By Lee Berthiaume in Ottawa
Conservative leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre joined the final leg of a march led by a Canadian soldier charged for speaking out against COVID-19 vaccine requirements that has sparked promises — and fears — of a new wave of protests in the capital.
James Topp was charged in February with two counts of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline for comments made while wearing his uniform, and has since been leading a four-month march to the capital from Vancouver.
His march has been supported by many of the same figures involved in the “Freedom Convoy” that snarled downtown Ottawa for weeks until police used force to end what they and the government described as an illegal occupation.
His arrival in the capital and promises of a new round of protests starting Canada Day have set residents on edge. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and the city’s interim police chief, Steve Bell, have promised to crack down on any illegal activity.
Poilievre walked alongside Topp for about half an hour after the two met in the parking lot of a strip mall west of downtown Ottawa shortly before noon, where hundreds of people had gathered to see the army reservist.
Video of the meeting shows Poilievre citing to Topp a famous quote by then-prime minister John Diefenbaker about being a “free Canadian” when the latter signed the Canadian Bill of Rights in 1960, before expressing his opposition to vaccine mandates.
When Topp says he wants the reinstatement and reparations for anyone who lost their job because of vaccine mandates, Poilievre said: “Everybody who lost their job simply because of a COVID mandate should be restored to their job, no question about it.”
The two also spoke about the divisions within Canada, with Poilievre saying: “People are desperate for hope … I think it’s time to put this country back together, and heal the wounds and reunite our country.”
The two were then followed by about 200 supporters, many of them carrying Canadian flags and some sporting camouflaged backpacks and other gear, as they walked down the sidewalk of a major street for about half an hour before Poilievre left.
Poilievre’s appearance with Topp comes as the presumed Conservative leadership front-runner has been accused of unabashedly cozying up to anti-vaccine protesters and other groups associated with the “Freedom Convoy.”
Topp has said he has no plans to lead an occupation of the capital, and invited Ottawa police to work with him to facilitate his march through the city to the National War Memorial.
However, an organizer for a group calling itself Veterans 4 Freedom said in a recent video posted to YouTube that it plans to set up a semi-permanent camp east of Ottawa called “Camp Eagle” and hold events in the city all summer.
While police have since managed to prevent similar protests from taking over the city, stopping planned demonstrations from getting out of hand during Canada Day is likely to be complicated by the presence of thousands of people celebrating the holiday.
The charges against Topp relate to two videos posted online in the winter in which the army reservist appears in uniform criticizing vaccine requirements for military personnel and other federal employees.
Canadian Armed Forces members are severely restricted in the comments they can make while in uniform, particularly when it comes to criticizing government policies, in large part to protect the military from any perception of politicization.
His lawyer has argued such restrictions should not apply to policies that affect Armed Forces members personally.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday said police are taking their responsibility to keep people safe during Canada Day celebrations “very seriously,” while Ontario Premier Doug Ford called on those intending to protest in Ottawa to respect the law.
“Folks, be considerate this weekend, you’re going to Ottawa, be considerate. It’s Canada Day, we’re Canadians, just everyone have a good time, a safe time, stay healthy and safe and spend time with your families,” Ford said.
Ford said he is disappointed to see such protests return to the capital.
“I’m all for peaceful protests and you can demonstrate, but no shenanigans this weekend, just be peaceful and let the people of Ottawa enjoy their weekend,” he said.
“Honestly, we shouldn’t even be going through this. It’s disappointing, but it is what it is.”
More than two dozen Conservative MPs hosted Topp and other leading figures in the Freedom Convoy on Parliament Hill last week, posing for pictures, promising their support and listening to a lecture on the purported dangers of COVID-19 vaccines.
Health Canada says only vaccines that meet strict safety, efficacy and quality standards are approved for use in the country, and the benefits of COVID-19 vaccines continue to outweigh the risks of the disease. About 85 per cent of Canadians have received at least one dose.
Topp told the MPs that he was marching in part to get all vaccine mandates repealed, as well as to demand the reinstatement of anyone who lost their job because of such a requirement and compensation for wages lost.
At the same time, he and the others raised the spectre of civil war in describing the state of the country.
“We won’t be intimidated by any group that plans to disrupt the celebrations,” Mayor Jim Watson said during a briefing earlier this week. “We’re prepared and we will not tolerate any illegal activity by anyone.”
Bell said police are prepared for a number of different scenarios, and will respond quickly to any illegal activity, including efforts to set up structures such as stages.
In late April, the Ottawa Police Services Board approved a request from Bell to appoint up to 831 RCMP officers to help with the Rolling Thunder motorcycle events, and made those appointments valid until July 4.
The city is warning that vehicles will be ticketed and towed if they’re found violating no-stopping zones, although the full extent of the areas that will be off limits has not been determined.
Many Ottawa residents remain angry at how the city and police handled the “Freedom Convoy” protests, with several community groups banding together to launch a citizens’ inquiry into how that protest was handled.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 30, 2022.
From Cafe Owner to Political Activist at the heart of the Alberta Prosperity Project
The COVID pandemic has turned Central Alberta Cafe Owner Chris Scott into nothing short of a lightning rod.
Many business owners grumbled and suffered through a couple years of mayhem due to wave after wave of COVID and the various restrictions affecting day to day operations. Where most business owners zigged, Scott, as they say… zagged.
Chances are you know something about his story as he’s been in the news and seemingly on a never ending speaking tour ever since this all started.
You likely won’t be surprised to know Chis Scott is still operating his cafe, still facing court charges, and heavily involved in trying to influence Alberta politicians.
No matter what side of this discussion you fall on, no matter what you think of the business owners, doctors, and religious leaders who stood in defiance of covid restrictions, this conversation will help you understand where those who have emerged as leaders of those who stood up to the health restrictions are putting their attention in the summer of 2022.
If you’re interesting in learning more about the Alberta Prosperity Project.
If you’re interested in WS Full Steam Ahead
CDC Quietly Ends Differentiation on Covid Vaccination Status
From the Brownstone Institute
Thursday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) quietly ended its policy of differentiating within COVID-19 prevention guidance between those who have received Covid vaccines and those who have not.
CDC’s COVID-19 prevention recommendations no longer differentiate based on a person’s vaccination status because breakthrough infections occur, though they are generally mild, and persons who have had COVID-19 but are not vaccinated have some degree of protection against severe illness from their previous infection.
As explained by the CDC’s Greta Massetti, lead author of the new guidance:
Both prior infection and vaccination confer some protection against severe illness, and so it really makes the most sense to not differentiate with our guidance or our recommendations based on vaccination status at this time.
Someone might want to tell the millions of workers who lost their jobs, the millions of students who received injections out of anticipation for school mandates, and the millions of law-abiding citizens who have been, and often continue to be, excluded from everyday life activities and basic medical care due to their unwillingness to show proof that they received an mRNA shot they neither wanted nor needed, a differentiation that the CDC now admits does not make sense. All cool, I’m sure.
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