NORTH BATTLEFORD ‑‑ Semi trucks draped in Canadian flags and in anti-lockdown messages rolled through North Battleford Monday afternoon.
The protest was a component of the national Convoy for Freedom happening this week on various routes across the country. Jan. 24, it was Saskatchewan's turn, as a Lloydminster-to-Regina Freedom Convoy took place. The route commenced in Lloydminster at around 10 a.m., making its way into North Battleford just past 1 p.m.
Shortly before 2 p.m., the convoy departed on the Highway 16 bypass to Saskatoon enroute to Regina.
The large convoy of trucks and vehicles made their way off of Highway 16 and into the Petro-Canada lot, to the cheers of a large crowd of supporters lining the highway.
Following a break of several minutes, the convoy departed, again to the cheers and honking of horns of those in attendance.
The convoy was organized in opposition to mandatory federal vaccine mandates for drivers.
A GoFundMe drive to raise $4 million has been organized to assist with costs of fuel and lodging. Organizer Tamara Lich explained the reason behind the convoy at that page:
"To our fellow Canadians, the time for political over reach is over. Our current government is implementing rules and mandates that are destroying the foundation of our businesses, industries and livelihoods. Canadians have been integral to the fabric of humanity in many ways that have shaped the planet."
(Note: GoFundMe has frozen the funds: https://www.sasktoday.ca/the-mix/trucker-convoys-45-million-in-fundraising-frozen-by-gofundme-4990303
This convoy has not been without controversy, with critics blasting the protest for promoting an anti-vax message.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance has issued a news release condemning the protest, saying the vast majority of the Canadian trucking industry is vaccinated at a rate mirroring the general public.
"The Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) does not support and strongly disapproves of any protests on public roadways, highways and bridges. CTA believes such actions – especially those that interfere with public safety – are not how disagreements with government policies should be expressed. 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 MP. What is not acceptable is disrupting the motoring public on highways and commerce at the border."
The association's president, Stephen Laskowski, said in a statement that 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."
"The only way to cross the border, in a commercial truck or any other vehicle, is to get vaccinated.”
The Maverick Party has also issued a statement on the trucker protest. Interim Leader Jay Hill stated, "Maverick Party is not directly involved in the Freedom Convoy, although some Maverick members and supporters have chosen to support the convoy. Maverick does not support anti-vaccination but does support freedom of choice and a citizen's right to decide what they do with their own bodies. Maverick supports Canadian's right to participate in peaceful protest when they feel compelled to draw their government's attention to important issues. Like the majority of Canadians, most Maverick members have chosen to be vaccinated, some have not. Our party will not condemn either for their choice."