“Yellow vest” protests, which began in France weeks ago, are now being spotted in cities across Canada.
The Canadian protests are much smaller in size compared to France, where thousands have marched in recent weeks. The French protests have routinely turned violent, injuring several and leading to eight deaths.
The protesters’ yellow vests have come to represent a highly visible sign of unity against government policies.
Over the weekend, protesters in several Canadian cities, including Winnipeg, Calgary, Toronto, Halifax, Edmonton and Saskatoon, donned yellow vests.
The reasons for the protests range from opposition to the carbon tax and delays in pipeline construction to Canada’s signing of the United Nations’ migration pact.
Who organized the Canadian protests?
The protests have largely been organized through Facebook and other social media sites.
A Facebook event page titled “Yellow Vest Canada” has more than 73,000 members. Other local pages, such as “Yellow Vest Toronto,” have also been created.
The national page’s description reads: “This group is to protest the CARBON TAX and the Treason of our country’s politicians who have the audacity to sell out OUR country’s sovereignty over to the Globalist UN and their Tyrannical policies.”
WATCH: Peaceful yellow vest protesters in Kelowna, B.C.
Chaldeans Mensah, a political scientist at Edmonton’s MacEwan University, explained to Global News that he believes such protests result from feelings that there is a lack of debate and discussion in politics.
“My sense is this is really a reaction by people who are disgruntled by a lack of debate and discussion by national governments when they sign on to these global-level agreements on things like migration and climate change,” he said.
While the protests are controversial, Mensah said they are legitimate unless they turn violent or hateful.
Mensah said the federal government must be careful when monitoring and responding to these protests.
Inaction “could cause political problems down the road” for governments that don’t respond to these types of protests, he explained.
While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not spoken directly about Canadian yellow vest protests, he slammed Conservatives over the weekend, saying they are stoking anti-immigration sentiments.
“The decision that the Conservatives have taken recently to, for example, go after the global compact on migration in a way that is deliberately and knowingly spreading falsehoods for short-term political gain and to drum up anxiety around immigration is irresponsible, is not the way we should be moving forward in a thoughtful way on one of the big issues that is facing our country,” Trudeau said during an interview with the Canadian Press.
Here’s what protesters are saying:
Hundreds of people showed up in Edmonton over the weekend for a yellow vest protest.
Some of the protesters spoke to Global News, refuting criticism that they are racist for opposing the non-binding UN migration pact.
The pact sets out a framework for dealing with global migration but doesn’t hold signatory countries lawfully liable to its contents.
“I’m here to protest the UN agreement that Prime Minister Trudeau made and to get Trudeau out of office because he’s not doing anyone any good,” protester Neil Van Den Bussche said.
In Toronto, a group of about 60 yellow vest protesters gathered downtown but did not appear to have a cohesive ideology.
Some chanted “Canada first” and others expressed anti-immigration messages. Controversial far-right former mayoral candidate Faith Goldy attended the rally.
WATCH: Yellow vest protests extend to Toronto
In Halifax, protesters also spoke out against the migration pact and called for greater free speech.
The rally outside city hall was originally meant to focus on the United Nations pact and the federal carbon tax. But that focus shifted after two local activists confronted the demonstrators on what they say was anti-immigration and anti-multiculturalism rhetoric on the event’s Facebook page.
Here’s what counter-protesters are saying:
At all the Canadian protests, there were counter-protests that popped up.
One counter-protester in Edmonton, Adebayo Katiiti, told Global News that he is a refugee.
“I need people to know that refugees mean no harm,” he said.
Rana Zaman, an activist from Halifax, attended the rally, saying it was an opportunity to bring two political sides together.
WATCH: Calgary yellow vest protesters target economy, immigration at rally
“We are swimming in poverty. We are just dying in so many different ways here so we need solidarity,” Zaman said.
“If there was a movement that could bring all of us together with our diversity, then this was something that was hopeful.”
French origin of yellow vest protests
The yellow vest movement, which is named after the fluorescent safety vests French motorists wear, began in France on Nov. 17.
Protesters were inspired by the idea that President Emmanuel Macron’s government is hurting ordinary workers and retirees with too many taxes. Without any clear leadership, it has attracted a wide range of disgruntled people across France’s political spectrum, including some violent militants.
Macron has created some concessions to please protesters, but that has not ended the protests.
WATCH: French minister says ‘enough’ as death toll in ‘yellow vest’ protests increases to 8
Rather, other protesters in countries such as the United Kingdom and Belgium have emulated the demonstrations.
Largely organized online, the protests have become a flash-point in international dialogue in issues such as climate change and migration.
—With files from Global News reporters Graeme Benjamin, Phil Heidenreich, Eric Strober and Josh Elliott