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South Asian truckers say freedom convoy protests miss the mark on key issues affecting the industry

Click to play video: 'South asian truckers say protests miss key issues' South asian truckers say protests miss key issues
WATCH: As trucker convoy protests continue across the country -- local South Asians who represent a large portion of the trucking industry say the protests miss the mark on key issues affecting truckers – Feb 5, 2022

Local South Asians who represent a large portion of the trucking industry are saying the trucker convoy protests across the country miss the mark on key issues affecting truckers.

They say many in the industry feel their voices are not being heard amidst the din of the protests.

Lovepreet Singh works in Alberta and was stuck behind the Coutts border blockade. In a video that has now gone viral on social media, he begged for help.

“We don’t feel safe to go via Coutts border and it doesn’t apply to me, there are a lot of other drivers who don’t feel safe to drive via (the Coutts border crossing). I don’t know what message they want to give if they want to block their own truckers and ask for freedom.”

Read more: Alberta RCMP unsure when Coutts border protest will end as demonstration enters 7th day

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After a two-day wait, Singh was forced to make a six-hour detour through B.C. which cost him almost $500 in gas.

“I know the majority of truckers are not supporting this protest. They are also working every day. Imagine if we all stopped working, who would be responsible for this supply chain? Somebody has to work.”

Read more: Five arrested as anti-COVID-19 mandate convoys, rallies staged in British Columbia

Gagan Singh is the spokesperson for the United Truckers Association in B.C. and says key issues are not being talked about.

“It’s all about safety and pay structure for the truckers. This is kind of a small thing. Yes, people unite on something. But the background is people are upset about a lot of other issues and those issues are not being represented by those folks.”

Singh adds the majority of South Asians are vaccinated, as many efforts were put in place to encourage vaccination among the community.

“Lots of gurdwaras have taken a step in order to get the vaccine for the community, so probably people are not afraid of vaccine mandates. I am not saying that all Punjabi community support that, but probably most do.”

Click to play video: 'Rallies in support of ‘Freedom Convoy’ in BC southern interior' Rallies in support of ‘Freedom Convoy’ in BC southern interior
Rallies in support of ‘Freedom Convoy’ in BC southern interior – Jan 29, 2022

Kulpreet Singh is the founder of the South Asian Mental Health Alliance. He is organizing an online fundraiser for mental health supports for marginalized truck drivers.

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“Over 20 percent of the drivers across Canada and almost 50 per cent of the drivers in BC are South Asian, but we don’t see those demographics represented in the convoy, so we also don’t see their concerns represented. There are protests that have happened locally for road safety, and in Ontario for wage improvements, and for getting support for those drivers who have been exploited, so those concerns are worthy of being brought to the forefront.”

Manan Gupta is the editor of Road Today in Ontario, a magazine that focuses on issues facing South Asian truckers. Gupta says he is concerned the protests are not helping to fill the shortages of drivers.

“There are nearly 22,000 vacancies within the trucking sector that we need to fill. So these negative headlines that truckers are blocking highways or creating disruptions, they don’t help in the larger sense of attracting new talent to the trucking industry.”

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