OLDS — At least a hundred vehicles pulled out of the Westview Co-op Cardlock station at Highway 27 and Highway 2 on Saturday to join an anti-COVID restrictions and mandates convoy heading to Edmonton from the Lethbridge/Coutts area.
The plan for many was to drive around Edmonton, although others planned to protest at the Alberta legislature.
Vehicles began gathering at the cardlock as early as 7:30 a.m. and began leaving at 8:40 a.m.
There were people of all ages, from grizzled truckers to moms and kids waving signs of support with dogs in tow. Several trucks and other vehicles passing by honked in support.
Lots of people carried Canadian flags, attached to or draped on their vehicles.
There were plenty of signs. One said, “God Keep Our Land Glorious And Free.” Others said, “My Body My Choice,” “Freedom For Our Grandchildren,” “Mandate Freedom,” “Don’t Tread On Me,” “Umask Our Children,” and in a reference to a statement by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, “Proud Member Of A Fringe Minority.”
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A local leader who gave his name as Dave Smith of Didsbury said he helped organize the local convoy because as a truck driver himself, he agrees with the sentiments of those who participated in a convoy to Ottawa to protest COVID-19 lockdowns, mandates and other issues.
“I’d be there myself if I didn’t have a truck in the shop,” Smith said. "You know what? It's been long enough. There needs to be a stop to all these foolish mandates, a stop for all the control and the communistic-style actions that are happening in Ottawa as well as our own governments through our provinces are taking the same things.
“This is not about vaccines, it’s not about certain political parties. It’s about freedom for all Canadians to choose, because I think everybody can agree that our freedoms are going right in the hole.”
Now 43 years old, he said he obtained his truck driving licence in 2005.
He said his business has “drastically decreased,” due to vaccine mandates in place at the Canada/U.S. border.
“We have not been across the border for a period of time,” he said, adding he’s not going to say precisely how long because “I've faced a lot of criticism for what’s read in the news and what happens at the border.
“But let me put it this way: it was told to me once that (U.S. President Joe) Biden has his mandates down there, but they may not be the same as the border mandates, so I’ll leave it at that.”
It was pointed out that as it was a Saturday, there may not be many politicians around to hear their concerns.
That didn’t faze Smith.
“I don’t think that’s much of a worry because as far as I know, (Premier) Jason Kenney is in Washington right now so that coward would not be here anyway if it was a weekday,” he said.
“And we all know that Justin Trudeau, we know where he hides when everything else happens, so it doesn’t matter about Ottawa either.”
Smith said too many of today’s politicians are “spineless” and he doesn’t trust the mainstream news media.
A woman at the gathering who gave her name as Danielle Smith of Olds agreed with those sentiments.
“I just think we all need to throw our masks away and just be free again,” she said. “That’s what Canada’s about. It's about freedom. Our constitution says we’re free and we should be free. There should be no mandates, there should be none of this stuff.
“Honestly, I haven’t worn my mask since the first lockdown. I refuse. Like, it’s a cold, is my feeling.”
She doesn’t believe reports by the provincial government that as of Jan. 28, 3,531 people had died as a result of contracting COVID-19.
“I think that the media is totally fudging the numbers. I don’t think there’s a whole lot of truth in a lot of it,” she said.
"AHS (Alberta Health Services) is a bunch of crap,” she added. "Everybody says ‘follow the science, follow the science.’ Well, you can either listen to AHS or you can follow your own science and actually do your own research and I’ve done my research and it’s – AHS is full of crap.”
She did not plan to make the trip up to Edmonton, saying she had other things to do on Saturday.
However, she said, “I was out here to support them leaving on Monday morning and I will support this movement to the bitter end, because it’s not right.”
Smith said when COVID first hit the province “nobody died of cancer, nobody died of heart attacks, nobody died of anything.
“Now AHS is saying ‘well now it’s not COVID-related, like, you might die with COVID but you didn’t die of COVID.’ Like, they keep changing their mind; everything changes day by day on whatever they want to say.”
She was asked what would motivate the provincial government or AHS to do that.
“I have no idea,” she said, “but they need to stop, because our government – our premier (Prime Minister) Justin Trudeau’s an idiot.
“When, in all the years, have vaccines been mandatory? When you think of the measles and mumps and all those things, your kids can go to school without being vaccinated. But now all of a sudden you need to be vaccinated?”
Jason Nixon, Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre UCP MLA and minister of Environment, called for the removal of vaccination requirements at the international border.
“The federal Canadian and U.S. governments need to exercise common sense and immediately remove mandatory vaccinations at the border including for truckers,” said Nixon.
“I support the thousands of Albertans protesting for freedom peacefully, respectfully and following the law.”
Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills UCP MLA Nathan Cooper did not respond to several requests seeking comment.
- With files from Dan Singleton