This weekend, a group of truck drivers and supporters are expected to arrive in Ottawa, Canada’s capital. They’re making the cross-country trek from all parts of Canada, in a massive protest on wheels.
Under the banner of a “Freedom Convoy,” some Canadian truck drivers are taking issue with a federal vaccine mandate, which would force them to quarantine and test for COVID-19 after crossing the border from the United States if they choose to remain unvaccinated. The mandate had already been in place for most Canadians for the past year, but truck drivers were previously exempted. That changed last week, and protests quickly followed. It’s unclear how many people will show up to protest in Ottawa.
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There have already been supply chain issues at grocery stores across Canada, with some stores missing 15 to 20 percent of their stock. The country is the sixth largest importer of food globally, with much of its produce, poultry and sugars coming from the US. During the cold winter months, Canada also imports plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables from countries such as Mexico, Chile and Brazil, most of which travels via truck or rail through the United States before arriving at the Canadian border.
One message from the protesting truck drivers has been the impact on the country’s food supply. They say with more drivers off the road or unable to cross the border, supplies are going to get even tighter. However, as the head of one Canadian chain grocer told the media, supply chain issues are already starting to get better, with more product reappearing on shelves. Instead of not enough food, he says the convoy could result in higher prices for the food that does cross the border.
Supply chain issues contributing to empty shelves in a Canadian grocery story. Photo by Emily Baron Cadloff
The convoy is set to converge on Saturday in Ottawa, where they will protest at Parliament Hill. The group has the support of several prominent politicians, including Andrew Scheer, the former leader of the opposition party. An online fundraiser for the truck drivers has raised more than $5 million, although there are reports that the funds have been frozen until there is a clear plan about how the cash will be doled out. The fundraiser was spearheaded by members of Canada’s Maverick Party, which advocates for the independence of the country’s western provinces.
The federal government has said it won’t be reversing its stance on mandatory quarantine for unvaccinated truck drivers, and the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) has condemned the protests along highways and roads that have popped up along the convoy route. The CTA has also stated that the majority of its members are fully vaccinated, which follows the general population of the country. More than 77 percent of Canadians are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and more than 83 percent have received at least one dose of the vaccine.