Island couple goes ‘on the road’ with Freedom Convoy to Ottawa

MAKING A STAND FOR FREEDOM—Chris Chandler, Grace Shawanda and Laurie Masters prepare to wave their flag while waiting on the arrival of the Freedom Convoy travelling from the west to Ottawa to protest cross border vaccine mandates. photo by Michael Erskine

OTTAWA – Corey Boyle and his partner Tiffany Francis were two of the many people from Manitoulin and throughout the North Shore, Northern Ontario and all parts of the country taking part in the “Freedom Convoy” protest last Friday. However, as he told The Expositor, he is not an anti-vaxxer. Mr. Boyle provided his personal opinions and his weekend convoy experiences with this newspaper last week.

“No, I’m not an anti-vaxxer,” Mr. Boyle, who said that he has not been vaccinated for COVID-19,” told The Expositor. “I have been watching what has been going on and wonder if these vaccines are really doing anything, and if they are, why do we need booster shots as well?”

“I have my polio shot, and we all have had to have our tetanus shots,” said Mr. Boyle. “But what is COVID, a slight worse version of the flu? What has been going on and the restrictions put in place makes no sense to me. The government is spending billions of dollars and the pharmaceutical companies are making tons of money through the vaccines and boosters they are putting out. Where are the variants from, and why are we taking boosters for previous versions of the variants?”

“I’ll get a vaccine when I know it works and prevents me getting COVID-19,” stated Mr. Boyle. He used to drive a transport truck for a living, “I don’t drive a transport truck anymore; but I wouldn’t be able to go across the border (into the US) in a commercial vehicle because of medical concerns.”

“I’m envious of everyone who can go across the border (to the US), and I’m supporting my fellow truckers and everything that they can’t do now, including going over the border unless they have been vaccinated. These are all government enforced mandates,” he said. 

“When you look at Canada and other countries, there is about 80 percent vaccination compliance, and still people are getting COVID and Omicron. Something is wrong here,” continued Mr. Boyle.   

While he is no longer a transport truck driver, Mr. Boyle explained, “I am what they call a hotshot truck driver. I have a one ton truck and basically with hotshots, this means if someone needs something right away, like a shed being moved, since I can carry 24,000 pounds, I am able to do this right away, and cheaper than the large commercial truck companies.”

“I can pick up tractors and farm equipment, and can move these pieces of equipment with my forklift,” said Mr. Boyle. “Basically, with my business, I do stuff other people don’t normally like to do.”

Mr. Boyle attended the Freedom Convoy event held in Nairn Centre last Friday and travelled with the procession from across Northern Ontario and other areas to be in Ottawa for the protest rally last weekend. 

Trucks were lined up at the Little Current swing bridge last Friday morning, as truckers made their way to Nairn Centre, and for some on to Ottawa, for the ‘Freedom Convoy,’ held last weekend.

“When we left the Island Friday morning (for Nairn Centre) there were seven vehicles lined up at the swing bridge,” said Mr. Boyle. “And I know there were a lot of people ahead of us, and while we were at the bridge and people were passing us, they were honking their horns and encouraging us.” 

“Nairn Centre was unbelievable,” said Mr. Boyle. “It was something I’ve never seen before, there were trucks and people everywhere, and there was supplies for everyone taking part like washer fluid, water and pizza. And when we got to Deep River, people were at the ends of their driveways holding signs and cheering.”

On Sunday evening Mr. Boyle told The Expositor “we are five kilometres, about a half an hour walk, from the Parliament buildings (in Ottawa). There are rigs all over. We’re in gridlock, we can’t move, and at every intersection in Ottawa there is gridlock. It’s amazing.”

“We’ll be here as long as it takes,” said Mr. Boyle, “I know, in talking to some of the truckers, they have enough supplies on hand that they can stay for weeks or months.”

Ms. Francis commented that there have been reports of some protesters jumping on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and others fastening an inverted Canadian flag to a statue of Terry Fox as they decried vaccine mandates. “These incidents were carried out by a bunch of drunk individuals defacing the statues, but it didn’t last very long as when other protestors saw this, they placed flowers at the statues and have been protecting them ever since.”

“The protest organizers want to make sure this is a peaceful rally,” said Mr. Boyle. “So as soon as someone does anything they shouldn’t, other protesters get involved and convince them to stop.”

“Everyone who was coming to this protest had to sign a code of conduct,” said Ms. Francis, “and to let the police or organizers know if they see any violence or anyone who is doing something they shouldn’t.”

The couple said they have been getting a lot of support, both verbally and online, from several supporters on the Island and off-Island, to help out the truckers’ cause.

“And now we have one province in support of ending the proof of vaccination policies,” said Mr. Boyle. He explained in a letter to truckers posted on Facebook Saturday morning, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said he would end the province’s proof of vaccine policies. 

“My government supports your call to end the cross-border ban on unvaccinated truckers,” Premier Moe wrote. “And it is why, in the not too-distant future, our government will be ending our proof of negative test/proof of vaccination policy in Saskatchewan.” He also praised, “every Saskatchewan Canadian trucker, farmer and individual that has contributed to keeping our communities operating over the last two years.” 

Premier Moe stressed he supports vaccination and its ability to prevent serious illness. He encouraged everyone to get vaccinated through his letter. “I will continue to encourage everyone to get vaccinated because I do not want any of you to get seriously ill,” he wrote. He said vaccinations are not currently reducing the transmission of COVID-19, adding the federal border policy mandating vaccinations for truckers, “makes no sense.”

The federal government and Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) have committed to working together on long-term solutions to supply chain constraints and labour shortages, issuing a joint statement last week that also reinforces the role of vaccination. “The government of Canada and the (CTA) both agree that vaccination, used in combination with preventative public health measures, is the most effective tool to reduce the risk of COVD-19 for Canada, and to protect public health,” says the statement. The statement was issued jointly by transport minister Omar Alghabra, labour minister Seamus O’Regan, minister of employment, workforce development and disability inclusion Carla Qualtrough, and CTA president Stephen Laskowski.

“Moving forward, the government of Canada the CTA and the industry at large will continue our shared dialogue on the challenges facing this sector,” the joint statement reads. “By working together, we are confident that we can find solutions that will help Canadians and industry alike.”

The CTA also said in a separate statement it does not support on-road protest. Mr. Laskowski said, “the  Governments of Canada and the US have now made being vaccinated a requirement to cross the border. This regulation is not changing so, as an industry, we must adapt and comply with this mandate. The only way to cross the border, in a commercial truck or any other vehicle, is to get vaccinated.”