Mapping hate: The anti-LGBTQ2S+ history of Ottawa truck convoy organizers

Some of the best-known faces in the so-called “Freedom Convoy” have clear links to homophobic and transphobic activism 

Although participants of the so-called “Freedom Convoy” that descended upon Ottawa last month claimed it was a peaceful protest against COVID-19 restrictions, it was primarily organized by far-right activists. Many of the key organizers have also been linked to anti-LGBTQ2S+ activist groups and have expressed homophobic and transphobic views themselves. 

From Jan. 29 to Feb. 23, Ottawa was occupied by a largely anti-government, anti-vaccine protest that led to the arrest of 191 people. During the occupation, a number of protesters openly displayed hateful iconography such as swastikas and Confederate flags, and a window of a coffee shop displaying a rainbow flag was smashed. The House of Commons approved—and then revoked—the Emergencies Act amid the disruption in the nation’s capital.

Thousands donated to the “Freedom Convoy” crowdfunding campaigns, raising millions of dollars. While platforms like GoFundMe cancelled donations and refunded donors, the scope indicates the protest has garnered more than just fringe support, even as the majority of Canadians do not support the activists and oppose ending public health measures.  

Although the demonstrations in Ottawa are now over, the discourse continues: arrested organizers are fighting the charges against them, the House of Commons public safety and national security committee is taking testimony about convoy donations and revelations continue to emerge about its participants and donors. A similar far-right “Freedom Convoy,” meanwhile, has popped up in New Zealand, suggesting anti-mandate stances may continue to galvanize right-wing groups in Canada and around the world. 

The Canadian convoy consisted of a massive number of people, with dozens helping to organize different parts of the protests. While media coverage broadly refers to them as “organizers” or “leaders,” it’s difficult to verify their exact roles. 

Here’s a breakdown of some of the key convoy members and their links to anti-LGBTQ2S+ hate.

Tamara Lich 

Tamara Lich at a Feb. 3 news conference in Ottawa.

Credit: Adrian Wyld/CP Images

Tamara Lich was one of the organizers of the original “Freedom Convoy 2022” GoFundMe, which raised $10 million before the site removed the crowdfunding campaign for violating its terms of service. 

Lich has managed to pack a lot of far-right organizing into only a few years. The Ottawa Citizen reports that “she became politically active three years ago with ‘Wexit,’” referring to the western separatist movement that advocates for greater rights for Western provinces. Wexit gained popularity in 2019 and led to the recognition of the federal Wexit Canada party in January 2020. (Wexit Canada changed its name to the Maverick Party in September 2020.) 

The Maverick Party has opposed teaching LGBTQ2S+ topics in school sex ed courses, and its official platform does not include support for equal marriage. Lich was an original member of the Maverick Party’s governing council before resigning to focus on convoy organizing.

Lich also has organized rallies for the Alberta contingent of the Yellow Vest movement, a populist protest group that sprang up in 2019 with chapters across Canada. While not explicitly anti-LGBTQ2S+, Yellow Vest was involved in a violent encounter at Pride Hamilton in Ontario in 2019. Several people were reportedly injured in the confrontation between Pride-goers and anti-LGBTQ2S+ protesters.

Lich was arrested in Ottawa and has been denied bail

Patrick “Pat” King 

Pat King is a prominent player in the convoy and also has a storied history of associating with far-right groups. King was so notorious for his extremist views that other convoy organizers “tried to put some distance” between them, according to the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.

Like Lich, King was also prominently involved in the Yellow Vest movement, promoting the cause on social media and organizing pro-Yellow Vest meetings around the country. In a 2019 video, King explains the Grand Replacement conspiracy theory, a white supremacist myth that claims LGBTQ2S+ people and Muslims are involved in a plot to, as he describes, “infiltrate the education systems to manipulate it to endorse less procreation.” 

“The less procreation, the less white people,” King said at the time.

More recently, King appeared on a talk-show hosted by evangelical Christian broadcaster and failed political candidate Laura-Lynn Tyler Thompson. Tyler Thompson has vehemently opposed LGBTQ2S+ sex ed in schools as far back as 2017 and has claimed that “parents are highly alarmed and very upset that children are being taught gender-fluid ideology.” Tyler Thompson has enthusiastically supported King and the convoy. 

King was arrested in Ottawa and has been denied bail

Protesters arrive on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, January 29, 2022.

Credit: Lars Hagberg/CP Images

James Bauder

As PressProgress reports, the “Freedom Convoy” was originally organized by James Bauder through his group, Canada Unity. Bauder has openly endorsed QAnon, a right-wing anti-Semitic, homophobic and transphobic conspiracy theory.  

One of the “participating groups” within Canada Unity is Action4Canada, which was founded in 2019 and has repeatedly attacked what it calls “political LGBTQ” activism. The group has protested against a Drag Queen Story Hour in Kelowna, British Columbia, and supported anti-LGBTQ2S+ activist Bill Whatcott, according to a 2021 report from the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.

Martin Brodmann 

Martin Brodmann is the vice-president of Bauder’s Canada Unity and is reportedly the president of Truckers United, Inc. Like Pat King, he has also appeared on Laura Lynn Tyler Thompson’s talk show

Brodmann was also a guest on a show hosted by Odessa Orlewicz on the social media platform Librti, which primarily hosts right-wing conspiracy theory content. Orlewicz has posted anti-LGBTQ2S+ content on her Facebook page, including equating puberty blockers to “genital mutilation” and calling for separate “trans sports” categories for trans athletes. 

Jason LeFace 

One of the convoy’s lead organizers, Jason LeFace, is connected to the Sudbury, Ontario, chapter of the Soldiers of Odin (SOO) hate group. LeFace is reportedly a vice-president of the group, which organizes events to “try to stop immigration, people who are BIPOC or people who are in LGBTQ communities,” according to Global News.  

LeFace apparently disbanded the Sudbury SOO group after being called out by local anti-racism activists in October 2020. He ran as the People’s Party of Canada’s (PPC) candidate in Sudbury in 2019. In 2021, the PPC’s election platform included a promise to “fight radical gender ideology.” 

Christopher “Chris” Barber

Chris Barber is a protest organizer from Saskatchewan. He reportedly owns a trucking company and was fined $14,000 in October 2021 for violating provincial public health measures. 

Barber has posted or shared anti-LGBTQ2S+ content on his Facebook and TikTok, according to a Feb. 3 tweet from investigative reporter Justin Ling. A post from January reads: “If you can pretend that a boy is a girl. Or a girl is a boy, Then you can pretend I got the shot. [sic]”

Barber was arrested in Ottawa and has since been freed on bail

Tyson “Freedom George” Billings 

Tyson Billings, also known as “Freedom George,” is a far-right activist who mobilized a large online following to support the convoy. The Ottawa Citizen refers to him as a convoy leader, although it is unclear if he had an organizational role in the protests. 

On his Facebook, Billings shared a post that stated, “For real, the Federal Government of Canada allowed you to make up your gender on the last official census,” referring to the Canadian government’s attempt at non-binary inclusion in the 2021 census. His Facebook page, Freedom Forusall, has also hosted livestreams alongside other anti-LGBTQ2S+ organizers like Pat King. 

Billings was arrested in Ottawa and has been denied bail

Les Michaelson 

During the Ottawa occupation, protesters used the Zello voice chat platform to organize themselves and plan actions. Les Michaelson is the sole moderator of the convoy’s organizational voice channel on Zello. Like Pat King and Tamara Lich, Michaelson was also a Yellow Vest organizer

Michaelson was involved in a violent incident in March 2019 when he was spotted in an Islamophobic and anti-immigrant protest in Edmonton alongside known hate groups such as Soldiers of Odin and Northern Guard. The Canadian Anti-Hate Network describe Northern Guard as a “biker-style anti-Muslim group” who consider LGBTQ2S+ people to be pedophiles and predators.  

Edmonton Against Fascism, an anti-fascist activist group in Alberta, also notes that Michaelson has previously shown up to record kids at Gender and Sexualities Alliance meetings in an attempt to harass or forcibly out them. 

Tom Quiggin

Tom Quiggin is a former intelligence analyst who was appeared as an expert on Islamic terrorism in the media in the early 2000s and is involved with providing “protective intelligence” to protesters. Quiggin authored a report in 2014 claiming the Muslim Brotherhood was attempting to take over Canadian society, using language that closely mirrors the anti-LGBTQ2S+ Great Replacement conspiracy theory. 

Quiggin’s social media contains anti-LGBTQ2S+ posts, including one stating that allowing trans kids to transition without parental consent means “they are out to get your children” and another mocking gender nonconforming fashion. (He does not explain in the former post who “they” are.)

Daniel Bulford

Daniel Bulford is a former Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer who resigned from the force after refusing to be vaccinated. He describes himself as a “liaison” with the convoy, according to the Toronto Star.

In October 2021, Bulford appeared on The Counter Signal, a podcast run by ex-Rebel News writer Keean Bexte. Rebel News is a far-right Canadian media outlet known to be anti-Muslim, anti-vaccine and anti-LGBTQ2S+. In the past, Bexte has repeatedly deadnamed a trans woman, supported comparisons between the Pride flag and swastikas and mocked protests of Chick-fil-A’s anti-LGBTQ2S+ views. 

Rebel News, Bexte’s former employers, also support the convoy.

V.S. Wells

V. S. Wells is a British writer living in Vancouver, B.C., with bylines in Slate, VICE and Autostraddle. Please stop asking them about Brexit.

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