OTTAWA: Feeling excluded from society and tired of Covid-19 restrictions, three Canadians protesting at the rallies that have paralyzed Ottawa said they had “nothing left to lose.”
– ‘Ruining my life’ –
At 58, Scott Holt lost his job as a truck driver due to Canada’s mandate that truckers had to either be vaccinated, or test and isolate, to cross the US-Canada border.
It changed his plans for retirement, too. He had dreamed of retiring at home on his farm, but now he wonders how he will pay the bills.
The vaccine mandate is “ruining my life,” he said, bitterly, without explaining why he was opposed to getting a Covid shot.
The windshield of his truck, parked since day one of the protests in late January on Wellington Street in front of the Canadian federal parliament, is covered with messages of solidarity.
“It’s really moving to hear it. I think of myself as not too emotional a guy but just talking about it makes me emotional… so it’s an honor,” said Holt, who hails from a town around 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of Toronto.
He wants the end of all Covid-related health measures, but is not opposed to vaccines in general.
“Freedom is the most important thing for me,” said the grandfather of 13.
He spent 35 years behind the wheel of a big rig, saying “it’s in my blood.”
More than a profession, but a “way of life” for Holt, he is determined to protest “until the end.”
– Treated like ‘zoo animals’ –
With her mailbox affixed to her trailer and a camping table out front, Julie Chapados took up residence on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s front lawn two weeks ago.
The 49-year-old teacher continues to work full time via video conference from a hotel room, before returning to sleep in front of the premier’s residence.
“We’re excluded from our communities,” lamented the Quebecker, who is unvaccinated and feels she has “nothing left to lose.”
A believer in “natural immunity,” despite the 35,000 dead from Covid in Canada since the start of the pandemic, she expressed frustration at being kept away from her grandmother by her family and being barred from entering the Quebec Winter Carnival or any stores other than groceries.
Unvaccinated people are seen as “zoo animals,” she said.
She doesn’t believe in wearing masks to prevent the spread of Covid as it restricts her breathing and stops her from smiling at others.
None of her friends has had a severe case of Covid, but many are depressed, she said.
“It’s really the media that scared everyone,” she charged, saying she prefers to get her information on social media.
Chapados, who is new to activism, revels in being able to dance, hug and share fried chicken with other protesters every night in the streets.
– ‘Proud to be a Canadian’ –
Matthew Donovan, 19, drove five hours with a friend to join the Ottawa protests — the first he’s taken part in. He was just here for the weekend.
After a night sleeping in the car, they joined the demonstration “peacefully,” he said.
He said he was thinking of his future when he set out for the capital.
Choosing to go unvaccinated, he had to stop his studies in agriculture at the University of Guelph in Ontario.
“I couldn’t go in person this year and this was something I really wanted to do in my life; to get a fair education,” he said, noting he doesn’t disagree with vaccines in general.
“I’ve never been so proud to be a Canadian,” he added, his eyes bright as he talked about the movement spreading to other parts of the world.
Sporting a chapka hat against the frigid Canadian winter weather, he said he follows politics but is wary of the mainstream media.
“I don’t think our rights have been as much in peril as they are now,” he said.
“And I don’t like Justin Trudeau,” he added with a laugh, saying he has different values than the ruling Liberal party.
In the last election, he voted for the People’s Party of Canada (PPC), a far-right minority party that has no elected lawmakers.
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