Hundreds of Maritimers gather along highways Thursday in support of the 'freedom convoy'
Hundreds of Maritimers lined highways, packed parking lots and showed their support on Thursday for the rally of truckers headed to Ottawa in protest of Canada-wide COVID-19 mandates.
Truck drivers from as far away as Newfoundland and Labrador converged in Enfield, N.S., early Thursday morning to receive a sendoff from hundreds who braved the cold.
"This is a country which today has come together in unity to stand for freedom. We are going to Ottawa to end the mandates and get our rights back so people can go to work again," said Martin Broadmann, president of Truckers United.
On Jan. 15, Canada began to require all travellers, including essential workers like truck drivers, to show proof of vaccination when crossing the border. The United States imposed a similar requirement on truckers crossing the northern border with Canada and the southern border with Mexico as of Jan. 22.
Many truckers have since expressed their anger with the federal government's mandate.
"I don't think it reflects what Canada is about, to be honest," said Jean-Marc Picard, the executive director of Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association, about the protest.
Truck drivers from across Canada and their supporters are expected to arrive in Ottawa over the coming days as part of the rally.
Beverley Nicol, a Moncton, N.B., resident, was one of many who gathered along an overpass just outside of the city on Thursday in support of the "freedom convoy."
"I want to support the truckers who are standing up for our rights and freedoms to have choice, vaccine choice, and not be forced to follow government regulations," said Nicol.
Despite the number of supporters who showed up across the region on Thursday, Picard doesn't expect many Maritime truck drivers will actually be involved with the freedom rally.
"For the most part, I don't think there's going to be a huge number of Atlantic Canada, of truck drivers," said Picard. "There might be people going on the convoy, but they're not necessarily part of trucking."
Don Desserud, a political science professor at the University of Prince Edward Island, says mixed messaging can be an issue with protests of this size, when multiple groups are involved.
"What protesters have to do is be absolutely clear about what exactly it is that they're concerned about because that could easily be misconstrued and then the wrong approach is taken, the wrong response is taken, which is not really what they're after," said Desserud.
As far as supply chain issues caused by the freedom convoy, Picard says so far, there seem to be no disruptions. However, he is concerned about protests planned for this weekend, which could potentially see blockades at the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border.
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