Manitoba convoy preaches 'peace, hope' for those who 'suffered' under COVID mandates

Convoy organizers confirmed that they contacted the RCMP and police in the weeks leading up to the event. They chose to hold the event on private property rather than in public, adding they did not want to disrupt people's lives in Winnipeg.

Manitoba convoy preaches 'peace, hope' for those who 'suffered' under COVID mandates
Facebook/Greg Koz
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Over the weekend, a peaceful convoy dubbed "Camp Hope" set up south of Dugald, Manitoba, where hundreds from across the country came together after Parliament tabled the POEC report Friday that justified Justin Trudeau's invocation of the Emergencies Act.

Organizers said their event differed from last year's Freedom Convoy in Ottawa, with many of the participants this year also attending that protest to condemn government mandates on COVID.

The province's Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen issued a stern warning Friday to people participating in this year's convoy.

"People have the right to protest, whatever it is that they're protesting, and we see protests at the Manitoba Legislature all the time for various reasons. That is part of a democratic society," said Goertzen. 

"But that right doesn't extend to disrupting the lives of others through blockades and other things that disrupt their lives."

However, Camp Hope owner Walter Hiebert clarified on Saturday that their gathering "has nothing to do with the convoy."

"Camp Hope has nothing to do with the convoy. That was [about] pushing [back against] the mandates," said Hiebert, adding he was pepper sprayed twice last year during the Freedom Convoy in Ottawa.

Hiebert clarified that he wanted to "bring hope" to those suffering from the impacts of COVID mandates.

"God put it on my heart to build Camp Hope ... there are so many lost souls right now," he said. 

Manitoba RCMP told the CBC that they are collaborating with Winnipeg police to ensure safety and to prepare for increased vehicles on nearby highways.

"Officers with the Manitoba RCMP's Division Liaison Team continue to be in regular contact with organizers to ensure a safe environment for the general public, all who may be travelling on highways or roads in Manitoba during the event, and those attending the event," writes the Manitoba RCMP in a statement.

"The Winnipeg Police Service is prepared should there be any events that take place within the City of Winnipeg," said police in a prepared statement. "The WPS remains focused on maintaining public safety during any event which can occur in the city."

"We cannot accept blockades in cities; we cannot see disruptions of people's lives in that way," added Goertzen.

However, freedom advocate and convoy organizer Ron Clark confirmed that organizers had contacted RCMP and police in the weeks leading up to the event. 

He added the organizers and attendees chose to hold the event on private property rather than in public, adding that they did not want to disrupt people's lives in Winnipeg.

"We don't want to go inside the city," said Clark. "We're not trying to shut down a city and cause any disruption to the people that live in the city, so bringing it out on private property was one of the main things to keep the traffic out of the town."

Hiebert stated the group remains in "constant communication" with law enforcement, who visit the camp a few times daily.

"We want to protect the police. The police want to protect us," he added. "We want to work with them and try to restore Canada."

The Camp Hope owner said organizers implemented rules to prevent people from using drugs and alcohol and commented that no incidents occurred over the weekend.

"We are here to welcome everyone," said Hiebert. "If they don't follow the rules of Camp Hope, they'll be asked to leave the premises."

"We want to do this in peace. The whole world is watching."

Last February, the Freedom Convoy protests in Ottawa prompted the federal government to invoke the Emergency Act to remove protesters from the area.

Though the Public Order Emergency Commission (POEC) announced the federal government met the threshold to invoke the Emergencies Act, POEC Commissioner Paul Rouleau said "a failure in policing and federalism" created conditions that met the very high threshold needed to invoke the Act last winter.

Goertzen said Friday that Manitoba's government considered its invocation an act of "[government] overreach."

"Our position to the federal government remains that, in Manitoba, we did not need the powers of the Emergencies Act," he said.

Semi-trucks and tractors filled with people protested COVID mandates outside the Manitoba Legislature until February 23, 2022. They left after police warned protesters of arrests and charges if they didn't clear the road.

Goertzen also credited Manitoba RCMP and Winnipeg police for dispersing a border blockade in Emerson last February.

In response to the POEC report, Hiebert said he was "praying for the government." He asserted the message of the weekend convoy is one of peace and love. 

"We can stand together. We don't need to fight," said Hiebert. "We are trying to save our nation."

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