The Explainer: How did a truckers’ protest in Canada spread to other countries?

Listen here to find out how external forces helped spread these trucker protests across Canada – and around the world.

THE SELF-DECLARED ‘Freedom Convoy’ blocking the centre of the Canadian capital of Ottawa started off as a “fringe minority”, according to Canadian President Justin Trudeau – but ended up blocking three key trade routes linking the US and Canada, and sparked protests as far afield as New Zealand.

This story has rumbled on for weeks, so you might not have caught how it began, what the original protesters had called for, or know exactly how it all escalated – we spoke to two experts who explained this long-running saga to us. 

One of them is Alan Regan, a talk radio producer based in Vancouver. He told The Explainer podcast about how people phoned into their radio show to express support for protesters who called for restrictions to be eased – but the protest gathered new supporters with varying views, that seemed to be more extreme, more discriminatory:

We spoke with one protester though who is pretty frustrated… because he was feeling that the whole point [of] getting an end to vaccine mandates for truckers has just gotten lost and muddied in amongst all this far-right rhetoric that’s being expressed among the convoy.

Ciarán O’Connor, an analyst from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue that monitors online extremism, spoke about how anti-Covid rhetoric and the Telegram messaging platform were crucial to how the protests in Ottawa spread further afield – and that this could become a lot more common.

“What we’re looking at here is the future of Covid protest mobilisation,” he said.

“The risk and the danger of these protest movements that we’ve seen since the beginning of Covid, is that often these movements have been and can be co-opted and capitalised upon by extremist figures or extremist groups who seek to take advantage of the frustrations or fears or anxieties of larger groups.”

Listen here for more:

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This episode was put together by presenters Michelle Hennessy and Gráinne Ni Aodha, and producers Nicky Ryan and Aoife Barry.