thinks it’s awesome to see such unity for a “fringe minority,” referring to remarks made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the convoy earlier this week.
“Trudeau, we’re coming for you,” she said.
Derrick, a protester who asked The Sudbury Star to use only his first name, said he hopes the Freedom Convoy 2022 will serve as a wake-up call for politicians.
“Our political leaders – municipal, provincial, and federal – have failed us. And I mean all of us,” he said.
“These are Canadians. Real, good folks. People taking time our of their day to freeze their butts off out here. We all better start digging ourselves out of this, because if not, we as a society are not going to end up in a very good place.”
The Freedom Convoy 2022 is expected to arrive in Ottawa sometime tomorrow. For more information, visit www.facebook.com/Freedom-Convoy-2022-100286905896085.
The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.
You can read more of the news on source