A political movement that began in France and spread to Western Canada has also taken root in Sarnia.
The Yellow Vests have established a local chapter and are holding weekly Saturday morning demonstrations at City Hall.
They’re united on several issues including the need to build pipelines and a clampdown on illegal immigration, and they represent all age groups and demographics, say organizers Brittany Studzinski and Randy Coleman.
What’s more, they plan to keep on rallying until a new prime minister is elected.
“I think a lot of people aren’t aware of what’s happening in our government,” said Studzinski, 29.
“We want to bring awareness and let people know we’re not here to force anybody to believe anything. We’re just bringing facts, making people aware, and they can decide with it what they want.”
The Yellow Vest movement erupted in France last year when residents donned yellow safety vests French vehicles are required to have and began protesting in the streets, often violently, against rising fuel prices.
The movement spread to Alberta and Saskatchewan this winter, with participants advocating jobs, pipelines and freedom of speech, while opposing illegal immigration and carbon taxes.
“I truly believe the carbon tax is a hoax,” said Studzinski. “I have a lot of family and friends that live and work out west, and it’s affecting them.”
Coleman said he supports immigration, but through the proper channels. Ottawa’s commitment to the UN pact on migration is a looming threat to Canadians and their economy, he said.
“They want millions to come in, to completely house them… we have our people to take care of. We’re turning our backs on our own people,” said Coleman, 62.
“It’s not fair to the people who are doing it right.”
The Yellow Vests Canada – Official Sarnia/Lambton County Chapter has almost 90 members, according to its Facebook group. The weekly demonstrations, which began in January, draw an average of 12 to 15 protesters, Studzinski said.
Coleman believes the group speaks for many Sarnians who share its views but are reluctant to come forward. Passing motorists honk and give thumbs-up, said Studzinski, although some also deliver verbal attacks.
Critics say extremists and fringe groups that openly espouse conspiracy theories and racism in online forums undercut the Yellow Vest movement’s credibility.
Coleman said the local group is adamantly opposed to racism, discrimination and violence of any kind, but acknowledged the Canadian movement has attracted fringe elements.
Such people are everywhere and they shouldn’t detract from the movement’s message, he said.
“You’re going to get that no matter what, right? You cannot control everybody.”