Armchair journalists, who didn’t bother attending the United We Roll protest in Ottawa claimed the protesters were racists and white nationalists.
However, the people True North spoke to on Tuesday were by and large ordinary blue-collar folk from across the country concerned about their and Canada’s economic future.
“I think [the Trudeau government is] doing a disservice to all Canadians. I mean let’s face it, the number one source of the economy in Canada is resources, oil being at the top of the list. And then Justin Trudeau came out awhile back, even on his Twitter account, and said he would like to see in his lifetime the oil sands shutdown. He’s not for oil at all,” said Brent Lockwood, an Ottawa man wearing a yellow vest who came out in the minus 20 Celsius weather to protest the Trudeau government because his two sons recently lost their jobs in the oil industry and are currently unemployed.
“Moving by rail cars is, as we’ve obviously seen, dangerous. The safest way is always by pipeline,” says Lockwood about why he thinks the government should do everything in its power to get more pipelines built. “I think [Trudeau] bought the pipeline knowing he won’t push it forward.”
Steve Bacovsky, a Calgarian in the tourism business, joined the convoy to show his support for his fellow Albertans.
“When it takes ten years for a pipeline not even approved — or approved and then disapproved — and all the politics that go behind it, when you have 54% of BC people wanting the pipeline… And governments are pushing for something different, and stalling it, delaying it, the delay tactics have to stop,” says Bacovsky.
“Every three to five miles there’s someone standing out on their driveway … when we were driving, all the time. I mean it was 34 below in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and it’s cold in Ontario, but people are out there… They’re not standing, watching this in a window, they’re coming out to show they have support for it.” said Bacovsky about the overwhelming support they received on the journey to Ottawa. “There’s a tracker on the motorcade so Canadians know when they’re going by.”
Some journalists on Twitter circulated a bird’s eye-view picture of the protest to cite how few people showed up. But that picture only showed United We Roll protesters on the field out front of Parliament Hill, completely cutting off all the trucks and protesters on the blocked off road.
“It’s a lot of expenses to get here from [Alberta], so it’s a good showing. I’ve seen a lot of protests here before, when you consider how cold it is it’s actually a pretty good turnout,” said Lockwood.
Journalists also cited a few outlier individuals at the protest with more extremist views and/or affiliations with extremist groups, even though they were only a few in the public space out of the hundreds of people that showed up.
These individuals with more extreme views were mostly down by the road arguing with Indigenous and Antifa counter protesters.
Regardless, some journalists not at the event jumped to the conclusion that Conservative Party of Canada leader Andrew Scheer showing up to speak to the crowd near the stage by Parliament somehow meant he was endorsing white nationalism.
Journalists had also cited the vitriolic and racist comments some in the Yellow Vest movement have expressed online. However, the United We Roll convoy distanced itself from the Yellow Vest movement for that reason, rebranding itself.
Nevertheless, the Facebook page Yellow Vests Canada has 110,000 members, many of whom are everyday Canadians upset with the current government’s policies, so many of the people that showed up in Ottawa at the United We Ride protest wore yellow vests to represent their opposition to the same issues it first represented in France: the carbon tax and an increasingly centralized, globalized government.
The people True North spoke to also expressed concerns about illegal border crossings and Canada potentially losing sovereignty over its own immigration levels if it follows what’s outlined in the non-compulsory UN compact on migration, but didn’t express anti-immigrant sentiments.
“I’m against the UN migration compact. I don’t think that the UN should be dictating to us how many people we should be taking,” said Lockwood. He knows it’s non-binding but still believes it shows the government’s intent to eventually make it binding, which would in effect allow the UN to give Canada quotas of people to take in.
“Of course, I don’t believe [the government is prioritizing Canadians],” says Bacovsky. “I think there are a lot of Canadians out there that do need the help for a lot of things.”