Canada convoy protest a truckload of anti-vax and white supremacist BS
COVID Convoy. Left: A supporter of the 'Freedom Convoy' carries a racist Confederate flag outside the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa. Center: A truck blockading the road outside the Office of the Prime Minister in Ottawa bears a message for Justin Trudeau. Right: Canadians in Edmonton, Alberta, show off their politics at a rally in support of the convoy on Feb. 5. | Photos: via CPC; Justin Tang / The Canadian Press via AP; and Jason Franson / The Canadian Press via AP

TORONTO—The so-called “Freedom Convoy” of Canadian truckers that has snarled traffic in the streets of major cities in the country from coast to coast the last several days is increasingly being exposed as a truckload of conspiratorial, white supremacist, and fascist-leaning BS.

Billed as a protest against the Canadian government’s enforcement of a vaccine requirement for truck drivers hauling cargo back and forth across the border, the slogans and signs used by participants have shown there are a lot more nefarious causes than vaccine resistance at work.

A message of support from former White House occupant Donald Trump. | TMTG via Twitter

The Canadian Trucking Alliance, a nationwide association of truckers, says the protest is not representative of the vast majority of drivers in their industry and that a “great number of protesters” with no connection to the trucking industry “have a separate agenda beyond a disagreement over cross-border vaccine requirements.”

Though conservative politicians and propagandists have given the protest the thumbs-up and tried to portray it as a spontaneous working-class demonstration against an elitist government, the clear links between convoy organizers and international far-right networks indicate it is nothing of the sort.

Instead, it is a Canadian expression of the same global phenomenon that has seen extremist big money interests parading in the guise of fake populism in one country after another.

Far-right backers from U.S. and Europe

The convoy—which set off from British Columbia in late January—brought in over $10 million in donations through a GoFundMe page in just a matter of days, with a significant chunk of that money reportedly coming from U.S. and European sources.

The social network Telegram has been a mustering point online for supporters, such as U.S. influencers like Ben Shapiro, to bundle money for the convoy protesters. Conservative outlets like Fox News in the U.S. and Rebel News and the Toronto Sun in Canada, meanwhile, act as the protest’s media arms.

“Right-wing political figures and content creators…really gave it a boost that made it global,” according to Ciaran O’Connor of the hate-group-tracking Institute for Strategic Dialogue. “Donations from abroad are quite a common part of any large crowdfunding campaign, but the scale of this one is unprecedented,” he said.

O’Connor’s organization has tracked down multiple U.S.-based groups, including several connected to the Tea Party Movement and anti-vax groups, that donated heavily to the GoFundMe page. Similar groups in Europe and Australia have also joined in.

GoFundMe suspended the campaign on Feb. 4, saying the convoy no longer met the definition of a peaceful demonstration. Republicans in the U.S. Congress alleging censorship vow to investigate, but in the meantime a new fundraising page has launched on the “Christian” crowdfunding platform GiveSendGo with a goal of collecting $16 million.

GiveSendGo is the same site previously used to funnel money to defend Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager who in 2020 murdered two men during protests against racist police killings in Kenosha, Wisc. It’s also one of the preferred fundraising tools of the white supremacist Proud Boys, who played a role in the Jan. 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The organizers behind the ‘Freedom Convoy’ operate in the shadowy world of far-right politics. Copying the models used by the right wing elsewhere, they combine a simplistic version of patriotism with anti-science conspiracy theories and barely-concealed racism. Here, a supporter of the protest in Ottawa hides his identity while wearing a ‘Canada First’ hat modeled on Trump campaign paraphernalia. | via Twitter

Right-wing figures in the U.S. ranging from podcaster Joe Rogan of Spotify and vaccine disinformation infamy to former White House occupant Donald Trump have elevated and praised the pro-coronavirus convoy. Others, like Evangelical leader Franklin Graham and the chief COVID conspiracy theorist in Congress, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, have blasted out support for the truckers to their followers.

Some of the leading lights of the capitalist class also chimed in with their wholehearted backing, Tesla boss Elon Musk among them.

If the convoy protesters’ true politics weren’t clear enough based on who’s supporting them, their ideological inclinations have been all too apparent at their road-blocking rallies in Ottawa, Toronto, and other locales.

Confederate flags and banners with neo-Nazi symbols flutter in skies turned black by the smoke-billowing exhaust stacks of the big rigs, while Trump-imitating chants, such as the oh-so-creative “Make Canada Great Again,” alternate with the cacophonous sound of air horns.

“This is far from a ‘freedom’ convoy,” the Communist Party of Canada said in a statement this past weekend. “This is a convoy of hate which has threatened and attacked the civilian populations in Ottawa and everywhere it has passed through.”

The Canadian Anti-Hate Network says that if you look at the convoy’s organizers and promoters, “you’ll find Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, racism, and incitements to violence.” The group has completed an exhaustive run-down of all the key movers behind the convoy and found that it’s the same group of far-right extremists who’ve been pushing conspiracies and anti-labor causes since long before the pandemic.

Many of the organizers are not even part of the trucking industry, and a number of them have harassed workers on picket lines in the past and rebuffed calls for help from immigrant truck drivers fighting abusive companies.

Real problems missing from their complaints

Missing from the convoy’s list of complaints? The actual problems that plague drivers in this industry. And hint—with nearly 90% of truckers already vaccinated, a COVID border mandate isn’t one of them.

Toronto-area truckers told CBC this past weekend that the convoy is totally ignoring the real issues they face—like employer abuse, wage theft, dangerously long hours, and racism. Attar Sodhi, a 37-year-old driver from the city of Brampton noted that the convoy truckers are almost totally white, even though more than half of the truckers in this region are South Asian.

“Something else is happening behind the scenes,” Sodhi said, “because the real issues are completely different.” He works with the Naujawan Support Network, which provides legal defense for truckers and other workers who fight back against employer intimidation and wage theft. Organizers of the truck demonstration have never reached out to his group or others like it to see what concerns face their members and clients.

The convoy protest has the international media spotlight, but it hasn’t used the attention it’s receiving to talk about companies that misclassify drivers as contractors to avoid things like overtime pay and benefits. That has a lot of truckers upset.

Stephen Laskowski, head of the Ontario Trucking Association, says that carriers “use the underground economy with labor misclassification and labor abuse as a way to grow very fast and profitably.” The convoy has been silent on the matter.

Arshdeep Singh, 30, another trucker, asked why the protest isn’t mentioning the threats of deportation that many truckers receive from employers who send them out on the road in hazardous weather or with no sleep. “These are the issues that have been here since the last 10, 15 years,” he said, but the protest has no time for any of that.

Instead, the mis-named “Freedom Convoy” carries on fear-mongering around COVID vaccines and masks, sucking up hundreds of thousands of dollars daily in public money spent on security and making life hell for the people who live near their blockades.

But if the fascist-leaning organizers behind the convoy or the far-right politicians and big-name capitalists backing them hope to use the protest to gin up support for the right wing generally in Canada, they may come up short.

Despite having plenty to be upset about—government pandemic aid propping up rich corporations instead of people, a public health system hamstrung by decades of funding cuts, coronavirus employment support programs being ended prematurely, and more—the Canadian working class isn’t signing on to the convoy’s conspiratorial cause.

Polls show public support for the truck convoy is limited. On Twitter, the hashtag #FluTruxKlan, a take-off on Ku Klux Klan, has been trending in Canada. More people are seeing the convoy’s message for what it is: pro-coronavirus and racist.

Real truckers with real problems: Members of the Naujawan Support Network march outside the home of a wage thief employer in January. The so-called ‘Freedom Convoy’ has been silent on the actual troubles that most truck drivers face. | NSN via Twitter

Even some of the establishment politicians of the Conservative Party aren’t all that confident they can capitalize on the protest. Having just thrown out their own uninspiring leader and facing a voting public that is almost completely vaccinated and tired of anti-vax nonsense, they don’t see the political gains to be made. That won’t stop the fringe of their party or the openly racist People’s Party of Canada from presenting themselves as platforms for the protesters, however.

Police in Ottawa, meanwhile, say they are beginning to make moves to undercut the ability of the truck blockade to continue. Fuel supply restrictions, anti-honking court injunctions, and arrests are all in the works.

If authorities in the Canadian capital manage to clear their streets, however, the COVID convoy madness probably won’t end anytime soon. Online, the right wing is organizing more truck protests—this time in the U.S. and Europe. So watch out, the racist and coronavirus conspiracy crowd could be rolling into your city soon.


C.J. Atkins
C.J. Atkins

C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People's World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left.