• 2023
  • Feb
  • 3

Manna from Heaven

Friday February 3, 2023

by Michelle Kloet

While in my Canmore, Alberta home mid January 2022, a TikTok post came across my ‘for you’ page that announced a Trucker Convoy heading to Ottawa. The convoy was set to protest against the Federal government’s border mandates which were coming into effect late January 2022. This was a huge hit to unvaccinated truckers who had been treated in the same at the border as vaccinated truckers. Over the next few several days on TikTok, posts encouraged Canadian truckers to join the convoy to have the cross-border vaccination mandate rescinded.

Over the next week hundreds of social media posts across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, supporting the convoy, came into my feed. Curious, I looked at the comments and saw that non-truckers were also encouraged to join the convoy. As an individual who was affected by federal travel mandates as well as provincial employment mandates, I felt the convoy was something I could join, in the hopes of supporting the trucker’s efforts, would also help every other Canadian affected by the mandates. I decided to pull my 26-foot camper with me - filled with food, medical supplies, water, dog food and warm bedding.

Rolling out of Calgary, Alberta early January 23, 2022, I realized that I was not the only non-trucker in the convoy. There were many people in RV’s and others towing toy-trailers outfitted with wood stoves and bed bunks.

The first night in Swift Current, Saskatchewan I met a couple, Linda and Jeremy, from Alberta. I asked them if they were a trucker couple. They laughed and said no, they were just two people affected by the mandates. They had lost everything over the last eighteen months and this movement was the only chance they believed they had to get back to work. I asked them where they parked their camper, and they replied, ‘we don’t have one, we are sleeping in our vehicle’. This absolutely floored me. It was -35 degree Celsius that evening. How could they drive for 10 hours a day and then sleep in the same vehicle at night? I invited them to sleep in my camper as I had three spare sleeping nooks and a propane heater. (This became a nightly ritual; by the time we reached Ottawa, there were up to seven people sleeping in my camper every night.)

The next morning I looked at the vehicles leaving the Flying-J Truckstop with a new perspective. It didn’t take me long to realize that for every transport truck in the convoy, there were three or four passenger vehicles and pickup trucks. Over the Zello channel these vehicles were referred to as ‘the four-wheelers’. The drivers of the ‘four-wheelers’ and their passengers, which often included children, had made the decision to pilgrimage to Ottawa and sleep in their vehicles. The very idea brought a rush of emotion through me body. It really sunk in - how truly desperate the situation had become for so many families in Canada. I spent the day thinking about how I could help these travellers.

By the time we arrived in front of Parliament, it was clear. The majority of people who travelled to Ottawa were of the same mindset. We would stay until the provincial and federal mandates were dropped. Come hell or high water, we were there to get the job done. We settled in.

A GoFundMe that had been set up by Tamara Lich captured the headlines from Legacy News, from the day it was conceived (January 14, 2022) through today, over a year later. Millions of dollars poured in from across the country and around the world. The fundraiser was meant to provide financial support to the truckers to go towards their ‘out of pocket’ spending on gas, lodging, food and incidentals. While in Ottawa this fund was cancelled. When donators received their funds, they re-donated the original amount, often doubling their donation, to the newly established GiveSendGo fundraising platform.

Recognizing that the passengers of the four-wheelers did not have access to the Trucker GiveSendGo (and in the end neither would the truckers), I used my social media platform to raise awareness of the families, couples and friends who made the trek to Ottawa in their vehicles. I began to fundraise. My request was simple, if you transfer funds I will ensure that the donation will go directly to the people protesting on the ground in Ottawa. Several other content providers also raised funds for my initiative. The funds rolled in. It was obvious what the needs were.

A friend and I wrote out a little flyer and photocopied 2000 copies at a local shop:

 Support for Four-Wheelers
  Gas Cards
  Petsitting & Dog Food
  Vehicle Surveillance
 Anything you need to help make ‘holding the line’ easier!
 Text Michelle at xxx-xxx-xxxx

We spent hours every day placing these flyers on cars parked along Metcalfe, O’Connor, Bank, Kent, Slater, Albert, Wellington, Rideau and Sussex. We introduced ourselves, exchanged phone numbers, took care of immediate requests. We handed out gas cards and Tim Hortons gift cards from the cash donations received.

Posted by Michelle Kloet on February 3 2022. Click here to see more…

As the days went on, I would get dozens of calls like this, ‘my car is blocked in, if I don’t get fuel, we’ll freeze tonight.’ So I assembled a team of ‘gas runners’. Providing them with jerry cans, sturdy wagons and a fuel truck, they were able to fuel up the vehicles that were parked in the downtown core. A young man on my crew, draped in the Canadian flag hauling a wagon through the snow covered streets ended up on the front page of the newspaper. The secret was out.

Many people said they would love to donate, but they were short on funds. We came up with a creative way to use Air Miles points. Donators would secure hotel rooms in the downtown core on their points card. They would book the room, then I would arrive at the hotels, use my credit card for damages and incidentals (there weren’t any) and met the people who had requested a room to check them in. Those rooms provided showers, warming stations and laundry services by day, and in the evening four to six people could have a restful, comfortable sleep. These rooms were a game changer. Having some privacy, getting clean and charging phones gave some ‘normalcy’ to the most surreal experience any of us had surely lived.

Those who travelled in the smaller vehicles had valuable jobs while in Ottawa. They shovelled walkways through the trucks parked on Wellington, picked up garbage, hung garbage bags, salted the sidewalks, watched trucks so that they weren’t damaged by anti-protesters when the truckers went for food or a shower. They held protest signs, danced, and lended themselves to the ambience of the demonstration. They provided social media posts to every platform so the public could see what was accurately happening in Ottawa, as opposed to the biased and untruthful reports from Canadian legacy news agencies. While the trucks held the physical space in Ottawa, the people in the four-wheelers provided the energy.

My sole priority in Ottawa was to ensure the people who were sleeping in their four-wheel vehicles were cared for - physically and emotionally. Temperatures were cold, amenities were limited, people were far from home and the days wore on.

All the while we were under constant threat from ‘anti-protestors’ who criminally harassed those involved in the freedom demonstration. We had not anticipated the aggression of the ‘anti-protesters’. Our tires were slashed, vehicles were painted with graffiti, had their paint scratched and car windows broken. Threats from above were also very real, as vehicles were ‘egged’ and dented with potatoes thrown from condos above.

My greatest fear in Ottawa was that a demonstrator would be provoked - by either law enforcement or anti-protestors - and respond in kind due to frayed nerves. I did my best to ensure demonstrators knew that they had support when they needed it. When people are cared for, they have increased social connectedness, less stress and less anxiety.

As the weeks went by, there was no shortage of funding. Money was like manna from heaven. It appeared at every turn. People received so much that what we could not use, we forwarded on. God looked after each of us. Keeping us safe. Keeping us warm. Keeping us Canadian.

In the aftermath of the final weekend, all remaining funds went towards repairing vehicles which were damaged while in police holding and getting towed vehicles out of the lots. Tens of thousands of dollars was spent on this endeavour.

The donations that came to me were almost exclusively from strangers. My little team was able to help dozens of people every day. We didn’t want for anything. Except for our freedom.

Michelle Kloet is a first generation Canadian of Dutch descent. She put the horses out to pasture to answer the call of the Freedom Convoy to End All Mandates. She may have been pushed out of Ottawa under the blows of a baton, but she is still there in spirit.

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