• 2023
  • Jan
  • 31

Gaining Steam: Convoy Through the Prairies

Tuesday January 31, 2023

By Tawney Johnson

When the world shut down in March of 2020, I was not immune to the feeling of isolation, despite being surrounded by my amazing family. I’m a married mother of two, and we live in a small Southern Saskatchewan town, where I am the town librarian. As a former member of the Canadian Armed Forces, I possess a certain way of thinking, of acting and of caring for my fellow Canadians. As an Indigenous woman, I’m also attune to a certain way of viewing the environment around me, as we are all part of a greater collective and it’s up to us to live our lives in accordance with the natural laws, if you so choose. The virus had me concerned and wanting to “do my part” and get through the quarantine and keep my family and community safe. Then it seemed like it was going to last longer than originally anticipated, and we were to buckle down for the long haul. As time went on, the feeling of something not being quite right kept growing but I still was fine with being a “good community minded citizen” and continued to do my part as we slowly eased back into work (with the door closed, and no contact between us and the outside community). Then we entered into what felt like a constant rotation of lock-down, open up, lock-down, etc.

As the fall of 2020 loomed, chatter on various Social Media groups and pages started to get busier and busier with the organization of rallies popping up nationally, voicing opposition to yet more lockdowns. As a former reporter, my research propensity kicked in, and I went looking for more details, as I knew that there were always two, if not more sides to a story and the MSM were only concentrating on the one side. It was refreshing to see that there were people out there that had somewhat the same thoughts and beliefs as I do. Then the announcement of a solution (v-a-x) arose and as I looked into those details, it just didn’t sit right with me.

As a bit of a medical background on me, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis at the age of 34. When I turned 40, the medications they had me on were doing more harm than good so I made the personal decision to cease taking them. I had the thought of waiting as long as possible before having to possibly go back on them. In the meantime I started looking into alternatives, and I am currently still not back on those medications and as I approach my 50’s in a few years, I’m hoping that I continue to not need them. Guess what, NO ONE voiced their opposition to my decision to not take those medications. No one shamed me, ostracized me, or thought I was being selfish. It was a great time of having the freedom to choose.

As the rollout of the vax began, I felt that not enough information was available and the time it took to develop it, was too quick in my opinion. Again, I was not alone in this thinking. One of my best friends from the military was also in the same thought camp as I was, although how she arrived there was different, as she was told outright by medical professionals that the next immunization of any description would cause her demise. We started looking into our respective provincial governments’ exemption policies, and soon realized that federally there was no excuse good enough, not even death. I felt this was unjustifiable, as it’s a personal medical decision and the freedom to choose should be sufficient, especially when it came to a shot that had little to no information about the ingredients. Red flags whipped in my face, but around me, the feeling that the government and medical community knew best was growing. I kept my feelings and opinions to myself depending on who I was around. Another red flag for me was how the Indigenous communities were one of the first groups to “have access” to the vaccine. Learning about the history of how the government has treated my people, caused me to immediately question the why? When have we ever been first? Do we not remember the myriad of times we have been used as experiments, such as the nutrition experiments held in residential schools?

Then came yet another announcement of mandatory vaccine policies in order to access certain places, or travel either nationally or internationally. The one that sent me over the edge of remaining docile was the implementation of the policy of having to show proof of vaccination in order to attend the Remembrance Day Ceremonies nationally. I could not go pay my respects to those that gave their lives for our country, some of whom I served with in my earlier years in the military.

More and more people were being forced to acquiesce to these policies in order to retain employment. Rumblings of opposition was quiet and slow at first, until the trucking industry was next on the list. I don’t know much about that industry but I did know that once the supply chain is affected in any way, our way of life is changed. Now the rallies were getting bigger and bigger, and it seemed that the MSM very rarely reported on these rallies unless there was a way to negatively spin it. Although there were many positives from these rallies, the one that was especially meaningful to me was the fact that the group of people that opposed these policies was larger than I had known.

I don’t remember exactly when or how I started to hear about a convoy of truckers packing up and heading east, but again I started to search through information online about various starting points, joining points and more organized groups that were voicing strong sentiments that aligned with my own. I started following the journey almost daily once they hit the highway, switching from various Social Media methods in order to get as much detailed information as possible. You want to talk about momentum! There were sporadic shows of support for the truckers popping up everywhere as they headed through the prairies, and people would post videos of them heading out to some overpass or small town highway that the convoy was set to travel through. That friend that I told you about earlier, even joined in the drive through her community in Alberta and went further than she originally planned as the feeling of hope was overwhelming and she loved being fully immersed by it. I found I was looking forward to those daily videos from Tamara and company and there was no shortage of amazing videographers to follow too.

Filmed by Ed Dunning

I started to make plans to get to the Trans-Canada Highway when the convoy was set to roll through my corner of the province on January 25th. I gathered up the warmest clothes, my Canadian Flag and spray painted a support sign on an old sheet (“Thank You Truckers!”) and drove north. I arrived in a small town on Highway #1 with a few spare moments to pick out a place to park and set up shop. It’s a good thing I did, as the crowd of supporters was way bigger than I thought it would have been (it was incredibly cold that day with the temperature hitting a frosty –30ish with a wind chill that made it even colder). There was a feeling of excitement and comradery as I drove to where I wouldn’t be in the way (safety first!) and put on my warm clothes, including my ribbon skirt overtop my snow-pants and my beret from my time served. You could tell the vehicles that were going to join in the convoy as they were decorated in the most patriotic of ways, flags and signs and such. My heart soared with pride for my fellow Canadians and the stance we were taking collectively. Although I couldn’t make the trip myself to Ottawa, being part of the supporters was a little part of what I imagine the atmosphere would be like once they arrived at their destination. It was so uplifting, so much so that when the first truck appeared and the honking started, my emotions got the better of me and tears started to form. I had to quickly stop as the moisture was freezing on my cheeks almost immediately and I didn’t want to get frostbite. That initial feeling of isolation I wrote about in the beginning, it dissipated with every honk.

From my spot along an access road that ran parallel to the highway, I finally saw other indigenous people that were in support of the truckers and the Freedom Convoy. There are many times that I’m one of a couple of indigenous people attending certain activities and generally it doesn’t bother me but I do take notice. Connecting with like-minded Indigenous people during this whole ongoing situation was somewhat daunting, as many are not on board with standing up to the government and even still continue to blindly follow the community leadership, which of course is preaching the government chorus of “do what we tell you or else”. The leadership in many First Nation communities will do whatever is asked so as to retain or increase their federal financing.

Filmed by Tawney Johnson

If it hadn’t been as cold as it was on that day the convoy rolled through, I would have been able to get more video footage on my phone but the battery drained pretty quick and I only got about 2 minutes of video and it’s grainy and shaky, so you can’t quite make out the incredibly long line of trucks in the convoy. I had originally wanted to count them all as they passed but lost count due to both the cold conditions and my emotions getting the better of me. Attending that day and realizing as they kept rolling, all the support that the truckers were receiving, helped to refill my spirit. It really was a show of love, and gratefulness that finally there would be someone else voicing the same concerns over the treatment of those that simply wanted the freedom to choose what is right for them. It also helped to galvanize many into forming groups.

I kept searching for veteran groups online to connect with, which at the time there was none. Skip ahead to when the convoy was in Ottawa and the media was zeroing in on only the negative stories of the desecrating of statues and monuments, instead of balancing those stories out with the positives of the reason for peacefully protesting in the first place. After that happened and the call went out to all veterans to come out and help secure and protect the war memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, I kept close watch on the various live feeds taking place and would comment on some asking the videographer to go check up on the vets, which many did in fact do. I was so proud of my brothers and sisters in arms for doing the right thing and taking responsibility for the state of the monuments, and cried as I watched them take down the fence that was erected. I beamed when they had patrol shifts set up to stand guard, shovel snow, and converse with the crowd and law enforcement. And I so badly wished I could have been right beside them, but again as a wife and mother and still gainfully employed, it wasn’t possible. One of the lasting outcomes that the Freedom Convoy contributed to, was the formation of the Veterans For Freedom (V4F) organization, of which I’m a proud member.

I could go on and keep writing about how the day the arrests of my brothers/sisters, my heart broke, or how once things had been cleared and the EMO lifted, I found out about how the convoy inspired one soldier to march across the country and how that reinvigorated the hope in me. I could write a whole other essay about my day meeting and marching with James Topp and the Canada Marches team and how it changed me. But for now, I’ll end with this handy tidbit of information:

Everyone has the following freedoms: (a) freedom of conscience and religion; (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication; (c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and (d) freedom of association.
~ Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Tawney Johnson is a married mother of two, living in a small southern town in Saskatchewan. She is a member of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band (Cree Nation). Tawney is a librarian, with experience in the Media (Former TV and Radio reporter), Military (10 year CAF veteran), and was an online volunteer for Canada Marches.

To learn more about the Veterans for Freedom, visit their website at www.veterans4freedom.ca.

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