A convoy of truck drivers and their supporters spent much of Monday driving up and down Highway 75 near the border crossing in Emerson, Man. in protest of vaccine mandates.
While the vehicles moved up and down the road, a group of supporters set up shop to hand out refreshments for those involved in the protest.
Joe Peters, a truck driver, doesn’t agree with the mandate, saying he should have the freedom to choose whether or not they get vaccinated.
“I can’t cross,” he said. “I’ve been off for a couple of weeks already, and it’s affecting not just me, it’s my choice to get vaccinated or not. I have no problem with somebody doing it, but nobody is going to force me or you to do it.”
Over the weekend, a convoy of trucks and supporters drove through Winnipeg to protest the mandate that all Canadian truck drivers crossing the border must be fully vaccinated—or quarantine for two weeks when they return. The Manitoba rally coincided with a national convoy arriving in Ottawa, where some people were seen waving swastika flags and dancing on top of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier memorial.
Politicians in Manitoba were disturbed by the imagery.
“Manitobans were outraged and upset to see Nazi flags and other symbols of hate in our own province and our nation’s capital,” said Nahanni Fontaine, NDP MLA for St. John’s, in a statement. “Political leaders have a moral responsibility to condemn violence, discrimination and misinformation in all forms.”
Fontaine said she believes those who started the convoy are using the trucker issue as a guide, sentiments echoed by Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont.
“I’m sure that many supporters of this protest don’t know that the people who organized it aren’t truckers. I’m sure they don’t know they have a history of radical right-wing extremism, but politicians should,” he said.
Lamont said it is dangerous when politicians voice their support for these extreme views.
“It validates that extremism, and that hate, that are based on a pile of ideas that just aren’t true,” he said.
In a statement, Premier Heather Stefanson said her government believes in the right to protest peacefully.
“However, we do not condone the use of anti-Semitic, racist imagery and desecration of war memorials or statues,” she said.
At the Emerson border, Peters said the supporters he is with are peaceful, and have a simple message.
“We want all mandates, all these restrictions to be dropped,” he said. “It’s not just the border crossing for truckers.”