Canadian Anti-Hate Network
With Canada Day quickly approaching many Ottawa residents are voicing concerns about a potential rerun of February’s “Freedom Convoy” protests. The response from those planning the next iteration of the protest movement: “It’ll be an active summer.”
But that does not mean that those who call Canada’s capital home should necessarily brace for a second full-blown occupation. As of right now there is no information indicating anything approaching the protests held in February. Instead, it appears Ottawa residents should prepare for what will likely be a much smaller but persistent series of actions over the warm months.
Most of the current attention is on a planned July 1st protest featuring soldier and anti-mandate activist James Topp. Topp is an army warrant officer who began a slow march to Ottawa from BC months ago. Traversing over 4,000 km from Vancouver’s Terry Fox statue to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Topp initially made headlines after he released several videos showing him in his dress uniform voicing opposition against mandated vaccines for federal employees.
“I am now aware of the sentiment that my endeavour might be connected with the Freedom Convoy. This is not the case,” a statement attributed to Topp reads. “While I was inspired by the Freedom Convoy, my initiative stands on its own and has its own clear direction.”
Topp was, however, flanked by one of the convoy’s spokespeople, Tom Marazzo, when he met with conservative MPs in Ottawa on June 22nd. Marazzo had previously called for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Premier Doug Ford and others to be “criminally charged with Conspiracy to commit murder” because of vaccine mandates.
Beyond reports that he is being charged by the military for his advocacy, Topp himself is a relatively uncontroversial figure. Speaking with an affable, steady tone in interviews – usually from the side of the road – he has become a source of inspiration for those reticent about the government’s public health policies, specifically as they relate to vaccines.
Over the course of his national trek, however, Topp has garnered the attention and given interviews to a slew of different figures on Canada’s far-right.
One individual involved with the far-right in Alberta appears to have joined the march while it was in British Columbia. Logan Murphy, a photographer for Kevin J Johnston’s failed mayoral run in Calgary, is a veteran of the Canadian reserves. He inserted himself into Canada’s “Patriot movement,” he says, after witnessing the January 6 riots in Washington DC firsthand. He has followed the march since around its 20th day.
Topp has been welcoming to interviews from many in the far right landscape. Speaking to Christian nationalist Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson, the hosts of the Freedom Report – Derek Storie and Ed Jamnisek – and Diagolon’s Jeremy MacKenzie.
Mr. Topp Goes to Ottawa
Topp’s hike ended with his arrival in Ottawa on June 22, and met with a group of Conservative Members of Parliament the same day.
“My objection is primarily is with the intrusion of these mandates, these federal government policies, into my personal life,” Topp told the gathered crowd which included Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate Leslyn Lewis.
CTV News published a complete list of the 23 MPs who attended the conference, including Marilyn Gladu, Dean Allison, Jeremy Patzer, Ryan Williams, Kerry-Lynne Findlay, Warren Steinley, John Barlow, Arnold Viersen, and Alex Ruff.
Going on to add that many people who came to speak to him said their issue is “not so much mandates anymore,” but a broader dissatisfaction with Ottawa and a political class not addressing their needs.
Seated alongside Topp and Tom Marazzo was a former advisor to the Trump administration, Paul Alexander, who, among other statements, claimed that “the vaccinated person is actually becoming more ill” compared to the unvaccinated when infected with COVID-19.
Topp would remark that some MPs had left during Alexander’s comments, calling it a “significant reduction” of members in the room. At least seven MPs stayed, forming up with Topp to take a photograph at the end of a quick question period.
“You have support,” said Cypress Hills—Grasslands Saskatchewan MP Jeremy Patzer, “you've had it all along,"
Logan Murphy attended the meeting with Topp and the Members of Parliament, snapping photos in the background and talking with Topp.
What We Know About July 1
Events organized around Topp’s final march to the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier in Ottawa on June 30 generally claim they are not a repeat of the previous occupation, with Logan Murphy commenting during an interview that the protest they were participating in had been recast as a “celebration of freedom.”
Nonetheless, a litany of rumours have been flying around the event, including claims widely shared from an unsubstantiated Twitter account claiming that “thousands” of trucks were inbound for the city with plans to meet Conservative leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre. No evidence or photos have emerged lending any credence to the claim of a new mass-scale convoy and Poilievre’s camp denied any meeting was arranged when contacted by Global News.
Veterans For Freedom is fundraising and has vowed to keep a consistent presence in the city. V4F is made up of former military members that oppose a swath of government policies, specifically around the pandemic response.
A spokesperson told Global News V4F was creating a semi-permanent camp about 40 minutes outside Ottawa dubbed “Camp Eagle” that will also be hosting events throughout the season.
V4F also organized the wreath-laying ceremony in April as part of Operation Rolling Thunder and has made part of its mandate carrying out “lawful civic action on the ground, and sustain the effort until the fundamental rights of Canadians have been restored.”
Conspiratorial far-right podcaster Jeremy MacKenzie, also a CAF veteran and member of V4F, has hosted Topp on his stream at least twice during the soldier’s march east. MacKenzie told the viewers of another live stream, “I don’t want to give too much away but there’s going to be a sustained presence there for a while.”
MacKenzie, like many other V4F members, was a regular feature during the blockade in Ottawa in February.
Solidarity In Ottawa
Repeated statements from organizers indicate that the coming protest actions are intended to be peaceful events, and very different from the mass action that snarled Ottawa’s streets and clouded the air with the echoes of horns for most of February.
However, antifascist activists and residents alike have expressed concern over the coming events, the protests' message, and goals.
“This is a movement of far-right extremists using the vaccine issue as a recruitment pipeline.” said Brian Latour, a spokesperson for Community Solidarity Ottawa (CSO), in a press release.
While the typical Parliament Hill celebrations will be moved to the nearby LeBreton Flats, security posturing by both Ontario and Quebec police will also be reaching “unprecedented” levels, according to the National Observer. Protest organizers have also stated they are in contact with law enforcement.
“Once again, the Ottawa Police Service is providing logistical support to the far right,” said Sam Hersh of Horizon Ottawa. “We know there is no room for negotiation with the far-right. The people of Ottawa have no confidence police will protect our neighbourhoods from extremist, white supremacist far-right violence. To the best of our knowledge, none of the officers who supported the original convoy has faced any consequences. ”
Other organizations involved with the Canada Day protests include Canada Frontline Nurses – whose founders gave a speech during the January 6 riot in Washington DC, – Police On Guard and their anti-vaccine “Mama Bear Project,” Mounties For Freedom, Take Action Canada, Taking Back Our Freedoms, and Vaccine Choice Canada. These groups all form something they have dubbed the “Canadian Citizens Coalition” or C3 (not to be confused with the Canadian Combat Coalition, an anti-Muslim hate group previously attached to the “United We Roll” convoy in 2019).
Other groups from the now two-year-old COVID-conspiracy movement, like The Line, have plans for their own events, though details remain sparse.