Yellow Vests and Convoys Scapegoating Immigration

Amidst Increasing Economic Frustration in Canada, Groups Call for Reduction in Immigration

On the morning of February 19, 2019, a convoy of trucks descended on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to protest the federal government’s perceived lack of support and action for Alberta’s energy sector.

The protestors under the United We Roll banner are focused primarily on getting the federal government to take action on pipelines and Canada’s oil sector, in addition to repealing federal carbon taxes. Starting in Alberta, the convoy has crossed the country to protest peacefully on Parliament Hill.

But given United We Roll’s origins in “Yellow Vests” groups (a Canadian version of France’s “gilets jaunes” anti-fuel tax movement), many commentators have denounced the movement for its close links to anti-immigration and anti-Muslim sentiment. The Canadian Anti-Hate Network states that Yellow Vests Canada has been co-opted by far-right groups, “including the most anti-Muslim groups in Canada.”

United We Roll’s organizers have taken steps to distance their convoy from the Yellow Vests, with head organizer Glen Carritt preaching politeness and professionalism, noting that the convoy has repeatedly said racist and discriminatory views are not welcome.

Still, in comments published in the Globe and Mail, Carritt also commented, “We still stand behind the  ‘yellow vests,’ but whether you want to wear the yellow vest or not, we welcome all respectful, hard-working Canadians.”

Yet the United We Roll website’s homepage mentions opposition to the “UN impact on Canadian borders,” and various Yellow Vests groups have openly condemned the Global Pact on Migration. What’s more, several key figures in Canada’s Yellow Vest movement have openly promoted anti-immigrant and racist views, while others are focusing more on immigration issues than on the carbon tax and energy sector.

It’s important to note that right-wing groups and politicians in Canada provided inaccurate information about the UN Global Compact for Migration. This misinformation may have contributed to attitudes amongst Yellow Vests and the United We Roll convoy.

It goes without saying that there are many Canadians frustrated with the government’s handling of the Alberta oilpatch and apparent lack of attention following the Fort McMurray wildfires that the city is still recovering from. As economic concerns and frustrations grow, though, so too does the risk of scapegoating.

Immigration helps stimulate local economies. What’s more, Canada has a clear economic advantage with its attitude towards refugees. Instead of stoking fears and mistrust in difficult times, these groups protesting on Parliament Hill would do well to see immigrants and newcomers to the country as allies to help create strong economies and communities through Canada.