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Canada Truckers' Protests: Why South Asians Have Avoided Joining Freedom Convoy

Trudeau has called the protesting truckers a "small fringe minority" who "do not represent the views of Canadians."

Published
Indian Diaspora
3 min read
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Life in Canada's capital Ottawa has come to a standstill due to the truckers' protests, which show no signs of slowing down.

Protests have escalated to the extent that a state of emergency had to be imposed in the city on 6 February.

The South Asian community, which comprises a large part of Canada's trucking workforce, however, has stayed away the protests.

Manan Gupta, the editor of Road Today, "Canada's Magazine for South Asian Truckers", and Manbir Bharj, a trucker based in Toronto, tell The Quint why this has been the case.

Why Aren't South Asians Joining the Protests?

The South Asian community in Canada, Gupta says, is one of the fastest growing demographics that is serving the trucking community. Within this community, people hailing from Punjab have been embracing the trucking industry.

According to the 2016 census, Gupta adds, around 20 percent of all Canadian truckers are of South Asian descent. But these numbers aren't reflected, he argues, in the truckers' protests that have rocked Canada and its capital city in the past few days.

"First and foremost, the South Asian community at large is hardly anti-vaccine. There is no anti-vaccine sentiment. In fact, the community has been at the forefront in organising vaccination clinics. Our religious places of worship, our temples, our Sikh gurdwaras, our mosques – they have opened their doors to organise those vaccine clinics."
Manan Gupta, Editor, Road Today

Manbir Bharj, a trucker based in Toronto, had similar thoughts to offer.

Saying that "Punjabi truck drivers are not involved directly in the protests", Bharj said that the 'Freedom Convoy' protests were morally wrong.

"I don't follow that convoy. I think what they are doing is morally wrong, and that they should get their vaccine shots."
Manbir Bharj, a Trucker in Toronto

It's been three weeks since the 'Freedom Convoy' protests began. They have received international support from prominent personalities like Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and former US President Donald Trump.

The protests escalated to the extent that the Canadian PM and his family had to be moved to a safe location.

Prime Minister Trudeau has called these truckers a "small fringe minority" who "do not represent the views of Canadians."

What, however, are the causes behind these protests?

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Why Are Truckers Protesting the Vaccine Mandate?

Truckers, who are considered as essential workers given the huge bilateral trade between Canada and the US, were initially exempted from vaccination.

The Canadian government, on 15 January, then imposed a mandate requiring truckers to provide proof of vaccination before entering Canada from the United States.

Failing to do so would require them to quarantine for 14 days.

The 'Freedom Convoy', which had begun as a truckers protest against the vaccine mandate, quickly blew up into a massive anti-vaccination protest against the government and its overall COVID response.

"There is a minority of the population that doesn't want to get vaccinated", Gupta says, further stating that the reasons for vaccine hesitancy range from religious beliefs to lack of faith in the effectiveness of vaccines.

Talking about the protests, Gupta adds that the anger has spread to the non-trucking community as well.

"It is not just the trucking industry that it is involved, there are lots of people who are fatigued from COVID, those who want freedom back, those who don't want to be dictated about what to do or not to do."
Manan Gupta, Editor, Road Today

Gupta also clarifies that out of the entire trucking industry, as per data available from the Canadian Trucking Alliance, most of the trucking community in Canada is fully vaccinated.

How Are Protests Disrupting Daily Life?

The situation has been tense in the last few days in Ottawa, Gupta says, as the protests have now become very loud and disruptive for the local communities.

Business are being shut down due to the blocked streets and the continuous honking.

Ottawa Police has been taking measures to resolve the situation.

"Any peaceful protest, any person who wants to raise his voice is welcome. But it cannot disrupt our regular way of living."
Manan Gupta, Editor, Road Today

For any democracy to function, Gupta concludes, the voices of the people, the protests and their concerns need to be listened to, and they are presented in a "peaceful, just and people-friendly manner".

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Edited By :Saundarya Talwar
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