‘Yellow Vest’ protest set for Westman Saturday

A truck convoy protesting federal government policies on various issues will leave Virden at noon Saturday, arriving at the corner of Brandon's 18th Street and Victoria Avenue at about 1 p.m.

A loosely connected string of protests against federal government carbon taxation, economic, immigration and free speech policies will arrive in Manitoba on Saturday.

Organizers from Virden and Brandon are putting together a "Yellow Vest" convoy following the lead of similar events held in Alberta and Saskatchewan through the past few weeks.

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As of Friday, Damen MacGillivray of Brandon did not know how many participants would take part, but suggested response to the movement has been strong in the region.

“I just put a post on Facebook to see if anybody wanted to put together an event like this and I got quite a bit of feedback,” said MacGillivray, one of the Westman “Yellow Vest” protest organizers.

“We have close to 60 people confirmed coming, but a lot are companies saying they’ll be sending every vehicle they have. I’m hoping for (a turnout similar to the one in Estevan, Sask.), but I don’t think we’re going to see that number of vehicles out of Brandon alone. A majority will come from the Virden area given the fact that they’re more in oil country; not so much Brandon.”

Westman’s “Yellow Vest” rally will converge at Sparks Sand and Gravel in Virden at 11 a.m. Saturday. Beginning at noon, participants will drive vehicles along the Trans Canada Highway to Kemnay, where they will turn onto Highway 1A towards Brandon. The convoy will then move north on 18th Street at about 1 p.m. 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 increasing fuel taxes. 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.

“Yellow Vest” protests moved to Canada in December, with gatherings held in Nova Scotia, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta. All of these were relatively peaceful. 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.

“We haven’t seen anything (protests) happening in Manitoba yet, which is quite unfortunate,” said MacGillivray. “We’ve been paying attention to what’s going on in Alberta and Saskatchewan with the layoffs and the damage done to industry (by federal policies), but Manitobans should not be too pleased right now, either. These movements have been kind of hijacked by the oil and gas industry, but there are tons of other issues involved.”

A poster published on a Facebook Event page called “Yellow Vest Virden-Brandon Vehicle Convoy” outlined the issues the event intends to highlight. These include 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.

“I’ve been involved in politics and management in my career and understand what is going on in the economy,” said MacGillivray.

“I’ve been seeing what’s happening in Alberta and Saskatchewan and it’s actually making me furious. It affects Manitoba, too. There was a lot said on Facebook about what is going on, but we actually have to put action to the words and that’s all I wanted to do. Move this from a Facebook platform and get people on the ground to show their support and open a conversation to discuss these issues. I’m hoping it grows into a larger movement than just driving down a highway or talking on Facebook.”

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