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Convoy opposed to COVID-19 mandates will 'occupy' Victoria for months, says organizer

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Another convoy of people opposed to COVID-19 mandates is rolling across the country, this time headed for Victoria, where participants are prepared to stay for months, according to the organizer.

James Bauder, one of the leaders of the so-called "Freedom Convoy" in Ottawa and a founder of anti-mandate group Canada Unity, says the westward convoy will bring trucks from across Canada to the B.C. capital on March 14.

"We're going to be occupying that area for two to three months," Bauder says in a video posted online Thursday. "This is a very intense, deeply rooted NDP-Liberal stronghold down there and they've had their way for too long."

The video was recorded in a parking lot in Mattawa, Ont., according to Bauder, who says the convoy was planning to leave Thunder Bay, Ont., on Monday, with stops planned in Winnipeg and Calgary.

"We've got seven semis that are right now en route with an amazing amount of supplies, 16,000 hamburgers," says Bauder, noting the convoy has been raising funds from across Canada and the United States.

"[There's] so much that we're going to be doing," he adds. "We're going to be bringing in a lot of special guest speakers and so forth."

Once in Victoria, Bauder says the group will stage "multiple rolling convoys" incorporating hundreds of vehicles from around the region.

"We've got a lot of logging trucks that are going to be coming out of the woods, we've got motorbikes, we've got horses," he says.

Anti-mandate protests have become a common weekend occurrence outside the B.C. legislature in Victoria in recent months.

Victoria police routinely set up surveillance cameras in advance of the demonstrations, and issue warnings and violation tickets for various infractions, including obstructing traffic and making excessive noise.

Department spokesperson Const. Cam MacIntyre told CTV News he did not want to address potential police operations around the convoy directly, but said the department's approach to such protests is twofold.  

"We protect public safety and ensure that people are able to exercise their rights to safe, peaceful and lawful protest," MacIntyre said in a statement Tuesday. "Dangerous and/or unlawful acts are responded to with de-escalation and enforcement."

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, 2,914 people have died of the disease in B.C., including 222 people in the Vancouver Island region.

As of Tuesday, 90.7 per cent of British Columbians aged five and older have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 86.5 per cent have received two doses.

Approximately 56.2 per cent of B.C. residents aged 12 and older have now received three vaccine doses.

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