The self-proclaimed “Freedom Convoy” did not roll through Orillia today, but that didn’t stop a few dozen locals from gathering in the cold to show their support for the much-publicized protest.
Approximately 50 people rallied together Friday morning in the old Canadian Tire parking lot at the Orillia Square mall, waving homemade signs and voicing their anger at the Trudeau government’s overall handling of the pandemic. When OrilliaMatters stopped by at 9:30, there were no transport trucks and no police officers.
Spencer Verkerk, who organized the event, said lockdowns and vaccine mandates have stripped Canadians of their rights and freedoms.
“We just want love, peace, and democracy,” he said. “We want to meet with our friends in community centres. We don’t want to be a segregated society. We just want Canada back.”
The truck convoy, which is scheduled to arrive at Parliament Hill later today, began as a protest against the federal government’s vaccine mandate for all cross-border drivers. It has grown to include many others who oppose lockdowns, vaccine passports and other pandemic-related measures.
“This is a turning point in Canadian history,” Verkerk said. “People are taking the power back to the people. This is supposed to be a democracy where we vote for rules and come together as one to face challenges together.”
An Orillia resident, Verkerk says governments cannot just focus all their attention on COVID-19.
“What about the homeless people and the drug addicts?” he asked. “What about those people who need a normal society? We can’t just be focused on the one percent of the population who should be in fear of this virus.”
Among the protesters braving the minus 21 temperature was Warminster resident Dale Sedore. He said he hopes the convoy convinces Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to resign.
“We want our freedom back so we can get back to normal,” he said. “I don’t like how [Trudeau] said that us people doing this are not Canadians. He can shove that up his you know what.”
Orillia resident Jaime Arsenault was also at the gathering, handing out car stickers.
“I’m just here to show support for everybody,” she said. “I myself am not against vaccines, but I’m against the forcing of it.”
Arsenault says she has a transplant surgery scheduled for next month, and in order to undergo the operation she must be vaccinated.
“I just don’t think that’s fair,” she said. “I got my shots anyway because I had no choice, but I just wish I had a choice.”
Orillia residents Dave and Brandi Kendell were waving Canadian flags attached to hockey sticks.
“We are here to fight for our freedom because things are getting too crazy,” Dave said. “Small communities are getting ruined by these mandates. I’ve had three or four friends go down the road of suicide, so enough is enough.”
“We have our children with us because this is about our children’s future,” Brandi added.
Annette Cuppage of Orillia was holding a massive Canadian flag at the entrance of the parking lot.
“I am here to support people and not to be spreading hate, like what’s been going on in our country,” she said. “Everybody has the right to their own views whether they are acceptable or unacceptable.”
Cuppage, who is vaccinated, believes people should have the right to work and feed their families during the pandemic, whether they are vaccinated or not.
“The program of vaccinated and unvaccinated against one another doesn’t work,” she said. “Trudeau needs to sit down and listen to the people of Canada, because this is not small fringe.”
Cuppage wants Trudeau and his government to look at how many people are suffering as opposed to the number of people who are dying from COVID.
“Think of the children who are struggling,” she said. “They can’t even access youth centres which are a major resource for them to do homework, laundry, and have a meal.”
Verkerk says he and other supporters plan to continue the rally this afternoon in Bracebridge and Huntsville.