Convoy’s pro-pipeline message muddied with accusations of racism
The Alberta-based United We Roll truck convoy reached Ottawa on Feb.19 following a four-day drive from Red Deer, AB.
The convoy spent two days blocking traffic and protesting in front of Parliament Hill. Several local supporters joined them.
The convoy was initially organized to bring awareness to the economic volatility of Alberta’s oil industry and to urge Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to accelerate several pipeline projects. However, many protestors also showed up to air grievances about federal corruption, economic frustration, and the Canadian immigration system.
“There is a bunch of reasons. Part of it is the pipeline, but it’s mostly that I’ve seen people struggling. I’m from Newfoundland, and our province has been ignored by the government for years and years,” protestor Angie Reed told the Fulcrum. “I’ve watched families struggle, we’ve been one of those families, and I need the government to pay attention to Canadian needs first.”
Signs carried by demonstrators further demonstrated the wide range of grievances represented in the protest. Many condemned the UN Compact on Migration, Canada’s environmental review policy, and a perceived bias benefitting Indigenous peoples in the federal government.
“I would say that in my life I have seen scandal after scandal. What I want today is to know that we are going toward accountability and an end to corruption,” said Carl, a heavy equipment operator and yellow-vest protestor.
However, the convoy has faced accusations of radicalism over the participation of far-right elements including the Northern Guard—a splinter group of the anti-immigrant Sons of Odin. Rally 4 Resources—a similar pro-oil truck convoy—cancelled their Ottawa event following the participation of the controversial yellow-vest protestors.
Counter-protestors also arrived later in the afternoon, claiming that current pipeline plans represent an encroachment on Indigenous sovereignty and a step backwards in Canada’s carbon reduction plans.
“We’re racing toward a cliff, and you’ve got conservatives flooring the gas pedal. This isn’t about politics, it’s about making sure we are alive at all,” said Chen Hau, a fourth-year environmental science student at the University of Ottawa. “We have a global crisis, but instead of working together, these people are ripping us apart.”
A police officer on duty during the protest claimed roughly 100 pro-pipeline demonstrators were present, countered by a similar number of local counter-protestors.
Maxime Bernier and Andrew Scheer used the protest as an opportunity to rally support for their parties.
Bernier claims the People’s Party of Canada will use the power of the Canadian constitution to compel the private sector to build the pipeline. He also condemned the Conservative Party’s inaction on the pipeline, claiming that Andrew Scheer “is not able to answer the questions Canadians are asking.”
Scheer claimed his party would work with the private sector to reduce red tape and build pipelines. Hecklers in the crowd claimed he was “just another liberal globalist” and demanded that he condemn the United Nations.
The protestors left Ottawa in the evening on Feb. 20. However, organizers on Facebook pages affiliated with the yellow-vest movement claim they are planning more demonstrations.