‘Hope this does something’: We spoke to several truckers at a Sudbury truck stop to get their thoughts on the ‘Freedom Convoy’

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The anti-vaccine mandate convoy to Ottawa 2022 is expected to reach Greater Sudbury from Sault Ste. Marie at some point on Friday morning, stopping at the Nairn Centre, west of the town

Truckers passing through Greater Sudbury earlier this week appeared largely supportive of the convoy rally to Ottawa 2022, which is expected to reach the city on Friday.

The convoy opposed to vaccination mandates is about ‘free choice,’ Edmonton-based long-distance trucker Tracey France said as he walked to his truck at the Petro Canada truck stop on Regent Street earlier this week.

“If you don’t want something stabbed in your body, they shouldn’t,” he said, adding that although he was vaccinated against COVID-19, he is no longer convinced that it had a lot of impact.

After all, he said, people who have been vaccinated against the virus can still get it – a point that ignores the fact that the unvaccinated are statistically at a level greatest risk to face serious consequences if they contract the virus.

The convoy of Canadian truckers is on its way to Ottawa and is expected to pass through Greater Sudbury on Friday, after a scheduled stop at the Nairn Centre, west of the city, for a 10 a.m. muster.

While rally attendees shared various messages along their journey across the country, their primary stated goal is to oppose COVID-19 vaccination mandates at the Canada-US border. In conversation with a reporter, Jason LaFace, a Sudbury man who is the lead convoy organizer in Ontario, also likened the mask mandates to Nazi Germany.

Sudbury.com visited the Petro Canada truck stop on Regent Street earlier this week to gauge trucker support for the convoy. Most truckers shared France’s sentiment that vaccines are ineffective and should not be mandatory.

A notable exception was Brampton trucker Raman Brar, who said he was fully vaccinated and was waiting for an opportunity to get vaccinated.

The vast majority of truckers are vaccinated, he said, adding that the unvaccinated shouldn’t be too big of a problem.

While he believes messages from health professionals who say the vaccine will make the pandemic safer for everyone, he said: “We can’t change everyone’s mind.

Although some truckers approached by Sudbury.com expressed complete disinterest in the issue, the rest of those willing to speak up said they opposed the mandate.

Their belief in the efficacy of the vaccine varied.

Montreal trucker Dominic Gingras said he’s still on the vaccine fence due to various reports he’s read and heard about, adding, “One thing’s for sure, I’m tired of this COVID.”

Sudbury trucker JC Gagnon said while he supports the rally, he is pessimistic it will accomplish anything. Ottawa’s “wealthy” decision makers will have left the nation’s capital by the time the convoy arrives, he said.

“I hope it does something,” he said. “We are Canada, we shouldn’t have to do anything.

Gagnon limited his work to short-haul jobs because of what he said were too many restrictions for long-haul truck drivers and the vaccine “completes the whole thing”.

He would rather quit his job than get vaccinated.

“What I’m against is dictatorship,” Straffordville-based trucker KC Fisher said, comparing things like vaccination mandates to Nazi Germany.

“I thought we had won World War II.”

It’s all about personal choice, said Arthur-based trucker Willy Gingrich.

“You should be free to do what you do,” he said, adding that people’s livelihoods are at stake. Although his job doesn’t require him to travel across the United States, he is in solidarity with his colleagues affected by the vaccine mandate.

A spokesperson for the Ontario Trucking Association declined to comment on the convoy and said a written statement from the Canadian Trucking Alliance applied to their organization.

“The vast majority of the Canadian trucking industry is vaccinated, with the industry’s overall vaccination rate among truckers closely mirroring that of the general public,” according to the alliance statement.

“As a result, most truckers in our country continue to haul cross-border and domestic cargo to keep our economy running smoothly.

The alliance also says it strongly disapproves of any protests on public roads, highways and bridges.

“Such actions – especially those that interfere with public safety – are not how disagreements with government policies should be expressed,” according to the alliance.

“Members of the trucking industry who wish to publicly express their dissatisfaction with government policies can choose to hold an organized and legal event on Parliament Hill or contact their local MP. What is not acceptable is to disrupt the motoring public on the highways and commerce at the border.

The Ontario Trucking Association estimates the vaccination rate among truckers to be in line with the Canadian average of 80-85%.

Last week, Horizon Santé-Nord reached a record number of COVID patients admitted at the same time, at 61, more than double the number of patients hospitalized in a single day in 2020 and 2021.

Today, there were 506 COVID patients in intensive care units across Ontario and 89 new deaths reported.

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.

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