May 22, 2022

How the “freedom convoy” of Canadian truckers is trying to export to France

The mayor of Ottawa declared a state of emergency in his city on Sunday, February 6, paralyzed by the action of truckers hostile to health measures against Covid-19. The Canadian federal capital has been paralyzed for several days by the Freedom Convoy (“freedom convoy”), a demonstration of truckers hostile to the new law on compulsory vaccination. About five hundred heavyweights from across the country had joined on January 29 in Ottawa, blocking the main roads and honking their horns all day long. Some flew Confederate and Nazi flags.

The movement spread, with demonstrations of support on February 5 and 6 in Toronto, Vancouver or Quebec. And desires to export the movement to Europe and beyond have emerged in recent days in networks hostile to health policy. Similar initiatives have been observed in Leeuwarden in the Netherlands, Schwerin in Germany, or even Canberra in Australia, while a convoy plans to descend on Brussels on February 14. Passing through a strategic stage: Paris.

  • A convoy that is getting organized to converge on Paris

As soon as the Freedom Convoy was talked about, opponents of the French government’s health policy welcomed the initiative of the Canadian truckers, even if it meant relaying false information by exaggerating the importance or the political impact. They claimed, for example, that the convoy had forced the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, to flee, when the latter, suffering from Covid-19, had isolated.

On French social networks, there are many calls to establish a roadblock in Paris from Friday 11 to Sunday 13 February. A website has been created to list the routes that these convoys could take to converge on the capital, starting from Morlaix (Finistère) or Nice (Alpes-Maritimes). For the most motivated, the objective is to go as far as Brussels on February 14, to join the convoys from other countries.

Several Facebook and Telegram discussion groups have been created in the past two weeks to coordinate the initiative, at national or local level. The main one, “Le convoy de la liberté”, has more than 250,000 subscribers, while on Telegram, several delegations by country have been created, such as the group “Convoy France” with 23,000 sympathizers or “Tous à Paris”. The chain La Meute, a tribute to the Mamans louves collective, which fights against the vaccination of children, has between 100 and 500 followers on each of its 90 departmental branches.

These groups mix heterogeneous profiles. There are many “yellow vests”, truckers, restaurateurs, “rebellious”, activists from the National Rally, as well as Anonymous – an international radical left movement born during the subprime crisis. But also naturopaths, “confidence coaches”, or “vibration” specialists opposed to anti-Covid-19 vaccines and promoters of alternative treatments against the epidemic (hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin, etc.)

Despite an apparent desire for moderation, one can read violent remarks in these Telegram groups (some speak of “take out the guns”) or illegal, with offers of fake health passes.

  • An “apolitical” initiative that attracts the far right

Among these thousands of anonymous people, a figure emerged: that of Rémi Monde, co-organizer and spokesperson for the movement. According to his Facebook page, he presents himself as a follower of road groups, of Professor Didier Raoult and of documentaries with a conspiratorial tendency. Hold-up. Estimating that “the people of France have had enough”, on January 30, he calls in a video for a convergence of motorists towards Paris, in the name of freedoms.

“We, the people of France, from all walks of life, must rise up, because they [les gouvernants] go too far and that if we don’t say stop they will never stop. »

Verification : The untruths of the documentary “Hold-up”

Many groups linked to the QAnon conspiratorial movement, such as “Les DéQodeurs”, “QactusPublic”, “Qode17info”, “New World Order” or even “Patriotesfrancophones” have relayed the initiative.

She also received the support of political figures such as Jean-Frédéric Poisson, president of “Via, the way of the people” and close to Eric Zemmour, the pro-Raoult speaker Idriss Aberkane or the president of the Patriots, Florian Philippot, who surfing for a year on the wave of anti-restriction movements: “The French resistance fighters are fully with them. Something huge is happening!” enthused the latter. This attempt at recovery was not to the liking of Rémi Monde, who presents the liberty convoy as “apolitical, owned by the citizens, quite simply”.

In his messages, Mr. Monde calls for the lifting of all health restrictions, but his demands are broader: the suspension of all European directives, the partial zero-rating of gasoline, the increase in net salaries, the resignation of deputies , senators, ministers and the President of the Republic, and the establishment of the popular initiative referendum. Themes reminiscent of those of the yellow vests in the fall of 2018.

  • Between Canada and France, very different situations for truckers

Can the French “freedom convoy” take on the same magnitude as its Canadian counterpart? It is not so obvious, because the situations are different in the two countries.

First of all, the health restrictions that apply to road transport are not the same as in North America. Since January 15, Canadian truckers are, in fact, subject to the vaccination obligation. On the French side, the rules are different. They have the right to travel between countries and they can eat at truck stops without a vaccination pass. “We are included in a movement that therefore does not concern us. They use the imaginary power of a convoy to block I-don’t-know-who or I-don’t-know-what” , explains Christophe Denizot, secretary general of the Sud-Solidaires Federation of road transport, who dissociates himself from this movement.

Another major difference, noted by Mr. Denizot:

“Unlike Canada, we do not own our truck, if we participate in this convoy, we can have our license revoked and fired for obstructing freedom of movement. »

The organizers of the French convoy have already taken note of this. Rémi Monde has therefore chosen, unlike the Canadian demonstrations, to open up the possibility of joining the procession: “by truck, car, bicycle or on horseback, you have to bring together as many people as possible” and “flooding social media”, he announces. This was also the case in the Netherlands with the convoy that left The Hague on 30 January. The majority of the movement was made up of cars, tractors or motorcycles, accompanied only by a few trucks.