A Canadian soldier charged for talking out towards COVID-19 vaccine necessities was warmly welcomed on Wednesday to Parliament Hill, the place Conservative MPs posed with him for photos earlier than sitting by a lecture on the purported risks of inoculations.

The present of assist for James Topp got here greater than a month after the reservist warrant officer was charged with two counts of conduct to the bias of excellent order and self-discipline for feedback made whereas carrying his uniform in February.

It additionally got here because the Afghanistan conflict veteran and his supporters put together to complete a four-month march from Vancouver to the Nationwide Battle Memorial in Ottawa that began in February in the course of the peak of the “Freedom Convoy.”

Their deliberate arrival on June 30 has stoked fears of one other spherical of such anti-vaccine and anti-government protests, which snarled the capital for weeks till police used drive to finish what they and the federal government described as an unlawful occupation.

Such misgivings didn’t maintain one group of Conservative MPs from shaking palms, posing for photos and expressing their assist for Topp throughout a gathering on Parliament Hill that was streamed on-line.

Amongst them had been management candidate Leslyn Lewis in addition to Dean Allison, Ryan Williams and Alex Ruff.

Topp was pushed to Ottawa to fulfill with MPs on Wednesday and was anticipated to return to the world round Deep River, Ont., to proceed his march to the capital within the coming days.

Showing alongside him was Tom Marazzo, one of many spokesmen of the “Freedom Convoy,” and Paul Alexander, a former adviser to U.S. president Donald Trump who used Wednesday’s assembly to ship a lecture on what he claims are the hazards of COVID-19 vaccines.

Well being Canada says solely vaccines that meet strict security, efficacy and high quality requirements are permitted to be used within the nation, and the advantages of COVID-19 vaccines proceed to outweigh the dangers of the illness. About 85 per cent of Canadians have obtained not less than one dose.

Topp advised the MPs that he was marching partially to get all vaccine mandates repealed, in addition to the reinstatement of anybody who misplaced their job due to such a requirement and compensation for wages misplaced.

On the identical time, he mentioned his march was about far more than vaccine necessities, which had been lifted for many federal civil servants this week however stay in place for members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

“One of many issues that has jumped out at me since I’ve began this journey is the variety of people who’ve come to speak to me (and) their difficulty just isn’t a lot with mandates anymore,” he mentioned.

“It is their dissatisfaction with the federal authorities, they see it as intractable and versatile and conscious of their wants.”

Whereas Topp sought to explain his mission and message as non-partisan, Marazzo, one of many leaders of a gaggle often known as Veterans 4 Freedom that organized a bike convoy in April, advised MPs that Canada was “happening a really darkish path.”

“It is getting essential,” Marazzo mentioned. “(Topp) has been to a civil conflict. I am not saying that that is what is going on to occur right here. However there’s loads of similarities.”

Conservative MP Jeremy Patzer famous that just one occasion was represented on the lengthy boardroom tables round which the group had gathered, telling Topp and the others: “You do have allies. You’ve got had allies all alongside.”

Topp additionally mentioned he has no plans to guide an occupation of the capital, and invited Ottawa police to work with him to facilitate his deliberate march by town to the Nationwide Battle Memorial.

Nevertheless, an organizer for Veterans 4 Freedom mentioned in a latest video posted to YouTube that the group plans to arrange a semi-permanent camp east of Ottawa known as “Camp Eagle” and maintain occasions within the metropolis all summer time.

Ottawa police have mentioned they’re planning a never-before-seen safety posture for Canada Day, and that they and Gatineau police are readying additional safety plans for demonstrations in downtown Ottawa and Parliament Hill.

Whereas Ottawa police will shield everybody’s proper to lawfully and peacefully show, one officer mentioned throughout a briefing final week, “we won’t enable for the circumstances that led to the illegal protests in February to reoccur.”

A number of Ottawa group teams are calling for a fair stronger response to Topp’s arrival subsequent week and any deliberate “freedom” demonstrations, which they allege are linked to right-wing extremism.

“It appears to me that their plan is at all times to type of shield the parliamentary precinct, however they type of simply depart residential neighbourhoods there to dry,” mentioned Sam Hersh of Horizon Ottawa.

“I need to see an acknowledgment of what this really is from our metropolis and from the related authorities: that it is a far-right motion, and that we must always take it severely. And so they’re not welcome in our metropolis.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first printed June 22, 2022.

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