Protests Against Carbon Tax Include Recognizable Figures From So-Called Freedom Convoy

Organizers say the protests will continue indefinitely until the tax is repealed. 

Canadian Anti-Hate Network

A group of protesters faces a line of RCMP officers outside Cochrane, Alberta's Axe the Tax protestProtesters face a line of RCMP officers in Cochrane, Alberta. Source: Facebook/FreedomGeorge2022

Nationwide protests against the federal carbon tax introduced by the Liberal government drew a range of people aiming to “axe the tax,” including members of Canada’s far-right and conspiratorial community. 

Protests were reported in major cities like Vancouver, Edmonton, and Ottawa, as well as numerous small rural areas and stretches of highway where protesters aimed to slow or delay traffic. The protests began on April 1 and are planned to continue indefinitely until the tax is repealed. 

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A “Nationwide Protest Against Carbon Tax” website purportedly set up by organizers states that their “core message” is the “total abolition of the carbon tax,” adding that protests “will persist relentlessly” until the tax is repealed. The website lists numerous locations, typically at rural provincial borders. Listed on the website are 15 Facebook groups (14 regional and one national). The national group currently has 178,000 members and was created on March 5. 

These protests against the carbon tax seem to be attracting many supporters of the so-called Freedom Convoy in 2022. One of the promoters of ‘axe the tax’ protests, Ron Clark, participated in the Freedom Convoy that occupied Ottawa and blocked several border crossings to demand an end to COVID-19 policies. One of the organizers of the Freedom Convoy, James Bauder, is now participating in the ‘axe the tax’ protests.

According to livestreams of the April 1 protests, Calgary hate preacher Artur Pawlowski and Elliot “Moose” McDavid participated in the Cochrane, Alberta protest. McDavid made headlines in 2022 for his verbal confrontation with Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland. 

Near Orillia, Ontario, Chrystal Peters has been regularly streaming from carbon tax protest sites. Peters, a regular fixture at protests targeting 2SLGBTQ+ events, was charged in July with Public Incitement of Hatred allegedly after a protest against a drag event outside a church.

Despite the call for a “core message,” one protester in Cochrane, Alberta, told The Canadian Press, “It’s not just about ’axe the tax.’ It’s about the freedoms. It’s about our right to free speech.” 

In Cochrane, a few dozen protesters gathered by the side of the highway. The initial plan was to perform a “slow roll” convoy of vehicles. A slow roll is a large line of vehicles that does not stop but deliberately travels at low speeds to delay traffic. 

Ron Clark said the group did not engage in the planned slow roll due to being unable to rent vehicles fitted with large indicator lights warning vehicles to go around. 

The RCMP have claimed that five tractors that refused to stop were involved in a multi vehicle collision. Many supporters of the convoy have called the news either fabricated or overblown. 

One of the participants in Cochrane on Monday was James Bauder, one of the early organizers of the 2022 Ottawa convoy protests. Live streaming, Bauder seemed audibly disappointed when some of the participants did not recognize his name. 

Bauder is considered to be responsible for the memorandum of understanding that circulated during the build up to the 2022 convoy to Ottawa. He continues to face a number of criminal and civil charges for his participation. 

Also in attendance was Tyson Billings, better known as Freedom George, another figure alleged to be key in organizing the protests that snarled Ottawa streets in 2022. He pled guilty to counseling mischief and spending 116 days in jail. On live streams from the recent roadside protest, Billings can be seen talking to police officers on scene but repeatedly reiterates that he does not control the other activists. 

A post to Billings’ Facebook account in the week up to the protest calls on Canadians to use the April 1 tax protests as a “stepping stone to unite once again.” 

“We need this because in May the WHO Pandemic Treaty may be signed by Canada.” 

As the second day of the protest resumed, those on site are reporting that police have closed the stretch of highway and redirecting traffic around the protest. 

Media reports state Hope, British Columbia saw around 300 participants. According to CBC News, protesters slowed down traffic in three locations at Saskatchewan’s borders with Alberta and Manitoba. 

In Newfoundland and Labrador’s capital of St. John’s, “not a whole lot of people showed up” according to one participant on a live stream. One of the few in attendance was Dana Metcalfe, who once spread rumours that school children were identifying as “demons.” 

In a live stream from her car, Metcalfe called the protest “a joke” compared to the actions taking place in Alberta. 

According to a report from Global News, protesters also gathered close to the Nova Scotia-New Brunswick border. The protesters said they had no intention of blocking the road, though police blocked it anyway until protesters disbursed. 

Footage shared online also shows a sizable line of cars between the borders of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. 

CTV reported that a small group of people gathered on the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge linking Ottawa to Gatineau, Quebec. No traffic disruptions were reported, though several streets around Parliament were blocked off. 

Participants in the Ottawa protest against the carbon tax included participants in the 2022 convoy, far-right influencers, and members of frequent protests in the city. Among them is Chris Dacey, a content creator and supporter of anti-2SLGBTQ+ protests led by Save Canada, a Christian nationalist youth group. 

While conspiracy theories about climate change are common in the far-right, opposition to the tax is not inherently a far-right position. A December 2 poll conducted by Nanos Research indicates that nearly half of Canadians don’t believe the tax is effective at combating climate change. 

The carbon tax is intended to slowly drive up the cost of using greenhouse gasses, promoting and incentivizing the development of alternative sources of fuel and energy. In 2019, the additional cost per tonne of carbon was pegged at $20, with planned increases each year. On April 1, the start of the new fiscal year, the price increased by $15 to $80 per tonne. 

Conservative Party of Canada Leader Pierre Poilievre made the carbon tax a central issue in his appeal to Canadians since assuming control of the party. This includes a recent motion to stop the increase and a vote of no confidence. Both did not pass. 

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