Lowlights of the Anti-Vax Trucker Convoy That Took Over Canada’s Capital

Public defecating and swastikas: What went down at Canada’s anti-vax trucker convoy over the weekend.
People hold a sign against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and vaccinations during a rally against COVID-19 restrictions on Parliament Hill on Saturday.
People hold a sign against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and vaccinations during a rally against COVID-19 restrictions on Parliament Hill on Saturday. Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Thousands of people made their way to Ottawa this weekend in a great big truck convoy to protest vaccine mandates in a scene that included swastikas, harassment of local businesses and journalists, public urination and defecation, and outrage over the vandalism of a statue of beloved Canadian icon Terry Fox. 

While the rally was ostensibly a protest of the bilateral vaccine mandates for anyone crossing the U.S.-Canada land border—including truckers—the convoy was quickly overtaken by louder voices expressing any, and all, grievances they had with Ottawa, especially those involving lifesaving vaccines and mandates.


The group raised more than $9 million in a crowd-funder to support its cause. 

While Canadian security officials worried the convoy protest had the potential to become Canada’s version of Jan. 6 given the extreme anti-Justin Trudeau messaging of some of those involved, it was, for the most part, a nonviolent rally soundtracked by vehicles annoyingly laying on their horns nonstop. There was also revelry, dancing, chanting, beer-chugging, speeches about vaccines being poison, and people waving flags with swastikas.

Canadian MPs were asked to stay away from the convoy by Parliament Hill Sergeant-at-Arms Patrick McDonell, and Prime Minister Trudeau and his family were moved from their residence due to security concerns. 

Trudeau, who’s in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19, is set to address Canadians Monday morning, as some members of the convoy have remained in Ottawa, and are still blocking some downtown streets. 

While some convoy organizers made outrageous claims of more than 50,000 vehicles taking part, Ottawa police crowd estimates ranged from roughly 5,000 to 14,000 people on Parliament Hill Saturday. Here are the lowlights of what went down over the weekend in Ottawa. 

Defecating in public

One person who flew a pride flag in their window said they woke up to beer being thrown at the flag and someone actually climbing up their fire escape and shitting next to their window. Despite organizers raising millions on GoFundMe they didn’t organize food, housing, or washrooms for their attendees. Ottawa, like all of Ontario, was under a COVID-19 lockdown on the weekend, with restaurants only open for takeout and delivery, meaning many public washrooms were closed. 

Stealing food from unhoused people

In one extreme case, a local soup kitchen said its staff were harassed by some rally attendees who demanded food. It also said at least one Ottawa unhoused person was assaulted and a security guard who came to their aid was berated with racial slurs. 

“Earlier today, our staff and volunteers experienced harassment from convoy protestors seeking meals from our soup kitchen,” Shepherds of Good Hope tweeted. “The individuals were given meals to diffuse the conflict.”


Displaying swastikas 

During a CBC interview with Conservative MP Michael Cooper, viewers could see an upside-down Canadian flag with several swastikas drawn on it—what has become a somewhat common sighting at anti-vaccine rallies. It’s essentially saying the Liberal Party and those administering vaccines are Nazis and those resisting are being persecuted like Jewish people during the Holocaust. Cooper was roundly criticized for even showing up at the protest, and issued a statement saying he didn’t know the swastika flag was behind him and calling Nazism “the purest form of evil.” 

Vandalizing the Terry Fox statue

Protesters decorated a statue dedicated to beloved athlete Terry Fox with upside-down Canadian flags and a sign that said “Mandate freedom.” 

For many Canadians, the mockery of Fox went too far. Fox, after having one leg amputated due to cancer, attempted to run across Canada in 1980 to raise money for cancer research, and died after making it about halfway through the epic journey. He often tops lists as Canada’s greatest hero and the annual Terry Fox Run is one of the country’s major fundraisers. 

Terry Fox statue vandalized

Protesters vandalized a statue of Canadian hero Terry Fox. Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

“This is completely unacceptable and I have asked city bylaw to have the placard and upside-down Canadian flag taken down. This kind of stunt by protesters does not help their cause,” Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said about the incident. 


Desecrating the War Memorial 

Rallygoers were also criticized for their desecration of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial. Several photos and videos show the war memorial being used as a parking lot for some and a urinal for others, and some protesters were dancing upon it. 

Police work on the grounds of the National War Memorial. Ottawa police said their costs were $800,000 a day. 

Police work on the grounds of the National War Memorial. Ottawa police said their costs were $800,000 a day. Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Forcing the mall to close 

Ottawa winters are notoriously unpleasant and that held true on Saturday, with temperatures around -20 C (-4 F). Needing a place to warm up and get food, many rallygoers descended upon the Rideau Centre shopping mall, a five-minute walk from Parliament Hill. The mall became quickly packed with people happily not following COVID rules, and there were numerous reports of workers who had asked people to wear masks being harassed and threatened. As a result, the mall closed early on Saturday and stayed closed on Sunday. The LCBOs—Ontario liquor stores—in the area also closed their doors for the weekend. 

Going international 

Despite supposedly being focused on trucker vaccine mandates for the U.S-Canada border, the “freedom convoy” has gone international, with Telegram channels devoted to convoys in dozens of countries. A “Convoy to Canberra” already went down in Australia over the weekend, and similar events are supposedly being planned for Dublin and London, although it’s unclear how much grassroots support they actually have. 

Costing police $800,000 a day 

In a news release issued Sunday, Ottawa police warned residents to avoid the downtown core and said that protesters who are sticking around would cause “major traffic, noise, and safety issues.” Police noted they had worked “patiently” alongside convoy organizers and “avoided ticketing and towing vehicles so as not to instigate confrontations with demonstrators.” 

The police’s seemingly chill response prompted criticism from some, who pointed out Canadian police forces have often responded swiftly and violently to unhoused people in encampments, Indigenous land defenders, and Black Lives Matter protesters. 

Ottawa police said their costs were $800,000 a day.