Convoy arrives in Ottawa for rally following cross-country trek
Published Tuesday, February 19, 2019 10:39AM EST Last Updated Tuesday, February 19, 2019 12:48PM EST
A rally critical of the federal government’s energy policies has kicked off in Ottawa as 200 vehicles and trucks parked around Parliament Hill after driving from Alberta.
Last week, the “United We Roll Convoy for Canada” began its journey from Red Deer, Alta., to Ottawa in hopes of bringing attention to what organizers said was the Trudeau government’s lack of support for the energy sector.
On Tuesday morning, protesters parked approximately 200 vehicles in the streets surrounding Parliament Hill for a rally in front of the House of Commons.
“If they're not interested in uniting Canada, then we're going to make some noise, because we want to unite Canada,” Lead organizer Glen Carritt told CTV Ottawa. “That's what we're all about.”
As speakers -- including Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and the People's Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier -- made speeches, Carritt said Canada’s “energy section needs to get back in gear … our cars don’t run on popcorn they run on oil and gas.”
On its way to Parliament Hill, the convoy had made stops in Regina, Winnipeg and Thunder Bay, Ont. Some trucks carried signs that read, “Alberta has had enough,” “Canadian oil before Saudi oil,” and “Axe the carbon oil tax.”
During a Facebook Live video, protester Mark Friesen from Saskatoon told CTVNews.ca producer Rachel Aiello that “politicians had sold them out.”
The convoy organizers said they met with “government officials” already, but did not indicate whether these were part of Trudeau’s government. The protestors are planning to rally again on Wednesday before heading back to Alberta on Thursday.
The City of Ottawa is advising people who work in the downtown core to expect delays and avoid car travel into the city, if possible.
Water is Life protesters critical of the federal government’s response in Indigenous communities have joined against the convoy protests. Counter-protests have sprung up with some of them carrying signs which read, “No pipelines, no fascists on Indigenous lands.”
GROUP INCLUDES YELLOW VEST PROTESTERS
While the group is made up of oil producers and farmers, the truck convoy has included some controversial fringe elements, after an open invitation was given to the Yellow Vest protesters.
Carritt had originally called his convoy the “Yellow Vest convoy” but changed its title following criticism. Critics have accused the movement in Canada of having racial elements and spewing hateful rhetoric against Muslims and immigrants.
According to the United We Roll group’s GoFundMe page -- created to help pay for gas and expenses for drivers -- Carritt wrote that "after much consideration we have decided to make this convoy about being inclusive and supporting Canadians first and foremost.”
Still, some counter-protesters at the rally have criticized the convoy of being racist and anti-immigration.
“It's really frightening, because this is a really racially charged atmosphere,” said Crystal Semaganis, one of the counter protesters. “This should not be Canada in 2019.”
However, the Yellow Vest group argues it is simply advocating better immigration policies.
Friesen said the yellow vest “does not represent racism, it does not represent violence … [but] represents Canada and Canadians.” He added that if politicians wanted to keep their jobs, they have to “represent the people they’re paid to represent.”
“Don’t think you can come to this building [Parliament Hill’] … and sign away our sovereignty,” he said. Friesen criticized Canada for signing a non-binding United Nations compact on global migration.
Carritt agreed, saying Canada's borders "need to be controlled" by Canada and its people, not the UN. However, the pact is not legally binding and was designed to simply improve co-operation between the countries which signed on.
PROTEST CRITICAL OF UN, BILL C-48, BILL C-69
He also told CTV News Channel he’s critical of the federal carbon tax, Bill C-69 -- which would change how natural resource projects are approved – and Bill C-48 which would halt crude oil tanker traffic on British Columbia’s North Coast.
“We need pipelines in the ground now immediately, he said. “We need immediate action for that. We need Bill C-48 abolished. We need Bill C-69 abolished and we need the carbon tax abolished.”.
One of the convoy protesters’ main criticisms is a lack of pipeline support from Ottawa, but the Liberal government has actually invested billions in pipelines -- sometimes to the dismay of the Conservatives and NDP.
Last May, the Liberal government spent $4.5 billion to buy the Trans Mountain pipeline from Kinder Morgan in hopes of saving the project from being scrapped. The expansion would add 980 kilometres of new pipeline from Alberta to B.C. and nearly triple the pipeline’s capacity.
With files from CTV Ottawa and The Canadian Press
Expect delays this morning if you are heading downtown. Large convoy of transport trucks is expected on Parliament Hill today and tomorrow as part of a protest. https://t.co/GsteFbHrIk— Ottawa_Traffic (@Ottawa_Traffic) February 19, 2019