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A BC Ex-MP, Western Separatists and that Truck Protest

Jay Hill says the Maverick Party isn’t backing the ‘Freedom Convoy.’ But a key party figure is leading the fundraising effort.

David Climenhaga 26 Jan 2022Alberta Politics

David J. Climenhaga is an award-winning journalist, author, post-secondary teacher, poet and trade union communicator. He blogs at AlbertaPolitics.ca. Follow him on Twitter at @djclimenhaga.

The Medicine Hat woman who is the public face of the GoFundMe campaign that has theoretically raised more than $5 million to support the “Freedom Convoy 2022” protest against COVID-19 vaccine mandates remains a senior officer of the separatist-leaning Maverick Party.

The Maverick Party website identifies Tamara Lich as secretary of the party’s Western Canadian Governing Council. It even quoted her in a news release Monday defending her fundraising efforts.

“When asked to comment on the intent of the Convoy, Tamara Lich, one of the organizers said, ‘This (convoy) is not about vax or anti-vax or COVID,’” said the press release from the party previously known as Wexit Canada. “It is about restoring Canada’s rights and freedoms.’”

The news release didn’t mention she’s an official with the party, which pledges to win constitutional changes to get “greater fairness and self-determination for Western Canadians” or make the region a separate nation.

It does state that the Maverick Party “is not directly involved in the ‘Freedom Convoy,’ although some Maverick members and supporters have chosen to support the convoy.”

“People with close ties to the Liberal party have attacked the Maverick Party as being ‘white supremist, separatists,’” the Maverick press release charged defensively. “We condemn all level of racism and extremism. Maverick Party is proud of our open and inclusive platform.”

The news release also claimed the party takes no position on COVID-19 vaccines but “does support freedom-of-choice and a citizen’s right to decide what they do with their own bodies.”

Leah Murray, listed on the news release as the party’s public affairs contact, said in an email that the “Maverick Party has absolutely no association with the convoy.” She noted that the party also has no connection with the convoy protest’s GoFundMe appeal or any funds it raises.

In a comment on my post Saturday on the “Freedom Convoy” protest, Maverick Party Interim Leader Jay Hill complained that stories and commentary about the fundraiser were “not only... an inaccurate and unjustified smear against Ms. Lich, but an attempt to frighten people away from consideration of the Maverick Party.”

Hill, former Conservative Party of Canada MP for Prince George-Peace River, accused my blog and a trade publication news story it quoted of suggesting Lich holds extremist views “simply because she donates some of her time to raising public awareness through a peaceful protest.”

Notwithstanding the news release’s claim that Liberals have unfairly labelled it a separatist organization, Hill said in his comment that “Maverick is the only party willing to take strong positions to truly represent what’s best for the West. Yes, even daring to talk about western independence!”

Despite the party’s portrayal of the convoy protests as moderate and compatible with its policies, past social media statements by supporters are coming to light that suggest the protest harbours people with troubling associations with extreme identity politics. For example, Global News reported Tuesday that some right-wing activists hope to use the truck protest to duplicate the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington, D.C.

Others involved in the convoy appear to think they can overthrow the government of Canada by talking to the Governor General — a notion that will sound familiar to Albertans who experienced some of the opposition to premier Rachel Notley’s NDP government in 2016.

Hill did not respond directly to queries arising from his comments. Instead, Murray emailed a copy of the new release.

So Hill presumably chose not to indicate if he shared the view of the protest organizers, as stated on their crowdfunding page, that Canadians “are being mistreated and denied fundamental necessities to survive” by vaccine mandates.

Nor did he respond to a request to comment on the president of the Canadian Trucking Alliance’s statement that “disrupting the motoring public on highways and commerce at the border” is “not acceptable.”

Meanwhile, organizers who hope to get access to the large amount of cash they’ve been raising through the GoFundMe crowdfunding platform may have to wait.

The Canadian Press reported Tuesday that while GoFundMe continues to allow donations to be made to Lich’s fundraiser, it has frozen access to the funds.

“We require that fundraisers be transparent about the flow of funds and have a clear plan for how those funds will be spent,” a spokeswoman for the crowdfunding platform told CP’s reporter. “In this case, we are in touch with the organizer to verify that information.”

“Funds will be safely held until the organizer is able to provide the documentation to our team about how funds will be properly distributed,” Rachel Hollis said.

The convoy — variously described as having a few dozen to more than 100,000 trucks — is somewhere out there in the winter murk motoring toward Ottawa, where it is expected to arrive on the weekend. Police in Regina, which the convoy passed Tuesday, said there were about 1,200 vehicles of various sizes in the group.  [Tyee]

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