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Vaccine mandate protest in Ottawa turns into far-right movement, extremism expert says

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Posted at 3:55 PM, Feb 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-09 11:35:13-05

CANADA — Tension has been building for the past two weeks in Ottawa, Canada as truckers continue their protests in the nation’s capitol.

On Monday, the mayor declared a state of emergency and police are now calling it an occupation.

The people participating are calling it the “Freedom Convoy.”

“I remember on January 6th, we had people here celebrating the insurrection there, and many have said in the movement right now that 'this is our January 6th,'” said Dr. Barbara Perry, director of the Center on Hate, Bias and Extremism at Ontario Tech University.

Perry says the movement started as a protest against the vaccine mandate for Canadian truck drivers, but it’s turned into a chaotic meet-up for conspiracy theorists and far-right extremists.

“So, you know, you've probably seen some of the flags in some of the banners that have been flying there, including very traditional things like swastika or the Confederate flag,” Perry said. "We've seen the rise of right-wing populism in the U.S., and it has influenced, I think, politics in the Canadian context.”

Dealing with a supply chain that is already strained from the pandemic, some are concerned the protests will further contribute to a backup of goods.

However, supply chain expert Daniel Stanton says he doesn’t it will impact much beyond the people in Ottawa.

"It seems like it's more like, you know, the effect that you'd expect if there had been a blizzard in the area rather than the sort of impact from a ship blocking the Suez Canal,” Stanton said.

Stanton's main concern is that the lack of vaccinated truck drivers will negatively impact the supply chain. Even though truck drivers spend a lot of time alone in their rig, Stanton says they have a lot of contact along the way.

“You're going to interact with dockworkers, loading dock workers at both ends," Stanton said. "And so you have the potential to spread a disease over a very long distance just from, you know, those two contacts. And along the way, you have to shop and use public restrooms and you stop to refuel at gas stations, the truck stops and you stop to eat.”

While the Canadian prime minister says almost 90% of the truck drivers are vaccinated, Stanton is concerned the vocal minority will contribute to the shortage of employees.

“We need to be concerned about creating a safe working environment so that people choose to be truck drivers as a profession,” Stanton said.

It’s unknown when the so-called occupation in Ottawa will calm down.

Perry says she’s heard there may be more protests that spring up in the U.S. and other places around the world that share similar mandates.