‘Freedom’ protesters are angry and return to Ottawa


The horn. The Bellows of « Freedom! » The tractor-trailers that clutter the streets around Parliament Hill. For three weeks this winter, this scene was a crisis for police, politicians and residents of downtown Ottawa that only ended after the federal government invoked the Measures Act. urgency, never used before, to erase what he described as a dangerous and damaging illegal demonstration.

But for Terri Haydar, the so-called « freedom convoy » was something else entirely. It was simply magnificent.

« It was one of the most wonderful experiences I’ve had in my life, » Haydar, a 66-year-old former corrections officer, recalled on the phone in Toronto on Tuesday.

« It was people hugging, just coming together, » she said. “There was so much joy. The excitement in the air was electric.

Now she’s coming back for more. Armed with misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, pandemic conspiracy theories and a deep belief that the federal government has trampled on basic individual freedoms in this country, various groups are organizing a return of this “freedom” movement to the capital. for Canada Day. It’s a sign that, for the likes of Haydar, the convoy’s cause hasn’t wavered as the health measures he was ostensibly launched to protest — mask requirements, vaccine passports, and mandates in federal workplaces – have been lifted.

Haydar is among those considering returning, while others who visited Ottawa last winter say they still believe, for various reasons, that their trip is necessary, even if they don’t return. themselves during the Canada Day long weekend. Indeed, the “freedom movement” is hardly homogeneous, with high-level leaders who dispute their reasons for being and their objectives.

As the national coordinator of a group called the Mama Bears Project, Haydar said she was hosting a picnic — “not a protest” — to celebrate “family unity” in Strathcona Park in Ottawa. In his mind, the lockdowns and other health restrictions imposed during the pandemic were unjustified and caused undue harm to children and families. Yet her grievances extend to burning doubts about the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines, which she falsely claimed was an “experimental injection.” She also generally objected to what she would only describe as « very disturbing » material taught to children in public schools under the « disguise of sex education ».

Haydar said she hopes the « freedom » movement that began with the convoy will lead to « a country where our Charter rights are not violated, where family unity is central and with good Christian values ».

Others involved in the “freedom movement,” such as a Toronto man named Ryan Penn, see Canada as a country degraded by corrupt institutions, from the financial and medical systems to the political process, that need reform. Penn, a volunteer with a group that speaks out against pandemic restrictions called Take Action Canada, said he attended the convoy protests in February to « testify » to what he believes is an abuse of power by the the police under the Emergencies Act.

While unable to attend Canada Day events in Ottawa, Penn said the « celebrations » he expects will include « ordinary, peace-loving, freedom-promoting Canadians » who want to pay homage to a « once great » country. He argued that the move was necessary to combat the alleged erosion of personal freedom, pointing to the use of the Emergencies Act to freeze protesters’ bank accounts during the convoy and federal legislation to regulate content in line.

“The rally in Ottawa is more about the erosion of our fundamental freedoms and the seemingly duly elected dictatorship that the Trudeau government has imposed on the rest of the population,” Penn said. He explained that he considers it undemocratic for a government to pass laws when it received votes from a minority of the population in the last federal election.

Contacted on Tuesday, Public Security Minister Marco Mendicino’s officer referred to comments from last week. The minister said it was « troubling that some are fanning the flames » and that the government would give police the tools and support they need to ensure public safety as we celebrate Canada Day.

The police, meanwhile, are preparing to ensure that the upcoming protests do not turn into another week of occupation of the city center. Steve Bell, Ottawa’s acting police chief, said Monday that local police have called in the Mounties and the Ontario Provincial Police for reinforcements and plan to have riot squads, d officers and tow trucks.

They also intend to prevent vehicles from parking as part of any protests in a « control zone » around Parliament Hill, Bell said.

One of the groups organizing events in Ottawa is Veterans for Freedom, which includes convoy spokesman Tom Marazzo on its steering committee, as well as Edward Cornell, a retired soldier who says his bank account has been frozen during the protests. He was denied the opportunity to appear at the public inquiry into the use of the Emergencies Act in a decision by the judge who led it on Monday.

The group did not return interview requests from The Star this week.

However, in a YouTube interview posted earlier this month, band organizer Andrew MacGillivray described plans to set up a logistics center called « Camp Eagle » on private property somewhere outside of Israel. Ottawa. In addition to Canada Day events, including a welcome march for a man marching across Canada to speak out against vaccination mandates, MacGillivray said they plan to hold events in Ottawa throughout the year. ‘summer.

He also professed intolerance for any calls for violence within the movement and said his group would uphold Mahatma Gandhi’s principles of peaceful protest.

Recently, some prominent members of the movement warned their followers to avoid Mark Chilcott, a former stripper and self-proclaimed “inspirational speaker” better known as Marcus Anthony Ray.

Ray, who was in Ottawa during the February occupation, says he rounded up former military and law enforcement personnel to prevent the « takeover » of the country and to « protect the children. »

Ray, who goes by the name « Wolf » on his TikTok channel which has more than 94,000 subscribers, has been criss-crossing Western Canada for months organizing rallies. His events feature common anti-vaccine and anti-warrant conspiracy theories, including how the World Economic Forum is taking over Canada, and he suggests violence may be inevitable.

« I can walk out in a blaze of glory holding the Canadian flag, may my children remember it, » he told a crowd in April in British Columbia, wearing his cowboy hat and boots. black. He claimed he had « thousands » of ex-servicemen and police officers ready to go.

“Everyone trained and trained for weeks from Ottawa. So you have a trained group of people who are going to stop this in its tracks,” he said.

In later speeches and in emailed newsletters, Ray says he does not advocate violence, in part because it would turn the police against the movement, but that his « constitutional sheriffs » will fight back.

« If we back down that day, if we decide to back up when they (the police) come towards us, which I hope they won’t do, but if they do and we decide to back up, then (my grandson) won ‘have no chance,’ he told a small-town Manitoba crowd on June 11.

At that rally, Ray said his group of « sheriffs » purchased gear, including uniforms and shields. He said he intended to ask Ottawa police to ‘join forces’ so they could ‘go get some Silly Socks’ – the nickname he gave to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – and the premiers to bring them to justice.

Although his rallies, which sometimes draw a hundred or more, and his extensive social media suggest he has a following, it’s unclear how many people have joined his ‘sheriffs’, or what their plans are for the party. from Canada.

Nonetheless, other members of the ‘freedom movement’, including former RCMP officer Danny Bulford, a key player in the February occupation of Ottawa, warned people to stay away from Ray because of its belligerent rhetoric.

In response, Ray called the freedom movement groups that criticized him corrupt.

Eddie Humphrey, a hydropower worker in Manitoba, enthusiastically participated in the convoy protests in February. At the time, he was speaking to the Star while pouring petrol from a jerrycan into a tractor-trailer parked in the street outside Parliament.

Humphrey said by phone Tuesday that he still supports « freedom » protests in Ottawa, even if he can’t get there himself. He is busy putting up electricity poles, but has expressed concern that the need for vaccines will return.

“It’s only getting worse. Beyond the pandemic measures now, it’s just government mismanagement,” he said. “We are the laughingstock of the world.


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