'Embarrassment for the industry': Not all truckers support the 'freedom convoy'
A so-called 'freedom convoy' of truckers and supporters is on its way to Ottawa, protesting the federal government's vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers.
But not everyone from the trucking industry is on board with the convoy's messaging, especially as the rhetoric heats up and the movement attracts support from fringe groups.
Dennis Levesque of London, Ont. has been a trucker for eight years. He calls the convoy "an embarrassment for the industry" and says the participants only represent a "tiny, tiny proportion of drivers."
"We're an industry that struggles with how we're represented in media and the perception of truck drivers to begin with," he told CTVNews.ca over the phone on Thursday. "I think something like this just reinforces the stereotypes that exist for truck drivers. It's not going to do anything to help us move the industry forward in a better direction."
Mike Millian, president of the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada, is also worried about the rhetoric coming out of the convoy. He believes the convoy has morphed beyond the original messaging as extremists seek to join themselves to the movement.
"Our organization's become very concerned about some of the rhetoric we've heard, hearing racist remarks comparing (the mandate) to Nazis and communism -- things that are not comparable to what's going on right now," he told CTV News Channel on Thursday.
As of Jan.15, federal government has required all truckers and other essential workers crossing the border to provide proof of vaccination to avoid strict quarantine requirements. The Biden administration is also requiring all non-Americans, including truckers, to be fully vaccinated in order to cross into the U.S.
Several trucking groups have also condemned the protests. The Canadian Trucking Alliance says nearly 85 per cent of drivers are fully vaccinated. Just before the convoy was about to kick off, the group said it "strongly disapproves of any protests on public roadways, highways, and bridges." The Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association has also urged its drivers not to participate.
Millian says people and groups uninvolved with the trucking industry have "grabbed on" to the movement. He's also encouraging the drivers involved in the convoy to speak up against the escalating rhetoric.
"There's a lot of men and women out there who have worked hard throughout this entire pandemic to keep our shelves stocked are essential supplies where you need them, including some that will be in this convoy. But we're losing our message here if we're associated with this kind of language, and it's tarnishing the image of the entire industry," he said.
Levesque, on the other hand, says he's fully vaccinated and supports the mandates. He also notes that truckers are subject to other government mandates in Canada and the U.S., such as regular medical exams to make sure drivers are fit to operate a truck.
"The mandate is there to get people vaccinated to save lives. We know that people who are not vaccinated are more at risk of getting seriously sick," he said. "The industry is not new to government mandates. We have all sorts of government mandates and health requirements to begin with. This would just be another one."
This story has been corrected to reflect that Mike Millian spoke to CTV News Channel on Thursday, not Tuesday.