To say that the Freedom Convoy headed out to Ottawa has caused its fair share of controversy is an understatement. From photos are people carrying anti-semitic flags around the protests to dancing on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to defacing the statue of Terry Fox, some haunting images have been making their way around social media since the protest started Saturday.
While there's no denying the convoy has had its issues, the core message still remains the same: end mandates across the country that restrict people from working or from opening their business, crossing the border, having full capacity events, or anything else that restricts the freedom of Canadians.
"The catalyst that started the avalanche if you will was the cross border trucker mandate," says part owner of Reiver Equipment in Kindersley Anna Tarves who's been at the convoy in Ottawa since it began on Saturday. "This movement is not about that specific mandate, and it is certainly not an anti-vaccine movement. I would say the majority of people here are vaccinated. What this movement stands for is freedom to choose whether you get vaccinated or whether you don't, freedom to be able to move around the country, freedom to live our lives."
Starting on Monday of last week, Tarves drove one of the two company trucks out from Kindersley to join the northern convoy swing coming through Saskatoon, and from there they continued on to the nation's capital. While it can be easy to paint the entire convoy as a terrible movement due to the images of Confederate and Nazi flags being flown by protesters, Tarves says that for those who are actually present the situation is much different, and more sensible protesters are actually doing things to clean up after some of the trouble makers.
"There's been basically instant condemnation from anybody in the actual convoy when any of this is seen, that is not the message that we're here for. That's not what we support in any way, shape, or form. These are people that have worked their way into it and are not part of the convoy and are here just to instigate trouble."
Tarves continued, "The truckers have banded together and cleaned the War Memorial, they cleaned the Terry Fox statue, there's people that take turns just standing there watching it and keeping an eye on things and guarding it to make sure that none of that is done. There's been money raised for a reward to identify the individuals who are carrying those flags and to try to figure out who it was so that they can be held accountable."
Another issue that's been brought up has come from Ottawa natives who have been upset with the noise. Reports have come out from locals close to the downtown area of Ottawa who've been unable to access parts of the downtown area or have been kept up by the noise. In Tarves' experience, the local reception in Ottawa has been mostly positive with locals bringing food and messages of support.
"That's kind of the definition of a protest, you're inconveniencing people to make your point comes across. So yeah, that does happen and I'm sure it's not great listening to airhorns constantly if you live downtown, but the point does seem to be getting across."
"From the locals that I have talked to, everybody is very supportive. The majority in terms of trucks and noise is contained to the downtown area, and I understand there are people that live there and I'm sure that it would be getting annoying on a certain level. When you live downtown of the capital city, that probably is something you just going to have to deal with that usually, but the people I've talked to who are coming out to support are coming in from other areas of Ottawa. Everybody has been very supportive, everybody is very enthusiastic, and there hasn't been a whole lot of of disgruntled rumblings that I've heard."
Speaking of support, not only has there been support from the local Ottawa level, but the drive out was one of the more inspiring experiences of Tarves' life. Communities from Kindersley all the way to Ottawa had people lined up along the highway to show their support.
"It was incredible.... The convoy would be slowing to a crawl and you'd be trying to figure out what's going on, and then you realize when you get up to or what's going on is that there's locals running both sides of the road frisbeeing sandwiches through your open window and lunch kits. They'd toss washer fluid and def fluid, anything that they could help to give people as we went by. It was just mind-blowing the amount of support and enthusiasm that people had for this movement."
Most mandates have been put into effect by the provincial governing bodies, and there have been protests held in some of the capitals of provinces around the country. While there is no guaranteed connection, the noise made in Ottawa may be having some influence over the changes in the provinces as since the convoy has begun, the province of Saskatchewan has announced plans to end all mandates in the province, and Quebec has scrapped plans for a tax on unvaccinated residents in the province, but again this is a case of correlation vs causation.
"This isn't a violent thing. Those people with those racist flags are not representing what we stand for."
While some truckers are leaving Ottawa to come home for works obligations, other truckers are currently making their way towards the nation's capital to take their place and continue the protests. If Tarves and many others have their way, the protests will continue in as peaceful manner as possible until mandates around the country are lifted.