A Vernon truck driver who is part of the Freedom Convoy in Ottawa says what’s needed to end the days-long stalement is a concrete plan from the federal government to end COVID-19 mandates.
Jeff Gaudry has been parked on Wellington Street across from Parliament Hill since the convoy first took hold of downtown Ottawa on Saturday, Jan. 29.
He says like other convoy members, he’d rather be back home with his family, but won’t budge until Prime Minister Justin Trudeau agrees to meet with protesters, hear their message and ultimately commit to an end date for COVID-19 mandates.
“I have a wife and kids back home who would love for me to hop in my truck and leave today, but what it comes down to is we need a solid, concrete commitment from our federal government,” he told the Morning Star.
The convoy started out as a protest against mandated vaccination for cross-border travel, which affects truckers in particular. But the movement quickly expanded into a protest against COVID-19 mandates in general.
Gaudry says he’s been against mandates from the beginning, but the implementation of a vaccine passport program was a tipping point for him.
“Early on I think most of us supported the government because nobody knew what was going on, there was no data or anything,” Gaudry said. “But I believe that the passport system was a direction we should have never gone in this country.”
Asked why the convoy is mistrustful of public health experts, Gaudry said that Canadians “are smart people” and know how to protect themselves from COVID-19.
“I definitely respect public health officials, but it doesn’t mean that that’s the end-all. If the majority of intelligent Canadians know where we’re at — and these are vaccinated and unvaccinated people — and they want change and they want to move on, then we need to respect that.”
On Friday Ottawa police announced they are deploying 150 extra police officers to central areas of the city to focus on mischief, harassment, threats and other intimidating behaviour — this after criticism that the police have been too lenient with protesters.
“I got five fist bumps and a high five from cops this morning,” said Gaudry, who added the mood of the convoy is one of positive energy.
He says it’s a shame that there have been some bad actors, including those who decorated a Terry Fox monument with protest signage.
“Personally I’ve done 30 hours of live feed since I got here and I have not once seen anything negative in my eyes.”
He also empathizes with Ottawa residents who have been subjected to days of gridlock and loud honking, but says Parliament Hill is Canada’s place to voice opinions.
“We totally understand the people of Ottawa are stuck in the middle. But what it comes down to is this is the nation’s capital, this is all our capital, this is where we come to let (politicians) know our opinions if they choose to ignore those opinions.”