Newmarket Kawartha Dairy employee Donna Sfetcos said her opinions and support of the “freedom convoy” movement in Ottawa are hers alone.
Sfetcos said she attended the controversial protests in Ottawa last winter, along with hundreds of others opposing public health mandates. She put flags on her vehicle, which was parked outside her workplace, to show her support of the movement.
But she said the flags were mistakenly identified as profane by customers this week, as the “We are Fringe" flag had the same colour scheme as an “F*** Trudeau" flag the movement has used. After pressure and complaints, she said her employer asked her to take down her flags, including the Canadian flags.
“This is my opinion and mine alone,” she said. “Sadly gone downhill.”
Like-minded individuals came to support Sfetcos in a rally at the Kawartha Dairy retail outlet on Davis Drive today, June 11. Dozens of supports travelling from inside and outside Newmarket waved flags, honked horns and held signs in a demonstration opposed to Sfetcos’s treatment.
Kyle Ford, who came from Georgina, said Sfetcos is a friend. He said he wanted to show her love and support.
“To me, it’s unfair, because she has a freedom of rights and a freedom of speech,” Ford said. “The world needs to wake up from what’s going on the last two years.”
The movement has garnered opposition for some of its members and leadership using extremist viewpoints, with Ottawa rally organizer Pat King espousing there is an “endgame” to “depopulate the Anglo-Saxon race.” The movement also garnered criticism for the amount of disruption it had in Ottawa and other centres.
During the Kawartha Dairy demonstration, one protestor shouted, “Stop calling Russia the bad guy. There are good people in Russia, there are good people in Ukraine.” The protestor added they have to oppose the Canadian government and that “We got to stand up and tell them no more. No more hatred,” to cheers from the crowd.
Sfetcos said her employeer has generally been supportive of her. She said her car flags represent “Freedom, freedom of speech. It represents our charter of rights and freedoms.”
When asked about those who might oppose the flags and see it as dog-whistling for extremist viewpoints, she said she does not believe that characterized the movement.
“This whole movement, I don’t believe is extremism,” she said. “My belief should be mine alone, and nobody should judge me, just like I wouldn’t judge them.”
In an email in advance of the rally, Kawartha Dairy vice-president of marketing and customer experience Dana Somerville said the company prides itself on being inclusive.
“This employee has been a long-standing member of our Kawartha Dairy family, remains a valued employee and was not disciplined,” she said. “All of us at Kawartha Dairy look forward to making great family memories for all our customers this weekend and all summer long.”
Rally attendee Heidi Rigby said she wanted to show support as well. Even though the provincial government has lifted most public health mandates, she said that not all of them have been, noting air travel restrictions for the unvaccinated.
“We need to get our rights back. We need our government to listen to us,” she said. “Until they give back all our rights, we have no rights. They need to back away … If I don’t want this poison going into me, this bio-weapon, then I should have that choice.”
Nearby business owners expressed that they did not know what was happening.
“At this point, we’ll see how it goes. Hopefully, it will be over by today,” one business owner who asked to withhold their name said. “Everybody is allowed to protest. They say we are the fringe, but also they have to also not infringe on other people … If they start to infringe, that would be a problem, but at this point in time, that hasn’t happened.”
Sfetcos said her heart swelled with joy at all the supporters who came out for her.
“I feel the love. I feel that this is Canada united, to stand behind our own views. Each and every human’s.”