A convoy of a few dozen passenger vehicles supporting protests against new pandemic restrictions by some Canadian truckers left Reece’s Corners and travelled back and forth on a section of Highway 402 through Sarnia.
The vehicles, some decorated with signs and flags, left the truck stop at Reece’s Corners Sunday at about 8 a.m. and headed west on the highway to Sarnia, followed by an OPP vehicle.
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A social media post described it as a Canada Unity Sarnia Convoy with a “slow roll” through Sarnia over the coming days in support of truck drivers crossing the country to Ottawa in protest over pandemic rules.
The West Region provincial police said in a statement: “The OPP is aware of the event and continues to monitor its progress in an effort to ensure public safety.”
Police added the public would be advised of “any potential traffic disruptions.”
Carl, an organizer of the Sarnia event who declined to give his full name, said, the intent of the protest was to “support of the entire convoy coming in from the west.”
He said the local convoy would travel Highway 402 “peacefully and respectfully.”
Another convoy, dubbed The Convoy For Freedom 2022 , was set to leave B.C. on Sunday. Convoy organizers plan to arrive in Ottawa on Jan. 29, where truckers from other provinces will join in the protest against a federal vaccine mandate.
This new policy requires drivers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to cross the Canada-U.S. border.
“I know a lot of drivers who are impacted by this. It has basically removed them from the workforce,” B.C. truck driver Colin Valentim told the Vancouver Sun.
Valentim will lead the B.C. leg of the convoy taking the western route and expects to be accompanied by others along the way. Two other convoys have different starting points: The eastern route is to begin on Jan. 27 in Enfield, N.S. The southern route will leave on the same day from Windsor, Ont.
A group is also expected to leave Sarnia on Jan. 27 to travel to Ottawa, Carl said.
He said the Sarnia event is protesting all COVID mandates, not just the vaccine mandate for truckers.
“It’s about front-line workers; it’s about curfews; lockdowns, all of it,” he said.
The group left the truck stop Sunday following one transport truck, with a second truck at the rear of the convoy.
The decision for Canadian truckers to meet in Ottawa to protest the vaccine mandate comes as the industry struggles with issues, such as disruptions to the supply chain and a shortage of drivers.
The federal vaccine mandate could result in a loss of 12,000 to 16,000 cross-border commercial drivers, according to the Canadian Trucking Alliance .
The mandate came into effect on Jan. 15, which means Canadian truckers must show proof of vaccination to avoid taking COVID-19 tests before reaching the border. They will also have to quarantine when they return from the United States. American truckers who are unvaccinated will not be allowed to enter.
On Wednesday, a group of truck drivers protested the mandate at the U.S.-Manitoba international border, blocking the highway and slowing traffic.
The U.S. imposed a vaccine mandate at its borders on the weekend.
The trucking alliance issued a statement Saturday saying it does not support “and strongly disapproves of any protests” on public roadways.
“The Government of Canada and the United States have now made being vaccinated a requirement to cross the border,” said alliance president Stephen Laskowski. “The regulation is not changing so, as an industry, we must adapt and comply with this mandate.”
The alliance said “the vast majority” of Canada’s trucking industry is vaccinated, with the overall vaccination rates among truckers closely mirroring the general public.
“Accordingly, most of our nation’s hard-working trucks drivers are continuing to move cross-border and domestic freight to ensure our economy continues to function,” the alliance said.
With files from The National Post