By Charlie Senack, Manotick Messenger
Carleton MP Pierre Poilievre helped lead a freedom march alongside a veteran who’s an active member of a group which wants an end to all COVID-19 mandates.
The walk, started by James Topp, began months ago in Vancouver and landed in Ottawa last week. Locally it started in Bells Corners on June 30, and ended in Downtown Ottawa later that day. Poilievre, who has been Carleton’s federal representative since 2004, joined in near College Square, and stayed for about 35 minutes until reaching Baseline and Clyde — walking roughly two kilometres.
In a tweet sent out Thursday afternoon, Poilievre said: “Today I walked alongside military veteran, James Topp, who has travelled the country by foot for free choice. End all mandates. Restore our freedoms. Let people take back control of their lives.”
At the beginning of the walk, Poilievre told Topp that freedom of choice when it comes to medical decisions is of great importance to him.
“I support freedom of choice; I always have and believe people should have the ability to decide for themselves on these matters,” Poilievre said in the conversation with Topp. “We should be free Canadians that can decide what we put in our bodies, decide what we think, decide who we are as people and restore the freedom that brought so many millions of immigrants to this country in the first place.”
Topp is protesting an end to all COVID-19 mandates and is frustrated that many Canadians have been denied access to employment and services because of their vaccination choices, resulting in lost income.
While many unvaccinated workers were either let go or put on temporary leaves of absence because they didn’t receive the jab, those rules have now changed.
As of June 20, vaccine requirements for federal public servants and transportation workers were lifted, which also applies to those who are travelling either domestic or outbound. That means you no longer need to be fully vaccinated in order to board a train, plane, or bus.
While in uniform, Topp, 28, was charged by the Department of National Defence after publicly sharing his discontent over federal vaccine requirements while on the job. He was charged with two counts of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline. Topp will now have to face a court martial.
This winter Downtown Ottawa was taken over by the freedom trucker convoy which turned into a siege. Police from across Canada had to be brought in to take back the city, and barricades went up to keep the demonstrators from causing more disruption. Wellington Street in front of Parliament Hill remains closed and may not open again after it was deemed a security risk to allow vehicles there.
Dozens of transport trucks were towed, makeshift camps were taken down, hot tubs were drained and the bouncy castles were inflated. The cleanup and police response cost the city over $37 million.
Topp was not directly a part of that movement, but said it inspired him to lead this march. Many of his supporters however were a part of the group which packed the area around Parliament Hill for weeks.
Poilievre has faced a divided group due to his support of the freedom convoy. On one hand supporters of the movement are glad to see a longtime MPP support their cause. On the other hand, those who don’t support the convoy’s efforts are frustrated to see a member of the government endorse a group which has caused disruption.
During Thursday’s walk Poilievre could be heard telling Topp that he wants the demonstrations not to get in the way of Canada Day festivities which are primarily taking place at LeBreton Flats this year. Topp has also asked his supporters to leave their flags sharing vulgar messages about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at home, however not all did.
In a statement sent to Global News, a spokesperson for Poilievre didn’t directly address why he joined in on the march, but said the Carleton representative will be spending Canada Day with his constituents.
“We encouraged Canadians to continue to protest for their freedoms,” they added.
Ottawa Police worked with Topp to ensure any demonstrations remained peaceful, and to “safely and lawfully move from the west end of the city down to the Parliament Hill buildings,” said interim police chief Steve Bell.
Topp was met by about 1,300 people who lined the walking route to greet him upon arrival in Ottawa. He now plants to keep the movement going throughout the summer and fall, traveling as far as Newfoundland and Labrador.
The Manotick Messenger reached out to Poilievre for comment but did not hear back.
Despite a Canada Day weekend full of protests, almost all remained peaceful. Ottawa Police say 50 criminal charges were laid over the Canada Day long weekend and 12 people were arrested. Three of those arrests were made at the National War Memorial on June 30, after they allegedly choked a police officer. The arrests were made shortly after Topp concluded his march in Ottawa.