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Veteran on a gruelling mission- Marching across Canada: Day 50

Posted on April 19, 2022 by Maple Creek
On a mission: James Topp plans to have a meeting in June with members of Parliament in Ottawa.

As a 28-year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, James Topp has served in Afghanistan, Croatia and Bosnia.
Now he has embarked on another gruelling mission … walking 4,300 kilometres across Canada in protest against federal government mandates, claiming they trample on personal freedoms.
He started his protest walk on February 20 from the Terry Fox Memorial at B.C. Place in Vancouver, aiming to reach Ottawa in June.
In the capital, he plans to pay his respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the War Memorial and speak to members of parliament.
On Sunday, April 10, he and a group of supporters dropped by Maple Creek on day 50 of the march.
“We have probably completed around 1,300 kilometres so far,” Topp told the News-Times.
“Yesterday, we really pushed it because I wanted to get into Saskatchewan from Medicine Hat, so we covered 54 kilometres.
“Typically, I like to walk about 35 to 40 kilometres a day, so that I get to Ottawa on June 20 or thereabouts. We are going to be flexible on that.”
The group stayed overnight at Cobble Creek Lodge and enjoyed a complimentary meal at the Rockin’ Horse.
As they waited for their meal, Topp spoke about himself and his venture.
At the heart of his protest, he said, is government coercion and mandates surrounding government COVID-19 vaccinations – issues central to the Freedom Convoy of truckers.
Topp, who has not been vaccinated, said he is a civilian employee with the RCMP and was in the regular army from 1990 before transferring to the reserves in May 2019.
Owing to government mandates, he said, he was informed by the RCMP that he would be placed on leave without pay from November 15.
Not long afterwards, the Canadian Armed Forces told him that he would be released under Item 5F because of his refusal to comply with the Chief of Defence Staff directive on vaccination policy.
“What happened is this. I was in a bad place, psychologically speaking. I get a pension from the armed forces which pays my mortgage, but I still need to supplement that because it is not enough to live on.”
Topp, who lives in the town of Hope, British Columbia, said he got a job as a tow truck driver, which opened his eyes to what was happening in the country.
“After I had gotten a job as a tow truck driver, it was my first kind of exposure to life outside the federal government and I started to realize how hard Canadian people work and how much they contribute to the maintenance of the federal government.
“I also saw that there was a group of Canadians who felt the same way I did with regards to these kind of mandates that they felt so strongly about when they went to Ottawa to protest and were subsequently ignored and vilified and treated quite badly.
“I also had an issue about how the veteran community was treated at the war memorial.
So, all of these factors contributed to this kind of decision I had to do something that I thought could make a difference …”
Topp expressed unhappiness with the Canadian Armed Forces’ decision to release him.
“I wasn’t always a model soldier but I spent 20 years keeping my nose clean and to be told that I am going to be released didn’t sit well with me. So, this is one of the things I am going to complain about.
“We are going to try to get this conversation going that didn’t happen earlier this year. So, this is an attempt to reengage with a dialogue, a dialogue with our federal government.”
Topp said he served twice in Afghanistan and spent time in the Balkans: Croatia, Macedonia and Bosnia,. He also went on many training missions to different countries: Norway, the United States, Britain, Brazil, and the Canadian Arctic.
“So yes I’ve been round the block a couple of times,” he said.
Topp said he didn’t have any high-minded ideals when he went overseas to fight.
“But now I do because when I came to this realization when you have this kind of revelation, you start asking yourself questions, what is the role of the Canadian Armed Forces? You know what it is? It is defending national security. Why? You know why? So people can live in freedom.
“I believe mandates run counter to that. What is freedom? Is it freedom from something? Because this is what I have encountered now for 50 days. I have a lot of folks who talk about freedom, but I don’t know entirely if they are sure what they want. Do they want freedom as it is enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedom or do they want freedom from something?
“So, this is a question we all have to ask ourselves. My particular definition of what freedom is for us is what is defined for us in the charter and I don’t think we are having that.”
Topp said the public response to his march has been overwhelmingly positive.
His following has grown over the past 50 days, with regular updates on his progress posted to social media channels, including Facebook Twitter and Instagram.
Asked about funding, he replied: “When all of this started, I had shied away from gofundme and Gift & Go. To be perfectly honest, when I started this, when I had this idea I thought it would be myself and possibly one other person, so I figured I’m just going to self-finance. But when I came to realize that this is important to a lot of people, all of these dudes are with me, I got into an agreement with a fellow who owns an RV (recreational vehicle) and he is letting us use it. We have a private payment plan, so there’s an RV, there’s two folks who have got their vehicle with them. We need fuel for the vehicles and we need food. So I had issues with accepting donations at the beginning, but we accept donations now so we can meet those requirements.”
Topp is unsure how he will be received by members of parliament in Ottawa.
“We will see. Whether or not they are going to pay any attention to us, well I don’t know. How is it going to look for them if they ignore a group of people who have marched across the country, 4,300 kilometres. I am getting very strong messages from the veterans community telling me that they are going to be there to meet me. Are we going to have a dialogue or are we going to get ignored?
“ And if we get ignored what are the optics for our members of Parliament? I would expect it is going to be pretty bad.
“I don’t know whether that is something they are willing to risk or not.”
At 8am on Monday, April 11, the group gathered at the Maple Creek Trans-Canada junction and set off for Swift Current.
There are three reasons for Topp’s march:
• Topp is protesting federal government mandates that require as a condition for employment or continued employment, vaccination, testing, quarantine, and/or isolation;
• He is advocating for those personnel employed by the federal government or otherwise who have been denied access to employment and services, who have lost income and have suffered from damaged relationships owing to the imposition of a medical procedure; and
• He is speaking for those who have felt pressured into taking part in medical procedures they would not otherwise have accepted.

Time to dine: Pictured at the Rockin’ Horse are James Topp, Dan Jones (marcher), Dallas Vienneau (general duties/marcher); Tyler Pollock (marcher/general duties/media); Gavin Dillow (RV driver/admin/general duties); Cristian George (marcher/admin/media/coordinator); Dave de Bruijn (marcher/media/driver); Logan Murphy (photographer). In the background are Rockin’ Horse owners Ralph Saemann and Laurie Leigh. Missing are Jeremy Cormier (driver/general duties); and Esther Caswell (organizing/general duties).

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