Almost one in five Canadian truckers is South Asian, but many don’t see themselves represented in the trucker convoy

February 4, 2022

By Globe and Mail

When the freedom convoy was rolling into Canada’s capital this week, Arshdeep Singh Kang was more than 4,440 kilometres away in Los Angeles making a delivery.

The 30-year-old long-haul trucker followed the news of the convoy on his phone during rest stops, but he certainly had no desire to be part of it.

“I don’t believe in the issues they are raising,” Mr. Kang said. “I know there are some South Asian people who support this convoy, but I couldn’t see any of my people in the videos of the convoy.”

According to the 2016 census, South Asians comprise 18 per cent of all Canadian truckers. In major cities such as Vancouver and Toronto, they make up more than half the industry’s work force.

And yet many drivers such as Mr. Kang have no stake in the protest in Ottawa, even though its supporters have dubbed it a “truckers’ movement.”

Jagroop Singh, the president of the Ontario Aggregate Trucking Association, said, “Nobody invited me or any South Asian truckers I know. In fact, we don’t even know who the organizers of this protest are. Nobody asked us if we agree with their demands.”

The convoy may have started as a protest against vaccine mandates, which some truckers say threaten their livelihoods, but it has now embraced several issues. It has drawn support from far-right and extremist groups, with one vlogger even saying he hoped it would become “Canada’s Jan. 6” – a reference to the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol last year by a mob of Donald Trump supporters and right-wing groups. Many Ottawa residents and journalists have reported seeing Confederate flags in the convoy.

Mr. Kang is a resident of Brampton, Ont., which is considered the heart of the trucking industry in the Greater Toronto Area. As of 2019, Brampton and surrounding Peel Region were home to approximately 2,000 trucking companies. But the convoy’s stand against vaccine mandates will find few supporters in the region, where 90 per cent of residents are double vaccinated as of Wednesday, and about 40 per cent have received booster shots.

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