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May 21, 2022 2.7°C

Cry Freedom: Convoy passes Maple Creek

Posted on January 27, 2022 by Maple Creek

Distant headlights piercing the winter gloom announced the arrival of the convoy.
It was 3.50pm on a bone-chilling, snowy Monday, more than two hours after the original ETA.
A white vehicle led the way, the sign “Freedom Convoy 2022” affixed to its roof. Two Canadian flags fluttered from the back.
Behind it came a towering red truck, with pipes either side of the cab, their angled ends sticking into the air like the tusks of a woolly mammoth. A banner urging “Stand Up Canada”, “Wake Up Canada”, and “Truckers Unite” was emblazoned across the front.
More illuminated monsters followed, some draped in flags and words of inspiration. One sign said: “Stand Up Speak Out … Fight Back Against All Lockdowns, Mandatory Masks, Mandatory Vaccines”.
As the procession neared, cheering, shouting and waving erupted from people clustered above a snow-filled embankment off the Trans-Canada Highway, near the Maple Creek junction. Between 60 and 80 vehicles were parked there.
Some supporters held placards, proclaiming such messages as “Path of the Heart”, “Love … Thank You … Truth … Unity”, and “God Bless U”. One or two expressed anger towards Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Everyone seemed to be clutching a cellphone, taking pictures or video-taping the procession.
Two years ago, a similar convoy passed through this area during a pro-pipeline, anti-carbon tax demonstration. Then, the pilot car slowed to a halt, and people clambered down the embankment to sign the pulled-up hood of a red truck.
This time there would be no stopping. Trucks rumbled by at a steady pace, drivers waving and honking, their horns sounding like the trumpets of a triumphant army, creating a festive atmosphere.
Among the supporters was Bill DeRepentigny, commonly known in Maple Creek as Wild Bill.
As he watched, he asked himself: Why not join the convoy, at least until Swift Current?
It turned out to be a great call, giving him a clear indication of the extent of support for the truckers.
“I’m so glad I went,” he said.
Almost everywhere he looked, there were groups of supporters – in Piapot, alongside the highway, and in Swift Current.
Wild Bill said he detected widespread COVID restrictions fatigue.
“We got vaccinated, we did everything we were supposed to do, and we still can’t go out and do what we want.”
The rules had proved extremely divisive, he said, and did not appear effective.
Those who disagreed with mandates should not be made to feel like “lesser persons”, he added.
“I think people are so tired of it all,” he said.
Another supporter at the Maple Creek intersection was Gabriel Chudleigh. Her placard read: “Path Of The Heart.”
Asked why she was there, she said: “It’s about freedom.”
Her words were backed up by a retired former trucker from Fox Valley.
“I am here to support the truckers and their cause,” he said.
He added he had experience as a fuel delivery driver.
“I don’t believe in the mandates. They are ticking away our choices.”
The convoy of trucks and cars had left British Columbia on the weekend on their cross-country trip to Ottawa, protesting the federal government’s new vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers, which came into effect on January 15.
Canadian truckers now must show they have had two doses of an mRNA vaccine, or one dose of a Johnson & Johnson jab, to avoid tough testing requirements and a 14-day quarantine.
The convoy held rallies in Calgary and Medicine Hat, before heading to Regina, via the Maple Creek junction. Vehicles came in waves, sometimes grouped, sometimes spaced out.
Some of the biggest cheers came when Tim Udal, a local trucker, his blue “Double V Trucking” vehicle adorned with a Canadian flag, joined the procession. His intention is to go all the way to Parliament Hill in Ottawa on January 29.
Among those cheering was Claire Pollock, who arrived at the scene with her husband, Ross; the couple are ministers at the Diamond C. Cowboy Church in Maple Creek.
“I would like to say ‘thank you’ to all the truckers for doing what we cannot do,” Claire said.
Describing truckers as a brotherhood and sisterhood, she praised them for standing up against government in a unified way.
Claire said she was heartened by the show of support for truckers.
“There were lots of cars, and lots of people waving and shouting their support,” she said.
Like others who spoke to the News-Times, she said the event wasn’t about opposition to vaccinations. It was about opposition to mandates, opposition to a government telling its citizens what they must put inside their bodies.
Claire underlined the importance of truckers to everybody’s lives. Without them, there would be no food in the stores, or gas at the pumps.
“Again, I would like to thank them,” she said.
Kyle from Piapot hoped the Freedom Convoy would help put a stop to “the shenanigans” surrounding COVID.
“I want life to go back to the way it was before because clearly everything we’ve done hasn’t worked.”
He said the mandates would not be removed without protest action.
“I have two little ones that were born during the pandemic, so it’s been difficult raising kids in isolation and them having no friends but their parents.”
Kyle said he and his family moved to Saskatchewan from British Columbia in September, a month before mandates came into effect. Vaccine passports were introduced, contrary to what he had been told.
“You can’t really get away from it,” he said.
Even in rural communities like Piapot and Maple Creek, which weren’t affected by the pandemic in the same way as the big cities, people were being forced to curtail their way of life, he said.
“It’s not fair. Really, things need to get back to normal. Why have any restrictions?”
Kyle said he and his kids had already had COVID, along with his extended family.
“There is no reason to be shutting down this whole place. Over the last two years, 900 people have died in Saskatchewan, 31,000 in Canada. There’s no reason to shut down; there are 80,000 people who die of cancer every year. It is backwards. It doesn’t need to be this way.”
Kyle said people had to stop fighting each other over COVID.
“If anyone should be mad at anyone, it should be us mad at the government doing this to us.”
He added that he knew of a handful of people who weren’t employed because of the mandates.
“That’s not good,” he said. “I’m supporting some of my family members that can’t work. I’m using my own money to support them. Not allowed to use our money that we pay into EI (employment insurance) and all that. That’s a farce, right there.”
Despite the frustrations over the mandates, Kyle said he is happy about relocating to this area.
Barry Rudd, former Mayor of Maple Creek, turned up to watch the convoy about an hour before it arrived.
Asked whether he had come to show support, he replied: “Just watching”, adding that he had been vaccinated.
Rudd said he believed the federal government should have given truckers more time to get vaccinated before enforcing the mandates. It was unreasonable for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to “snap his fingers” and tell truckers “you’ve all got to be vaxxed”.
“Even here there are people who wait two weeks to get vaxxed, and then you’ve got to wait four weeks to get the second vaccine. And he only gave them about a month.”
From the truckers’ perspective, Rudd said, it should be borne in mind that they hardly ever leave their vehicles.
“They spend 99 per cent of the time inside their truck,” he said. “If they can’t go in a restaurant and stuff, that’s their problem. They have food in their truck, so I mean it goes both ways.”
Rudd gave Premier Scott Moe credit for not imposing more restrictions, despite facing political heat.
On the issue of Omicron, Rudd said there were many different sides to the story, and a lot of fear.
“I still think it’s the flu. You know, it’s flu and cold season. The big thing is that people are testing now with self-tests, and it comes up positive, as does the cold and the flu. So they are saying ‘oh, all of a sudden there’s a big wave of Omicron, now’. Is it that?”
Rudd spoke of fear over the pandemic.
“People are scared. They’ve got people scared. It’s got them on edge. They don’t want to take it home to their kids, they don’t want to take it to school, they don’t want to take it to their workplace.”
Rudd said he would be interested to see the arrival of the convoy in Ottawa on January 29. There was talk of about 500,000 people being there.
“There are people coming from all over the country – trucks and everything. When you go on Facebook, you find out that there are guys coming from Nova Scotia and even from the States. So, what is going to happen there? Is he (Prime Minister Trudeau) going to call in the army and block them off from coming downtown, because I think the plan is to park in front of the Parliament buildings and stay there for three days.”
Rudd believed there should also be a protest about the carbon tax.
“That’s another big issue. When the store shelves are empty, prices of everything are up, that’s government.”
Soon after the start of the second wave of the convoy, the News-Times decided to pull out. The time was about 4.30pm. Vehicles had become increasingly spaced out, making it hard to know who was in the convoy, who wasn’t. Horns continued to blare, each blast prompting cheers from a large group of supporters still standing resolutely by the side of the highway.
The big event was far from over.

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