The organizer of a grassroots pro-pipeline group planning a protest convoy to Ottawa says he is unsettled that a similar movement has embraced the yellow vest as its symbol.
Canada Action founder Cody Battershill made it clear his group was troubled by the Convoy to Ottawa, which has associated itself with the yellow vest movement, which began in France in 2018 as a political movement for economic justice and has since spread to similar protests in various parts of the world.
“If they are yellow vest, we will not be doing anything with them and I’ve made that clear to them,” he said, adding if they decided to shed the moniker, he would be willing to travel together.
“For us, yellow vest is from France — we are Canadian, we are focused on Canadian families. . . . In France, they were rioting and that’s not Canadian, either.”
Both convoys are planning mid-February treks across the Prairies to Ottawa in hopes of garnering national attention to the concerns of a wounded Western Canada energy industry.
The sentiment, he said, surrounds some “very extreme opinions” held by some who identify as yellow vesters, including on immigration policy.
“It’s not accurate to say those opinions are held by all people who identify as yellow vest. People I think just always need to remain positive, inclusive and non-partisan — that is the foundation of everything Canada Action has been about since 2010.”
If people travelling with Canada Action want to wear something symbolic, Battershill recommended to “wear a hard hat, wear your work overalls but please leave your yellow vest at home.”
Battershill said he and Canada Action are focusing on what his group feels Albertans and other western Canadians need.
“We decided to do the convoy to Ottawa to ensure that when Parliament is back in session . . . we can continue to talk about the necessity to change Bill C-69, stop the Bill C-48, get Trans Mountain, Energy East approved,” he said.
The decision to create a convoy of truckers was intended to drive home the importance of the energy sector, he said.
“I think it’s important to note this is a sign of the level of frustration and despair people are feeling.”
Groups travelling with Canada Action will leave B.C. around Feb. 13 or 14, and are expected to depart the Calgary and Red Deer area on Feb. 15, Battershill said.
His group started a GoFundMe campaign that had raised nearly $14,000 by Saturday night. The group, however, has received private donations totalling more than $5,000 toward the convoy, Battershill said.
Convoy To Ottawa organizer Glen Carritt said he would be open to meeting with any other group heading to the nation’s capital.
“We really want all groups to work together,” he said. “We’re very open to make sure this convoy goes without a hitch. If there’s 10 groups that want to do this, I would work my hardest to facilitate all these groups to make sure we’re all on the same page.
Despite that, Carritt made it clear “our yellow vest group is non-radical, non-partisan.”
“We’re just using the symbolism of the yellow vest to help create awareness, but we are just hard-working, grassroots people trying to make a difference in our country.”
The group’s Facebook page states there’ll be zero tolerance for “degrading comments about things like race, religion, culture, sexual orientation, gender or identity.”
The desire of the Convoy to Ottawa, much like that of Canada Action, is to incite meaningful change over legal and political roadblocks facing the Trans Mountain and Energy East pipeline expansions.
“None of the truckers are taking this lightly — we’re gonna get lots of trucks, we have all kinds of support,” he said.
“We just want to make our voices heard in Ottawa, and that’s the bottom line.”
Carritt’s convoy changed its launch date from Feb. 15 to Feb. 14, after he said Canada Winter Games reached out requesting the change to better accommodate the event in Red Deer.
His group has launched two GoFundMe campaigns of their own — one to cover fuel and vehicular costs, and another to cover costs such as meals, hotels and incidentals. Between the two, more than $90,000 had been raised as of Saturday evening.
“We’ve got some big companies on board . . . and we’re getting huge momentum for this event,” Carritt said.
Both Battershill and Carritt told Postmedia they are each expecting hundreds of participants — and perhaps even a thousand travellers.
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