Offering messages of love and support, hundreds of people gathered earlier today to wish Convoy to Ottawa 2022 the best as they made their way through the Greater Sudbury area.
A group of a couple hundred people came together at Jeremy’s Truck Stop at Nairn Centre west of Sudbury to cheer on the convoy, while others gathered at other locations along its path. Passing trucks were cheered on while an Indigenous drum circle of women from various area communities offered participants their prayers.
The convoy is made up of truck drivers and their supporters who oppose vaccine mandates, particularly those in place at the Canada/U.S. border.
Holding a sign that read “Thank U / Peace Love,” Sudburian Louise Grise said that she’s someone who likes to be positive and that the division happening in society is not working.
“You just have to let people do what they want to do,” she said, adding that all this piling on one another isn’t doing anyone any good.
This message of inclusivity and support prevailed through the vast majority of those who gathered at Jeremy’s Truck Stop, where various groups of people came together with supplies for those taking part in the convoy.
A group of new friends came together at Lynda Allsop’s home in Sudbury the previous night to put together care packages. They put together 435 assorted lunch bags, including homemade muffins, water, snacks and handwritten cards of hope with “lots of love.”
The group of 11 strangers-become-friends met on Facebook and were inspired by their shared opposition to vaccine mandates and other hardships brought on as a result of COVID-related health regulations.
“We would like Canadians to become Canadian again – to become free, to have a choice for our children to be normal kids and not have to wear a mask and social distance in schools,” group member Victoria Chapman said.
“This isn’t about vaxxed or unvaxxed, even the vaccinated now can’t go out and have a restaurant meal.”
At 65 years of age, Allsop said that she knows what it means to be Canadian.
“I have seen our country falling apart as far as families fighting within families, children not being able to be children, playing sports, being free, going to school and playing with each other,” she said. “I do this for the future generations.”
Another group, this one mainly of mainly family, gathered washer fluid, food, coffee and various household supplies for convoy participants.
Included in this group was Brittany Maki and Ashley Weir, who both oppose the vaccine mandate, with Maki unvaccinated and Weir vaccinated.
“I’ll never get vaccinated,” Maki said, adding that she’s concerned about its associated health impacts.
“We eat healthy, we work out, our bodies can heal themselves.”
Weir said that she was vaccinated against her will, in that she opted to do so to avoid the consequences of various mandates now being put into place.
In August, McGill University reported that 98.6 per cent of COVID-related deaths were in unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people in Canada. By that time, 50.3 million doses had been administered in Canada and serious adverse impacts from hospitalization to death occurred in 0.006 per cent of cases.
As of today, there have been 33,368 COVID-related deaths in Canada.
The convoy was expected to arrive at Nairn Centre at 10 a.m., but by 1:15 p.m. had yet to appear in full, though a few member vehicles had begun trickling in.
The convoy split off in two directions yesterday, down Highway 17 and Highway 11, due to weather concerns and the fact they’d grown in number.
Ontario organizer Jason LaFace said that he’s been working with law enforcement and officials, including those in Ottawa, to ensure the convoy remains peaceful throughout its path.
“The mandates really taught us a lesson and it’s divided everyone over the pettiest things,” he said. “I respect your choices, if I can have my choices respected I think everybody’s getting along just fine, I think that’s the main goal, right?”
Although traffic is expected to be greatly disrupted in Ottawa by the time the convoy reaches the nation’s capital city this weekend, LaFace said they’re working with local officials to ensure essential travel, such as to medical appointments, is sustained.
LaFace has come under fire on social media in recent days for past activities, such as those in opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement, which he said shouldn’t distract from the convoy.
Admitting that he has made “stupid” mistakes in the past, he said Convoy to Ottawa 2022 is more important and that “we can do something really good together.”
Despite reports from other locations where media reported a difficult time talking to people, the majority of those gathered at today’s rally were both respectful and eager to talk.
The only exceptions were two people yelling at members of the media who gathered to cover the event, demanding they “report the truth.” One person also approached a masked reporter to claim there have been no reported cases of outdoor transmission of COVID-19. Although this is false, it is accurate to say that outdoor transmission is less likely to occur than indoors.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.