A group of self-styled "freedom advocates" are travelling to Ontario with mixed objectives — including to "demand" the RCMP arrest Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — but their final destination is unclear and some leading figures of the February 2022 truck convoy protests are questioning their motives.
Ron Clark, who's based in Alberta and traveled to Ottawa in 2022 to participate in the protest, is currently heading east once again.
He's live-streaming his drive along with a small group of people. In his videos, he encourages others to accompany them.
Another person, who uses the name Normann Blanchfield on Facebook, posted an unsigned letter to the social media platform that claims members of the 2022 convoy movement are "now returning to demand that the RCMP arrest Prime Minister Trudeau for treason because of his unlawful violent vaccine mandates, and his unlawful use of force to break up the protest."
The Liberal government invoked the Emergencies Act to ultimately end what organizers called the "Freedom Convoy." A public inquiry into the act's use found Trudeau and his cabinet were justified in using the law.
Clark's convoy plan is not drawing unanimous support. 2022 protest participant Melissa McKee, for one, calls it "a little sinister," and questions the motivations of those promoting it.
Melissa McKee, co-pastor at the Capital City Biker’s Church, in a September 2023 photo. She says a new convoy could jeopardize the ongoing trial for 2022 convoy organizers Tamara Lich and Chris Barber. (CBC)
Calls for Trudeau's arrest
Clark has been calling for Trudeau's arrest for more than a year.
In a June 2022 video he posted to Facebook, where he has 144,000 followers, he said police should be arresting politicians, including the prime minister, "for the crimes they are committing against their people."
Since the protests in Ottawa ended, Clark has spent much of his time travelling central Canada attending events and protests.
Some others associated with the self-described Freedom Convoy and adjacent movements are also encouraging people to join.
The last convoy was organic, it was miraculous. - Melissa McKee, Capital City Biker's Church
Clark announced over the weekend he would be leaving for Ontario on Monday and has since posted updates from the road. He reached Manitoba on Tuesday.
"You can read between the lines, you know where you're going," he said in one video. "You can go wherever you wish, it's completely up to you."
He has repeatedly stated in those videos that he is not an organizer and that plans have come together naturally over recent months. But on Saturday, he described the trip eastward as "a well-organized machine that's happening in the background."
Tyson George Billings, who was often seen with well-known convoy organizer Pat King during the original trucker protests, is one of the few prominent figures from the 2022 version promoting the latest plans.
Billings — also known as Freedom George — told supporters "it is time" in a video posted to social media on Sept. 21. He said "get to the spots, you will know," and recommended that people travel in small groups rather than a large convoy.
He also said he wants Trudeau out as prime minister.
Tyson George Billings, a prominent figure in 2022 trucker protests, leaves the Ottawa courthouse on June 15, 2022, after pleading guilty to one of the charges against him. He supports the latest convoy plan. (Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press)
'This one feels a little dark'
McKee, a co-pastor of Capital City Biker's Church in Ottawa, said she's "very reluctant" to support this protest.
"This does not feel like the same as it did the last time," she said, referring to the 2022 protest. "This one feels a little dark and a little sinister to me, and I'm not behind it."
McKee's church and household played, and continues to play, significant roles in ongoing protest movements. They supported truckers in the winter of 2022, offering food, clothes, prayer and counselling. Their physical building remains a hub in Vanier.
McKee has attended several protests since the 2022 iteration, including the "1 Million March 4 Children" this month, which protested sex education and LGBTQ rights in schools.
McKee said another convoy feels "contrived" and she questions the motivations of promoters who are soliciting donations to their personal email accounts, as Clark and others have.
"The last convoy was organic, it was miraculous," she said. "It's not my intention to be divisive in this way to speak against this, but I don't see anything good coming of calling another convoy."
McKee said she fears protesters will be met with the same force they saw when police cleared Wellington Street to end the protests in the winter of 2022.
Tamara Lich and Chris Barber are two leaders of the convoy protests who are currently on trial for their role as organizers. McKee, a friend of theirs, said she doesn't think the timing is right to have another convoy.
"I don't think that anybody has the right to jeopardize [the trial] for them … And I think we all should be mindful of that," she said.
A crowd of people, many of whom were protesting pandemic health mandates and other restrictions, wave Canadian flags near Parliament Hill in Ottawa on July 1, 2022. (Frédéric Pepin/Radio-Canada)
Police monitoring 'on a regular basis'
Despite her own reluctance to join, McKee said she sees many people online commenting and preparing to join.
She said those promoting the protest so far are encouraging people to travel in small groups, and without flying any Canadian flags, to avoid suspicion.
Unlike the mass of trucks that gained numbers as it approached Ottawa in late January 2022, there is currently no indication that a large number of vehicles is preparing to blockade the city.
When asked what Ottawa police may be doing to prepare for another convoy, Chief Eric Stubbs said at a media briefing Monday that's something they "monitor on a regular basis."
In Toronto, the city's police reopened downtown roads on Tuesday after an anticipated protest didn't arrive.
Earlier Tuesday, Toronto police Insp. Suzanne Redman said a protest was planned by an informal group calling itself "Save the Children." It's unaffiliated with the international non-profit organization of the same name.
There was a heavy police presence throughout the morning on the grounds of the provincial legislature, which included officers from the Toronto Police Service and the Ontario Provincial Police.