Truck drivers are convoying from British Colombia to Ottawa to protest the federal vaccine mandates.
The mandates, which went into effect on Jan. 15, requires truck drivers to be fully vaccinated or submit to a two-week quarantine and pre-arrival COVID-19 test before crossing the Canadian border.
An estimated 26,000 of the 160,000 drivers who regularly make trips across the border may not be able to work due to the mandate, according to information from the Canadian Trucking Alliance and the American Trucking Association.
Trade associations from both countries say the mandate further strains an already struggling supply chain.
The United States Bureau of Transportation Statistics estimated in 2020 that every day approximately $850 million in freight is transported across the border by 30,000 trucks.
Following online outrage and dissent, the so-called “Freedom Convoy” raised over $2.5 million on GoFundMe by Jan. 23. Over 45,000 people donated to the cause. The money will cover fuel, food, and accommodation costs for those participating in the convoy.
A message in the fundraiser’s description reads, “It’s a small price to pay for our freedoms. We thank you all for your donations and know that you are helping reshape this once beautiful country back to the way it was.”
Drivers left Delta, British Columbia on Sunday and met up with additional protestors from Prince George, British Columbia in Calgary that night.
“The goal is we’re going to get [to Ottawa by next weekend] and demand these mandates get stopped,” said B.C. rally attendee Candace Hill told CBC.
On the East coast, truckers from Newfoundland and Prince Edward’s Island will meet up with convoys from New Brunswick and Quebec on Jan. 27 and Jan. 28 on the way to Ottawa.
Information about the convoy’s southern route is available online for truck drivers in Ontario.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance, which represents carriers, owner-operators, and industry suppliers, voiced its collective disapproval of the protest in a statement on Jan. 23.
The CTA said “disrupting the motoring public on highways and commerce at the border” was unacceptable.
“The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) does not support and strongly disapproves of any protests on public roadways, highways, and bridges,” the organization said. “CTA believes such actions – especially those that interfere with public safety – are not how disagreements with government policies should be expressed.”
Instead of the convoy, the CTA said that “members of the trucking industry who want to publicly express displeasure over government policies can choose to hold an organized, lawful event on Parliament Hill or contact their local M.P.”
“The Government of Canada and the United States have now made being vaccinated a requirement to cross the border. This regulation is not changing so, as an industry, we must adapt and comply with this mandate,” said CTA president Stephen Laskowski. “The only way to cross the border, in a commercial truck or any other vehicle, is to get vaccinated.”
The CTA said most drivers are already vaccinated.
The organization’s statement did not appear to dissuade the participants.
“We’re not backing down, and we are going to Ottawa,” said Tamara Lich, a protest organizer from Medicine Hat, Alberta, during a Facebook Live video on Jan. 23.
The total number of participants is expected to grow as fleets of drivers will join the convoy in the coming days. The truckers are set to reach the nation’s capital on Jan. 29. They will then hold a rally protesting the vaccination requirement.