When what's been dubbed the Freedom Convoy 2022 makes its way to Sault Ste. Marie, a local group plans to show its support in the form of food and accommodation for the truckers upon their expected arrival in this community.
The convoy includes hundreds of truckers protesting the federal government’s Jan. 15 vaccination mandate for cross-border truckers. They are expected here on Thursday, Jan. 27.
The United States imposed a similar mandate requirement on truckers crossing the northern border with Canada and the southern border with Mexico as of Jan. 22.
The former Sister Mary Clare elementary school, which houses what's referred to as The Soo Justice Centre, plans to roll out the welcome mat for the truckers who began their journey in BC Sunday on their way to holding a protest in Ottawa.
“We’re planning, with people who have stepped up to the plate, to prepare food for them, meet and greet them and thank them for their dedication and their service. It’s kind of a celebration for these truckers as they roll in,” said Tim Coderre, a Soo Justice Centre volunteer, speaking to SooToday Tuesday.
The centre will serve as a place for truckers to stay as they continue their journey to Ottawa, Coderre said.
“We’re going to help them offset their costs by permitting them to stay here, whoever wants to stay and doesn’t have enough heat in their truck.”
“We’ve got 24,000 square feet here. We checked the APH numbers and the Reopening Ontario Act numbers and it works out that 305 people are permitted to stay here,” Coderre said.
A potluck dinner is being planned for the truckers at the centre after they arrive in the Sault between 6 and 7 p.m. Thursday.
Supporters will greet them at two confirmed locations – Flying J Travel Centre on Great Northern Road and The Husky on Trunk Road – and drive truckers desiring to take part in the potluck dinner and have overnight accommodation to the centre.
A rally in support of the truckers is planned for 6 p.m. Thursday at Second Line and Great Northern Road by the Jiffy Lube.
“Then of course they have to leave in the morning (Friday, Jan. 28) so we’re going to prepare food for them to leave with. We’ve got bags of food that people have donated locally for them to take on the road to Ottawa.”
Coderre said the centre has been monitoring the convoy’s progress and the support it has been gathering along the way.
“We’ve been getting swamped with calls. I’ve probably done 300 calls in three days.”
“(The convoy was) rolling out of Medicine Hat last night, and the crowd that was greeting the truckers for as far as I could see, according to the feeds I was getting in, were the public, not truckers, parked on the side of the road greeting all the truckers coming through,” Coderre said.
The Soo Justice Centre has expressed displeasure with COVID-19 vaccination mandates in Canada.
“We saw the need early on, before winter set in, that there was going to be a need because people were kicked out of their jobs because of this mandate, including these truckers… so we forged ahead. A group of locals pooled their resources together and we organized and acquired a (former) school. We’re trying to help people, parents who have children who have reservations about vaccinations,” Coderre said.
“We’re not an anti-vaxx group. We’re a pro-choice group,” Coderre stated.