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Convoy organizer says plans to stage a 2023 protest in Winnipeg are off

Cancellation blamed on security breaches and personal attacks
James Bauder appears as a witness at the Public Order Emergency Commission in Ottawa, on Thursday, Nov 3, 2022. Canada Unity, one of the anti-government protest groups behind the protests that headlined much of last year, is calling off its plans to restage the event this February. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Freedom Convoy 2.0 appears to be a bust.

Canada Unity, one of the anti-government protest groups behind the protests that headlined much of last year, has called off its plans to restage the event in Winnipeg in February.

“The Canada Unity Official Freedom Convoy 2.0 Reunion that was scheduled for Feb. 17 to 20th, 2023, is hereby officially being issued a 10-7 ‘out of service,” James Bauder wrote in a news release posted to the group’s Facebook page.

Bauder, who founded Canada Unity, said in December he would bring a four-day event back to Ottawa, staging it at an undisclosed spot outside the city and making daily trips to Parliament Hill. After police in Ottawa indicated they would have zero tolerance for such an event, Bauder said he would move it to Winnipeg instead.

He has now called that off, too.

In his Facebook post, he blamed non-specific security breaches and personal attacks.

Despite the fact the event was set to unfold in Manitoba, he said he is worried he or others could be charged under Ontario’s new Bill 100, which was passed last year after the first convoy protests. The law, dubbed the “keeping Ontario open for business act,” prohibits protests at protected transportation infrastructure, including airports and border crossings. It also allows for police to seize drivers’ licences and licence plates used in illegal blockades.

Bauder was among dozens of people arrested in February 2022 during the first convoy. He faces charges including mischief, and disobeying court orders and the police. One of his bail conditions bars him from travelling to downtown Ottawa.

The original convoy blocked several areas around Parliament Hill for three weeks. Demonstrations also shut down at least four border crossings elsewhere in the country.

The blockades resulting in the federal government’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act for the first time.

In the weeks leading up to the first protest in Ottawa, Bauder penned a “memorandum of understanding” and tried to deliver it to Gov. Gen. Mary Simon. It asked her and all sitting senators to sign an agreement that would overthrow the government and make Simon, the senators, Bauder, his wife Sandra and one other man the formal Canadian government.

They would then order all other levels of government to end every COVID-19-related restriction and reinstate workers who were suspended or fired for not being vaccinated.

Bauder’s group later joined with others to create the convoy blockade that also affected several other parts of downtown Ottawa and some provincial legislatures.

As the events unfolded in Ottawa, Bauder did not appear to be among the main organizers or leaders.

A public inquiry that investigated the government’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act held six weeks of public hearings in the fall, which laid bare the details of chaos and dysfunction both within the various groups organizing the protests and the police forces and governments trying to end them.

A final report from that inquiry is expected next month.

The city of Ottawa reported the policing and city services costs due to the convoy event topped $52 million. The City of Windsor, where the blockade of the Ambassador Bridge border crossing resulted in the largest economic disruptions, estimated policing costs were close to $7 million.

There are millions more in costs associated with business losses in Ottawa and Windsor, as well as for policing and economic harms in other cities and border crossings including Winnipeg, Emerson, Man., Coutts, Alta., and Surrey, B.C.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

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