July 18, 2024 Taber

My experience with the ‘Freedom Convoy’

Posted on May 10, 2022 by Maple Creek
Greetings: Pastor Paul Martens, left, invites Stanley McBurney to speak at a Family Church Sunday service.

Quitting drinking was Stan McBurney’s most spiritual experience. A close second was time spent with the Freedom Convoy, which saw numerous trucks roll across Canada before converging on Ottawa on January 29.
He was in a pilot truck driven by his wife, Bonnie. Flags fluttered from their vehicle as they headed the procession from Medicine Hat/Redcliff to the capital.
At every place along the highway, every town, every intersection, the couple say they saw people waving and cheering.
At night, the show of support was even more striking, with bonfires lighting up the sky. It proved a spiritual experience.
“I said to Bonny ‘it’s just like Canada is having a party’,” McBurney recalled. “And they were.”
In Winnipeg, so many cheering people crowded the highway – perhaps up to 100,000, McBurney reckons – that there was barely enough room to squeeze through. At the Flying J, they found no place to park and break for a meal.
Among the supporters were Hutterites. Lots of them.
“There were 18 colonies that were going to feed us in Winnipeg,” said McBurney.
“We couldn’t get in there, so they said ‘carry on, go to Kenora’. Kenora is another two and half hours down the road. ‘Go to Kenora and we will feed you there’.”
At 11.30pm, with temperatures plunging to about -30, the convoy arrived at Kenora in Ontario, truckers tired and hungry. Fortunately, the Hutterites were true to their word.
“They brought eight trailer-loads of food and cooking stuff and they cooked it right out there in front of us, so we got a hot meal, and we thanked them,” said McBurney.
While there, he met a Hutterite who told him a credo that he has adopted as his own, “when you get up in the morning, before you go outside, just decide you are going to have a good day. Tell yourself it’s going to be a good day, before the day starts going bad on you’.”
“So, I’ve been doing that ever since,” said McBurney. “I get up in the morning, and it’s going to be a good day.”
In Ottawa, truckers received a rapturous reception, said McBurney. Thousands of people swarmed around the convoy with an outpouring of generosity.
“At the window of my truck, they would just about crawl in through the window to give Bonnie or I a hug. It was just amazing. There was so much love and support and the people of Ottawa themselves delivered food and clothes. I have the window open and a guy throws a pair of wool socks through the window. ‘Here you might need these before you get out of town’. It’s something you don’t think about. The generosity of other people.”
As Bonnie had to honour a work contract, the couple’s stay in Ottawa was curtailed.
Back in Tompkins, however, McBurney felt ill at ease.
“We get home and I thought ‘ah, this is wrong. I feel like I’ve deserted them. I should be back down there’. I kept telling Bonnie, ‘I should go back to Ottawa, I should go back to Ottawa’.”
By chance, two truckers contacted him, asking him to lead them to Ottawa. He grabbed the opportunity.
“My wife led the longest convoy in the world, and I led the shortest one,” he laughed.
McBurney spoke about his “Freedom Convoy” adventure during a Sunday service at Family Church.
He was invited to the front by Pastor Paul Martens.
Dozens of congregants were there to hear how he first got involved with the convoy.
It happened when he saw a Facebook picture of Chris Barber, who spoke about “shutting all trucks down for a day”.
“So, I was talking to Tamara on the phone and she said ‘well no, Dad, we’ve got to do something better than that’.
“So, we talked a little about, maybe we should go to the border and we should stop some traffic. We should maybe do that, and then we thought that wouldn’t be a good idea … Two days later she phoned me and said ‘no, they are going to have a convoy going to Ottawa’.”
McBurney said that one reason that persuaded him to take part was Bonnie’s discovery that funerals had not risen since COVID-19 – despite the push for people to get vaccinated.
He added that he did not care who was, or wasn’t, vaccinated.
“Everybody is entitled to their choice. Do whatever it is that makes you comfortable.”
McBurney said truckers who went down east were tired of losing their freedoms.
“That’s what I’m tired of,” he said.
The couple phoned Tamara and asked her: “Do you want to ride with us to Ottawa?”
She replied: “Sure do.”
As they prepared to start their journey, people opened their hearts – and wallets.
“Hutterites came along and gave me $60 to buy gasoline with that. Now $60 in gasoline nowadays doesn’t get you very far, but it all helps. They loaded the back of my half-tonne with windshield washer. They said ‘when you get to Ontario, you are going to need this’. And so we handed it out to the truckers.”
McBurney said huge crowds cheered as they set out.
“Going through Medicine Hat was unreal. People stood on the side of the road and you had to be careful you didn’t run over somebody because they would run out and want to shake your hand. Now my wife drove that pilot truck right from Trukkers all the way behind the Parliament buildings in Ottawa. And she is 70 years old. She was laughing about that. She said ‘isn’t that amazing? A 70-year-old lady leading the longest convoy in the world’. I said ‘yes. it’s amazing’.”
In Sudbury, the couple got lost. It provided a moment when they came briefly face-to-face with hostility to their cause.
“We get downtown in Sudbury and I didn’t know how to get back to 17 Highway,” said McBurney. “So, we are stopped at a stop light and a guy pulls up alongside the right-hand side. I rolled the window down and said ‘can you tell me how to get to 17 Highway?’ ‘Not waving those flags, I won’t’ and he drove away.
“So, I Googled where 17 highway was and we were quite all right. Wonderful thing about Google, you just get where you want to go.”
A pattern soon emerged during the trip: they would be late getting to a destination because dinner always took longer than planned.
“All along the way people were feeding us. Never had to buy a meal from the time we got to Redcliff until we were leaving Ottawa – not one meal. Didn’t have to buy one.”
Generosity was also displayed friends and loved ones.
“A buddy of mine was laying in the hospital. He sent me $750. He said ‘I can’t go. Here’s some help for you.’ My brother-in-law has had a stroke and he lives with us. He hands Bonnie a cheque for $500. It’s those kind of things … it meant it wasn’t a financial problem for me to go to Ottawa.”
McBurney said his negative attitude towards people from the east was altered by his convoy experience.
He recalled an encounter with a lady while stretching his legs in Ottawa.
“She reached up and put her arms around my neck, pulled my head down and planted a kiss right on my lips. She said ‘I come from South America, from Brazil, and I come up here because there is no freedom in Brazil. There was freedom here, but now that’s gone. So, she said ‘thank you. That’s what the kiss is for’.”
During his return trip to Ottawa, McBurney visited the command centre.
“They told us what we could do and what we couldn’t do. When you get down there, don’t accept money from anybody, don’t go into any building, and above all be peaceful. And that was the mandate of the truckers.
“They never did the things that the press said they did. They just didn’t do it.”
Among those he met were a cop that once acted as a sharpshooter for Justin Trudeau, firemen and veterans.
McBurney said he also visited a kitchen, presumably set up the citizens of Ottawa. It was here that he saw an act of kindness that moved him to tears.
“So, I got to talk to a fellow. He said ‘10 days ago, I was homeless. I’m a drug addict. I was on drugs, booze and I froze my hands and I was sick, and truckers come along and they got me medical aid. I got fixed up’.”
The man was then invited to stay in the kitchen to keep from freezing to death.
“He was told ‘You can stay there, but we have some rules. You cannot drink, you cannot use drugs, and you have to do something. You can’t just sit there and live off the goodness of the people’.
“So, he told me he was 10 days clean and sober at that time, and he would get up and empty the garbage … he just did little things. He said ‘this is the first time in my life that I felt like I belonged’. Now that brings tears to my eyes. When I think about it now. This guy is homeless and the truckers who didn’t know him, didn’t have a clue who he was, were looking after him. For those 10 days he felt like he belonged.”
McBurney spoke of another encounter with a woman and her parents, who had come to Canada after escaping martial law in Poland and finding life intolerable in Austria.
“So, now this lady said I come to Canada and it’s no different than it was in Poland. So, that’s one of the things that struck home to me.”
McBurney said he shared concern about loss of freedoms.
“Every week, every month, they take one more thing away and then all of a sudden we have nothing. I believe that is what our government has been doing to us.”
McBurney said his adventure had been personally transformative – but would count for nothing without the Canadian public.
“The whole thing would be absolutely useless if it weren’t for people like you. We have to wake up, we have to look after ourselves. The only way I know how to do it is to pray.”

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