How we outlasted the convoy by supporting one another


Joel Harden
MPP Ottawa Centre

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We’ve had an incredibly difficult time in Ottawa, particularly in our downtown, because of the “freedom convoy.” But we also learned during this time that in a crisis, our community shows up for one another.

The convoy arrived on January 29, fuelled by grievances from two years of anger against vaccine mandates and mask mandates. They were resolved to send a message and claimed to be doing so for “blue-collar workers.”

What they did, however, was harm Ottawa residents. Horns blared at all hours at levels that can damage hearing. Shops were forced to close, staff missed paycheques, people were harassed for wearing a mask.

I heard from hundreds of workers and small business owners who’ve lost wages and sales. I spoke to residents who were terrified. I heard reports of women, racialized folks, queer and transgender neighbours who were harassed while walking home or in front of grocery stores.

At a large apartment building in the middle of the downtown core, at Metcalfe and Lisgar, two people were seen to enter the building at 5 a.m. and attempt to start a fire while taping the front doors shut.

More egregious acts of violence also happened. But we persevered. Anyone who believes the convoy was peacefully protesting vaccine mandates was severely misled.

But at the height of all this, the priority for the community, local leaders and our office was to keep each other safe. To get food to seniors and people with disabilities who were not able to leave their homes. To get animals out to safety. To deliver earplugs to residents facing constant honking.

A Centretown Helpers online discord group was set up; it organized safe walks for community members and gave folks a place to virtually gather in a difficult time.

Safety walks were organized by councillors Catherine McKenney, Shawn Menard and Jeff Leiper, as well as local residents.

Social service agencies such as the Good Companions and Meals on Wheels dropped off food to people in need.

Residents organized funds to supplement the wages of workers who were not able to work because of the convoy. Others gathered funds to help downtown residents get out of the core.

Zexi Li, a federal public servant, launched a $9.8 million lawsuit and won an injunction (with lawyers Paul Champ and Emilie Taman) to end the abuse of downtown residents from hours of truck honking in the downtown core. Our neighbours then went around to deliver these injunction notices to truckers.

Residents of Old Ottawa South and beyond mobilized to peacefully stop convoy vehicles from entering the downtown, holding a blockade at Bank and Riverside for eight hours.

Our community mobilized to let each other know that we were not alone. Our MPP office hosted several town halls to communicate these resources to residents and help them get plugged in.

We also demanded action from the provincial government during the crisis. Councillor McKenney and I wrote a letter to Premier Ford asking for help for our city and its residents affected by the convoy, and we continue to call for this support.

We need financial help for folks who have had their homes and front yards trashed and for small businesses and workers who lost money because of forced closures. We need mental health resources for residents and support for social service agencies on the frontlines.

What I’ve learned from this convoy is that our community takes care of one another, and that is a legacy we can be proud of. But we must also understand why this happened and address the rising levels of hate in our country.

Hate grows when people feel unheard. Horns blare when people believe their suffering goes unnoticed. Rural anger boils over against downtown Ottawa when people think “urban elites” have it better than them. Politicians fanning the flames only makes matters worse.

As we reclaim our city, we must also heal our country.

I’ve been hosting Zoom town halls since the end of the convoy to discuss how we heal the division and address the concerning rise of hate. You can watch some of our sessions on our website at and follow the link to our YouTube. Take a moment to watch those conversations, then let me know your thoughts on how we can rebuild our communities by writing to me at I would love to hear from you.

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