Supporters of a Canada-wide movement against vaccine mandates for truckers gathered in Niagara-on-the-Lake Thursday morning, waving "freedom" flags and anti-Trudeau signs.
Hundreds of people met at the Husky Travel Centre on York Road in St. Davids, and down the road, filling the parking lots at both Husky and Clare's Harley Davidson across the street to show support for the "Canada Unity Freedom Convoy."
The convoy of truckers was scheduled to be at the truck stop for 8 a.m. It was unclear if there was one specific convoy, but many truckers were there tooting their horns.
An employee at Husky said she arrived around 6 a.m. and people were already lining up to see the truckers.
Anita Doppenberg, a St. Davids resident who was there early to support her trucker husband John, said the message of the rally was purely about freedom of choice.
"(It's not about) don't get vaccinated or don't wear mask. If you need to do those things, by all means do that," she said.
"This is about freedom of choice for all Canadians. People need to make their own decisions, they need to have informed consent, parental consent, risk-benefit analysis and all those types of things," Doppenberg said.
"People are smart and they can make their own medical decisions, but to have that kind of dictated to you seems just a little bit, you know — how does one solution fit everybody when we're also diverse at different medical situations?"
She said she'd been hearing from people who are part of the BearHug movement that, "It's the first time I feel proud to be Canadian."
"I'm interested in ending all the mandates and giving Canadians their rights and freedoms back," convoy trucker Tom Van Schaik said.
Schaik said he was heading all the way to Ottawa and will be meeting up with a convoy from Windsor in Kingston on the way.
"We're gonna stop in Hamilton, then we're gonna head to Kingston and spend the night there," Port Colborne resident Schaik said.
The convoy is headed to Ottawa for Jan. 29, to put pressure on Parliament to end vaccine mandates for truckers to be able to work and cross the U.S. border.
With files from Evan Saunders