Now that the Virden-Brandon “Yellow Vest” convoy has attracted the public’s attention, one of its organizers says it’s time for the conversation to begin.
While about 350 people in about 200 vehicles participated in the convoy which ran from Virden to Brandon and back on Saturday afternoon, others lined the Trans Canada Highway, Victoria Avenue and 18th Street in Brandon to support a blue-collar protest against various policies established by Canada’s federal Liberal Party government.
Organizer Damen MacGillivray was not sure how many drivers would respond to the call for the “Yellow Vest” protest, but was happy with the results.
“I know a bunch of rigs fired up that day, which was kind of unfortunate as we could have had more pipeline and oil guys sticking around,” MacGillivray said on Monday. “But it made national news and brought a lot of attention with it.”
The Brandonite said spectators standing along the highway and streets of Brandon and Virden showed their support by waving and giving convoy drivers a thumbs-up sign. Others sat in their vehicles and tooted their horns. Only a few showed their displeasure with the protest, he said.
Organizers from Virden and Brandon put together Saturday’s event by following the lead of similar protests held in Alberta and Saskatchewan through the past few weeks. Westman’s “Yellow Vest” rally met at Sparks Sand and Gravel in Virden late in the morning. At noon, participants drove as a group along the Trans Canada Highway to Kemnay, where they entered Highway 1A towards Brandon. The convoy moved through the city then back to the Trans Canada before returning to Virden.
The “Yellow Vest” movement was adopted in Canada after protests in France took place in November. Hundreds of individuals wearing bright, yellow construction safety vests walked into the streets of Paris and elsewhere to speak against several issues affecting working-class residents. French president Emmanuel Macron was forced to reverse a decision regarding a proposed fuel tax following several days of protesting, some of which turned violent.
Peaceful “Yellow Vest” protests moved to Canada in December, with gatherings held in Nova Scotia, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Truck convoys were set up in various Alberta communities before Christmas, including one in Edson, Alta. that attracted 1000 participants and another in Brooks, Alta. that involved about 450 trucks.
Just a few days before Christmas, another truck convoy gathered in Estevan, Sask. where more than 425 trucks lined up to create a 15-kilometer line of vehicles in protest of various government policies driven by Canada’s governing Liberal Party.
“Protesting is only going to get you so far. We need to take further actions,” said MacGillivray. “I’d like to see it go to a different level by grouping people together and having conversations as to what policies are going to affect us in our area. I think there needs to be a much strong push back on local MPs by saying, ‘These are our issues and if you want our votes, you need to represent them.’”
If anything, the Virden-Brandon “Yellow Vest” event got people with various opinions on issues talking about them, which MacGillivray says was one of the event’s goals.
“(Whether one agrees or not) get away from the computer, come out and have a conversation and let’s work these issues out and see if we can come to an agreement together,” he said. “We’ve got to come together and be unified.”
The issues considered important to Westman “Yellow Vest” protestors included opposition to the carbon tax and illegal – or “irregular” – immigration; advocating for free speech; sovereignty issues surrounding Canada’s signing onto the United Nations’ Compact for Migration; a movement to make Canada energy self-sufficient via support to the oil industry and pipelines; reforms to the country’s electoral and equalization payment systems; and a proposition for the federal government to put taxpayer interests first and cut spending.