Poilievre leads march of convoy protesters beside man with far-right extremist ties

Click to play video: 'Poilievre marches at head of convoy protesters alongside man who appeared on far-right podcast'
Poilievre marches at head of convoy protesters alongside man who appeared on far-right podcast
WATCH ABOVE: Conservative leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre walked down an Ottawa street with a crowd of red and white adorned supporters trailing alongside him on Thursday. – Jun 30, 2022

WARNING: Story contains strong language. Discretion is advised.

The day before Canada Day, Conservative leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre strutted down an Ottawa street with a crowd of red and white adorned supporters trailing behind him.

Alongside him, helping to lead the crowd of protesters who were pushing for a permanent end to vaccine mandates, was a man in a bright vest named James Topp.

Poilievre and Topp can be heard chit-chatting about the veteran’s morning routine, referencing Topp’s recent march across Canada in protest of COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

A topic they didn’t appear to talk about, based on circulating clips, was Topp’s appearance on far-right figurehead Jeremy Mackenzie’s podcast for well over an hour one month ago.

Story continues below advertisement
Mackenzie made headlines in February when he was arrested on firearms charges.
Click to play video: 'Conservative debate: The issues and candidates to watch'
Conservative debate: The issues and candidates to watch

However, he was also a part of a controversial January YouTube broadcast, during which claimed the so-called freedom convoy could “bring down the government” as his co-hosts chimed that they “think we need to assemble to gallows on f—ing Parliament.”

“I want to be there. I want to see this s–t happen,” Mackenzie is seen saying in the broadcast.

Click to play video: 'Ottawa gears up for Canada Day'
Ottawa gears up for Canada Day

During his appearance on Mackenzie’s show, Topp is heard saying Mackenzie’s broadcast and others like it “kept (him) hanging on… At least there was other dudes out there that kind of had the same idea that was like, OK, all this stuff is messed up.”

Story continues below advertisement

When Global News reached out for a comment about his decision to march alongside Topp, despite his support of broadcasters like Mackenzie, Poilievre’s campaign sent a brief statement.

“The campaign never stated we wouldn’t meet with Topp or anyone else. We encouraged Canadians to continue to protest for their freedoms,” they wrote.

“This Canada Day, Pierre Poilievre will be celebrating our great country in his riding with constituents as he and most MPs do every year.”

Doubling down in his support of Topp, Poilievre went on to tweet an image of his march alongside the veteran.

“Today I walked alongside military veteran, James Topp, who has travelled the country by foot for free choice,” he wrote.

“End all mandates. Restore our freedoms. Let people take back control of their lives.”

Story continues below advertisement

One anti-hate expert sounded the alarm about Poilievre’s association with Topp — and the anti-mandate protest itself.

“It’s deeply concerning that a mainstream politician is aligning with and showing support for the movement that birthed the so-called freedom convoy,” Elizabeth Simons, deputy director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, told Global News in a statement.

“While not every participant in the COVID-19 conspiracy movement, or the convoy is far-right, or hateful, showing solidarity with the movement tells the Canadian far-right that they have a home in the Conservative Party. It is interpreted by those people that their views are acceptable, and even encouraged.”

People protesting the vaccine mandates — which are mostly lifted — are expected to have a significant presence in Ottawa as the capital celebrates Canada Day.

Brigitte Belton is an unvaccinated trucker who helped organize the so-called “Freedom Convoy” protest that snarled Ottawa’s streets for weeks earlier this year. Speaking to Global News on Thursday, she had a message for the people planning to protest on Friday.

“I ask them to remain peaceful no matter what happens, no matter how out of control the Ottawa Police Services become, because they have been out of control,” she said.

Story continues below advertisement

Police have been preparing for the demonstrations with a number of preventative measures.

As of 8 a.m. Eastern on Thursday, Ottawa police have been enforcing a motor vehicle control zone in the core.

That zone will stay in effect until July 4 and will see police and bylaw authorities banning on-street parking and limiting access into the blocks immediately around Parliament Hill.

To enforce the zone, police have set up barricades, heavy equipment and police vehicle check points to “filter lawful traffic onto those streets.”

Vehicles taking part in any demonstrations will not be allowed in, and Ottawa bylaw officials have already issued several tweets showing staff towing vehicles and removing structures being set up in the zone.

Belton said she wishes everybody the best on Canada Day.

“Remain peaceful,” she said.

“I just want everybody to be safe.”

— With files from Global News’ Amanda Connolly

Sponsored content