Confusion and contradiction among supporters following press release
Organizers and supporters of the “Freedom Convoy 2.0” are divided over whether another event inspired by last year’s disruptive protest in the capital will take place in Ottawa and Winnipeg next month.
Several key figures from last February’s protest, which occupied the capital’s downtown streets for nearly a month, insist people will gather in Manitoba in mid-February despite a press release from a main organizer claiming otherwise.
James Bauder, co-founder of the anti-government group Canada Unity and a co-organizer of last February’s protest in Ottawa, said in a Facebook post he was cancelling “Freedom Convoy 2.0” for unspecified security reasons.
“I have had several security breaches, and personal character attacks made against me and others on Team Canada Unity,” Bauder said in the post.
“As a result of these security breaches that are beyond our control, I cannot in good conscience guarantee public safety as I promised.”
In a text to CBC, Bauder wrote: “There will be no convoy anywhere in Canada be it Ottawa or Winnipeg with my name, with the Canada Unity Freedom Convoy brand.”
Bauder had originally called for protests to return to Ottawa for a three-day demonstration starting Feb. 17. He later said that Ottawa would be a stop on the way to a protest in Winnipeg.
Other supporters, meanwhile, contradicted Bauder’s assertions. Another organizer who announced the convoy 2.0 plan for Winnipeg alongside Bauder claimed the event will move ahead.
“Multiple people and groups are involved. The world unity convoy 2023 is not cancelled,” Ron Clark wrote in an email to CBC.
Likewise, Tyson Billings — also known as “Freedom George” — said he still plans to attend a convoy gathering in Winnipeg next month.
“I don’t know if there’s something still going to Ottawa or not,” he said. “But the main convoy — the World Unity Convoy — is about unity and it’s about bringing the people together.”
Fractures emerge in movement
The mixed messaging comes as the Freedom Convoy movement, which began as protests against COVID-19 vaccination passports, masks and other health mandates, appears to be losing steam.
Infighting between members has led to a fracturing of the movement, resulting in disagreements over details ranging from the name of the event to its main goals.
Bauder is among the dozens of protesters and supporters facing charges for their involvement in the original convoy protest.
Bail conditions prevent him and many other familiar names from returning to Ottawa.
Thousands of people in trucks and cars occupied the capital in early 2022 to protest health mandates and other government policies. It came to an end after the Trudeau government invoked the Emergencies Act.
The federal government suspended mandatory vaccination for federal employees, domestic travellers and transportation workers in June 2022.
In a statement to CBC News, the Winnipeg Police Service said it’s “aware of online dialogue from a group regarding an event in February in Winnipeg.”
“We are assessing information but do not have any further comment to make at this time,” a Winnipeg police spokesperson said in an email.