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Freedom Convoy supporters rally in Fort St. John

Convoys continued today across Canada

As demonstrators settle in for a second weekend of COVID-19 freedom protests in Ottawa, hundreds of supporters rallied for another convoy through Fort St. John on Saturday afternoon.

Convoy participants departed from Safeway and the Petro Canada on the Alaska Highway for a parade of loops through the city, joining continued calls across Canada for an end to COVID-19 restrictions and a return to pre-pandemic freedoms.

Last weekend, a similar convoy travelled down the Alaska Highway from Dawson Creek to Charlie Lake.

Similar demonstrations are happening today across Canada including in Fredericton, Quebec City, Winnipeg, Regina, Edmonton, Vancouver, Victoria and the U.S. border crossing in Coutts, Alta.

In B.C.'s capital, Victoria police said they were preparing for another large truck convoy of protesters to the legislature. An image shared on social media said an Island convoy started Saturday morning in ­Campbell River on its way to the legislature. It said the convoy will stay until vaccine mandates are lifted.

Last Saturday, hundreds of vehicles, including industrial trucks, filled the Trans-Canada Highway and Douglas Street in a convoy to the B.C. legislature, where the crowd was estimated at up to 5,000 at one point.

In Alberta, protesters on horseback have joined a truck blockade of a southern Alberta highway near the U.S. border crossing at Coutts today.

RCMP Cpl. Gina Slaney says more than 100 horses appear to be at the protest against COVID-19 restrictions that began on Highway 4 last weekend.

Slaney says the horses were brought to the scene in trailers, and that food trucks also arrived today.

She says traffic is still moving in both directions across the Canada-U.S. border.

The protesters agreed earlier in the week to open some lanes for traffic so truckers could haul cargo across the border.

In Eastern Canada, several thousand demonstrators were reported near the legislature in Quebec City to protest against public-health measures. 

In Toronto, several hundred protesters gathered on the south side of the Ontario legislature, chanting "liberté" overtop reggae that issued from loudspeakers and sporting placards that read, “Freedom = no mandates” and “let love guide you, not fear." Nearby, a couple hundred health-care workers and supporters marched from the University of Toronto to hospital row just south of the legislature. Their inked messages included, “N95 masks for all.”

In Ottawa, police chief Peter Sloly said more than 1,000 vehicles and at least 5,000 demonstrators jammed the city core Saturday, along with 300-plus counter-demonstrators.

At midday Saturday, demonstrators mingled on the snow-plastered lawn in front of West Block, home to the House of Commons. Participants roasted hotdogs and doled out baked goods under tarps warmed by portable heaters, while two men on horseback traipsed through the town. Northbound streets were clogged with vehicles, including many big rigs, as far as the eye could see.

Pickups, big rigs and a large crowd of demonstrators are also on the streets near the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton for a second straight Saturday.

Many of the people carried signs lampooning critics -- such as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau -- who've said the demonstrators are a small "fringe minority."

Corbett Fertig, a demonstrator who said he's not against vaccines or masks, just mandates, said, "Sometimes freedom has to be a little noisy."

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney says his government will announce next week a date to end Alberta's COVID-19 vaccine passport, with the actual cancellation coming soon after that. Kenney said he will also announce next week a phased approach to end almost all COVID-19 health restrictions by the end of the month provided the pressure on hospitals continues to decline.

Kenney said Alberta’s high vaccination rate coupled with stabilizing hospital patient numbers make it feasible to end the vaccine passport soon.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe also says his government will soon end COVID-19 measures that he says restrict people's rights and freedoms.

It's no longer necessary for the public to assess every activity, including going to a movie, watching children's sporting events or dining out, he said.

B.C. has 946 people in hospital with COVID-19, with 139 in intensive care. In Northern B.C., there are 32 people in hospital, 14 in critical care.

Premier John Horgan said while he hears the "voices of disappointment," he also wants those people to respect the rights and liberties of others. 

"When your desire to have your voice heard starts to interfere with the lives of other people, that's when lines are drawn," Horgan said Friday after a meeting of the Council of the Federation.

— with files from Victoria Times Colonist, The Canadian Press

editor@ahnfsj.ca