Erin O’Toole says he’ll meet with representatives from trucker convoy

OTTAWA — Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said Thursday he’ll meet with truckers who are making their way toward Ottawa to protest vaccination mandates — but not at their planned demonstration this weekend on Parliament Hill.

The convoy passed through the GTA on Thursday en route to the nation’s capital, where the truckers plan to protest new requirements to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for cross-border travel.

At a news conference Thursday evening, O’Toole accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of stoking their anger, saying the government’s failure to adequately plan for the current wave of the pandemic has fuelled divisions and inflamed a national debate over vaccination mandates.

“This convoy is really about Mr. Trudeau and the fact that people are tired,” O’Toole said.

“There’s a fatigue in this country, there’s division and there’s millions of people who feel they’re no longer being heard.”

The protest was sparked by new requirements in Canada and the U.S. that truckers must be fully vaccinated to avoid quarantines when they cross the border.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance, which has denounced the convoy protest, says more than 85 per cent of the 120,000 Canadian truck drivers who regularly travel across the Canada-U. S. border are vaccinated, but that as many as 16,000 may be sidelined due to the new restriction.

Several industry and business groups have been lobbying against the new rules, including the country’s largest association of small- and medium-sized businesses, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

They argue the vaccination requirements will make existing issues in Canada’s supply chain even worse.

The Conservatives had taken up the truckers’ cause, but that position has come under scrutiny in recent days as some groups aligning themselves with the convoy have been identified as also being connected to extremist ideologies.

One online video includes a man expressing hope the rally will turn into the Canadian equivalent of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former president Donald Trump.

MPs were warned Thursday that their offices and homes in the national capital could become the targets of protesters in the coming days.

A memo from the head of security for the House of Commons warned that requests are circulating online for the home addresses of members of Parliament, and said they should exercise additional caution if they are in town.

“As a reminder, any individual or group of individuals who do not hinder vehicular traffic or trespass on your property have the right to demonstrate,” the memo said.

“However, should the situation escalate, the police will take action.”

O’Toole said he’s seeking meetings with representatives of the trucking groups, and a safe place to talk with them so they know people are listening to their concerns, but he also condemned groups trying to hijack their cause.

“People that are frustrated, that are working Canadians, that just want to be heard, I will make sure we always are there to listen,” he said.

“People that are advancing horrific agendas, I will make sure I call out that conduct and try and rally the better angels of the nature of Canadians at a time that our country’s divided.”

With files from Alex Ballingall


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