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Convoy organizers set sights for Winnipeg

A line of semi trucks parks near the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg last year. (CBC - image credit)
A line of semi trucks parks near the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg last year. (CBC - image credit)

Some of the organizers of last year's convoy have altered plans to end a second convoy in Ottawa this February, opting instead for Winnipeg.

James Bauder, co-founder of the group Canada Unity and a co-organizer of last February's protest in Ottawa, made the announcement in a Facebook live video, along with fellow organizers Ron Clark and Colin 'Big Bear' Ross, on Christmas Day.

The rally is scheduled to take place from Feb. 17 to Feb. 20, 2023. The start date falls on the one-year anniversary of the final full day of the protest in Ottawa — one day before police started a push to take back occupied streets in the nation's capital.

Bauder had previously posted a call on social media for "Freedom Convoy 2.0" in Ottawa on those same February dates. Now he says the capital will be a stop on the way to Winnipeg where the convoy will make its presence known.

"We're going to come with our convoy — coming right by Ottawa," he said. "We're going to honk, honk and we're going to invite Ottawa residents."

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press
Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Ottawa's police chief has said the force would not allow a repeat of last year's protest which occupied downtown streets for weeks. The federal government also said it learned lessons from the handling of the protest and has already implemented changes for future events.

"We chose Winnipeg because it's the middle point in Canada, so people can come from the east coast, from the west coast," Ross said. "We'll be able to convoy across the nation."

Bauder was behind the group that called for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to be arrested and "charged with treason." Other convoy organizers eventually distanced themselves from him.

Organizers promise peaceful rally

Bauder's also been involved in previous, less successful attempts to disrupt the capital. Bauder, who testified last month during the Public Order Emergency Commission, calls his demonstrations "bear hugs."

He was arrested in Ottawa in February and faces several charges. His bail conditions currently prevent him from returning to the capital.

Evan Mitsui/CBC
Evan Mitsui/CBC

Organizers said it will be a "peaceful, multi-day assembly," featuring speeches, ceremonies, events and guest speakers.

"The goal is to facilitate a grassroots movement of citizens worldwide," a woman by the Facebook name Serena Freedombear said in a separate video posted to Canada Unity's page.

No contact from organizers, Winnipeg police say

Convoy organizers told Radio-Canada they had been in contact with the Winnipeg Police Service, but police said no representative of Canada Unity had yet reached out to them.

"As of Thursday, no representatives of this group had contacted the Winnipeg Police Service," Const. Jay Murray told Radio-Canada on Sunday.

Radio-Canada also requested an interview with the Ottawa Police Service but has not heard back.

In a letter addressed to the mayor and chair of the city's police services board last week, Ottawa police chief Eric Stubbs said he and his command team have briefed the board about the "potential" return of protesters in the new year.

"There is zero tolerance for disturbances and/or criminal behaviour or for individuals who attempt to disrupt our communities with vehicles," he wrote.