About a hundred “Save Canada” supporters gathered in Enfield, N.S., early Thursday to send off truckers heading to Ottawa to protest COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
The gathering was held at The Big Stop, less than an hour outside of Halifax. Global News was at the scene at 5:30 a.m. local time.
The convoy of truckers left for Ottawa at 7 a.m., set to arrive at the New Brunswick border around 9 a.m.
Truckers from P.E.I. and N.B. planned to meet with the Nova Scotia group in Moncton, and make their way to Fredericton.
One of the organizers in Nova Scotia, Samantha Monaghan, tells Global News the group wants Ottawa to end all mandates.
“Were pro-choice, we’re not anti-vax,” said Monaghan in Enfield.
Nova Scotia RCMP issued a statement Wednesday night warning that traffic could be backed up as a result of the convoy.
At around 11 a.m., the convoy met the New Brunswick and P.E.I. supporters in Moncton’s industrial park on Harrisville Blvd.
At the scene, it’s estimated there were more than 100 supporters and upwards of 50 trucks passing through. There was also heavy police presence.
“What is this about? I think it’s about people coming together and wanting to live free,” said supporter Kelly Thompkins in Moncton.
The Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association disapproves of the protests. Their executive director, Jean-Marc Picard, told Global News on Thursday he is worried how this will affect an industry struggling with recruitment.
“I don’t want it to leave a black mark on the industry,” said Picard.
The convoy movement, known as the “Save Canada” movement or the “freedom convoy,” started last Sunday in British Columbia, when hundreds of truckers took to the road to protest the mandate.
The federal government ended the truckers’ exemption to the vaccine mandate on Jan. 15. This means Canadian truck drivers need to be fully vaccinated if they want to avoid a two-week quarantine and pre-arrival molecular test for COVID-19 before crossing into Canada.
A GoFundMe fundraiser for the convoy and participating truckers has already raised more than $5 million.
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The Canadian Trucking Alliance has estimated that about 15 per cent of truckers — as many as 16,000 — are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The organization has strongly denounced any protests on public roadways, highways and bridges and has urged all truckers to get inoculated.
Global News reported this week that far-right and white nationalist groups see the convoy as an opportunity.
Speaking at a news conference Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there is a “small fringe minority who are on the way to Ottawa who are holding unacceptable views.”
Trudeau said the vast majority of truckers are vaccinated. “What we are hearing from some people associated with this convoy is completely unacceptable,” he added.
Organizers of the truck convoy have been adamant that the extremist voices do not represent the position of the protestors.
— With files from Graeme Benjamin, Suzanne Lapointe, Rachel Gilmore and The Canadian Press.