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Explainer

What is the ‘Save the Children Convoy’ and What Do They Really Believe?

Canada’s latest convoy mixes anti-LGBTQ+ paranoia, far-right conspiracies, sovereign citizen pseudolegal beliefs and New Age spirituality

Over one hundred conspiracy theorists have been camping out in a farm field 40 minutes east of Ottawa for three weeks plotting to replace Canada’s government.

Not only has the group staged daily protests near Parliament Hill, resulting in several criminal charges and one man getting tasered by police, a dozen members of the group were recently invited into the House of Commons by one of Pierre Poilievre’s Conservative MPs.

That’s especially eyebrow-raising, given that the leader of the group has been calling for jailing politicians and installing a new government.

Brenda Belanger (Facebook)

Multiple individuals who attended the convoy’s secret, in-person planning meetings earlier this summer told PressProgress the group’s leaders discussed plans that allegedly could involve potential acts of domestic “terrorism.”

While neither Viersen nor Poilievre have disavowed this group, the so-called “Save the Children Convoy” is causing significant alarm – some Freedom Convoy influencers, far-right groups and Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party have already distanced themselves from it.

So, what is the Save the Children Convoy and what does this group really believe? Here’s why even people inside Canada’s far-right circles are concerned about the group.

Where Did the ‘Save the Children Convoy’ Come From?

The Save the Children Convoy first emerged this summer following a wave of increasingly emboldened anti-LGBTQ+ rallies targeting schools and drag storytime events and was further buoyed by the cult popularity of the QAnon-adjacent film “Sound of Freedom.”

In July, a private Facebook group called “Save the Children Convoy 2023” appeared and began organizing in-person meetings in locations across Canada, including Nova Scotia, PEI, New Brunswick, Québec, Ontario and Alberta. Participants say organizers took away their phones before sharing details of their plans.

Save the Children Convoy (Facebook)

 

In late July, a number of participants at these secret, in-person meetings began disavowing the convoy, alleging lead organizers had been describing plans that could involve potential acts of domestic “terrorism.”

Multiple participants at these meetings told PressProgress these plans included sending three convoys to Toronto, Ottawa and Tofino:

1. Toronto: One convoy would occupy Toronto’s financial district and wait for police to begin clearing the streets. When this happened, a second convoy would surprise police, forcing them to surrender.

2. Ottawa: A second convoy would surround government buildings, place Members of Parliament under citizen’s arrest and force them to agree to their demands.

3. Tofino: A third and final convoy would confront the Freemasons in the seaside surfing village of Tofino, British Columbia (Some convoy supporters believe secret pedophile rituals take place in Masonic Lodges).

In late September, Toronto Police took the surprising step of shutting down parts of downtown Toronto in response to intelligence suggesting the Save the Children Convoy was heading to Queen’s Park (that convoy never materialized).

On October 2, the convoy set-up a base camp in a lot next to a farm field near Cassleman, Ontario. The camp has since quadrupled in size from 30 vehicles to around 100.

Ontario Ministry of Environment records show Lamoureux Pumping, a local septic and holding tank cleaning company, currently holds a permit to use the site for disposing liquid waste, including “slaughterhouse blood and water.”

Mario Lamoureux, the owner of Lamoureux Pumping, was a proud participant of the 2022 Freedom Convoy occupation where his vehicle was stationed outside the Senate of Canada hauling a trailer with four portapotties.

Ottawa’s Freelance Photography (YouTube)

 

Who is Behind the ‘Save the Children Convoy’?

The size of the convoy’s base camp has at times housed over 110 vehicles and approximately 150 people, although those numbers tend to fluctuate and grow larger on weekends.

Gordon Berry, one of the founders of the Save the Children Convoy and a prolific livestreamer, denies he is the group’s leader but instead calls himself the convoy’s “messenger.”

Berry is from Kentville, Nova Scotia. Prior to the pandemic, Berry worked as a contractor installing bathtubs and repairing coffee machines at Tim Hortons franchises.

In 2021, Berry ran as a provincial politician with an ultra-libertarian fringe party called the “Atlantica Party” during Nova Scotia’s 2021 election. He later participated in Freedom Convoy events in 2022 around the Maritimes. Berry says he was also involved with a group that “served 11 or 12 police stations” with documents over crimes relating to COVID-19 vaccines.

On social media and in his lengthy livestream videos, Berry often references conspiracies about vaccines, chemtrails, 5G cell phone towers and themes connected to QAnon.

In an interview in July, Berry told PressProgress he believes the floods that devastated Nova Scotia this summer were “geoengineered” by the federal government to put out wildfires.

Gordon Berry (Facebook)

During the earliest stages of the convoy, Berry received significant support from Elliot McDavid, an Alberta man who made headlines last year after aggressively harassing Deputy Prime Minister Chrystria Freeland.

McDavid helped coin the name “Save the Children Convoy” and produced several videos that have been viewed over half a million times on TikTok hyping-up the convoy – although to date, McDavid has never left Alberta to join the base camp near Casselman.

Elliot McDavid (TikTok)

A significant number of convoy members located at the base camp are francophones from Québec affiliated with Norman Blanchfield’s “Bridges to Freedom” group, which released a manifesto calling for Justin Trudeau’s resignation and amnesty for everyone arrested in connection to the Freedom Convoy and violating pandemic public health orders.

Other convoy leaders include a number of past Freedom Convoy influencers:

Tyson Billings (“Freedom George”) was Pat King’s side-kick and spent several months in prison for his role in the 2022 Freedom Convoy occupation of Ottawa. Billings is a born-again evangelical and has worn “straight pride” shirts in recent livestreams.

Ron Clark is a self-described “freedom advocate” who describes his participation in last year’s convoy in Ottawa as a “mission” from God. Clark organized Freedom Convoy events in 2022 and was a lead organizer of a flop convoy to Winnipeg last winter.

Jim Kerr (“Poppa Bubbles”) was a regular at Freedom Convoy events and anti-public health protests during the pandemic, arriving in a Burning Man-themed psychedelic school bus which he calls the “Church of Bubbles.”

While Save the Children Convoy organizers and influencers seemingly subscribe to every conspiracy under the sun, there are four recurring themes that broadly animate the group.

 

Anti-LGBTQ+ Paranoia and Far-Right Pedophile Conspiracies

The Save the Children Convoy emerged directly in response to anti-LGBTQ+ rallies this spring and other far-right conspiracies revolving around pedophiles.

During a June 4 livestream, Berry drew an explicit link between the goals of the Save the Children Convoy and anti-LGBTQ+ paranoia sweeping through Canadian right-wing circles:

“We’ve got a trans agenda that is taking off all across the world at the same time and people believe it’s a fight for rights for trans people … None of us give a shit about what they do or don’t do. What we give a shit about is protecting the kids from being exposed to things they don’t understand.”

Berry proceeded to connect his paranoia about the “trans agenda” to conspiracies about the World Economic Forum, United Nations and World Health Organization:

“And then when you combine that with the WEF and the UN and the WHO and they’re pushing the ‘Minor Attracted People’ is okay and they’re pushing for kids to have sexual experiences at the age of toddlers and all these things should be normalized and then you look in the schools and you look at the curriculum they’re starting to push on these kids about sex … This is ridiculous.”

A month later, Berry and other organizers posted memes in the convoy’s Facebook group featuring Freemason imagery and claims that the UN and WHO were “instructing schools worldwide to have pedophilia normalized.”

Facebook

Berry has also connected his belief in a society-wide coordinated campaign to promote pedophilia with other unsubstantiated conspiracies about the prime minister.

“What I’m trying to tell you is Trudeau is a pedo,” Berry said on a May 23 livestream. “This whole pedophilia thing, they’re trying to make it normalized with ‘Minor Attracted Persons’ and all this bullshit. It’s pedophilia … that’s not safe for our children and we’ve got to protect them.”

 

The Language and Mythology of QAnon

While the Save the Children Convoy is firmly rooted in anti-LGBTQ+ paranoia, the group is also steeped in the language and mythology of QAnon.

QAnon is best understood as a delusional online community that revolves around the belief that Donald Trump is waging a heroic battle against an evil cabal of Satanic pedophiles, whom they believe secretly run the world. Followers of QAnon attempt to piece together the truth based on prophetic messages posted online by an anonymous figure named “Q.”

While QAnon has faded in influence since Trump’s 2020 election defeat and the failed insurrection on January 6, a number of individuals connected to the Save the Children Convoy frequently invoke QAnon’s conspiratorial narratives, slogans and slang terminology.

For one thing, the convoy’s “Save the Children” name is itself a QAnon slogan.

As the New York Times previously explained, after social media platforms began cracking down on QAnon content, its supporters pivoted to the “fuzzier” hashtag “Save the Children” as a way to evade bans and mainstream their ideas.

And the leader of the convoy is clearly familiar with QAnon.

On Facebook, Berry has posted content using the “#SaveTheChildren” hashtag in direct connection with “Pizzagate” and a supposed “global elite pedophile ring” that runs Hollywood. Berry has also shared videos connecting child protection services, abortion clinics and the “Deep State” with “Satanic ritual abuse” and “child sacrifice.”

Gordon Berry (Facebook)

According to Berry, the “Save the Children Convoy” name was coined with help from his “friend out West,” Elliot McDavid. McDavid believes the Government of Alberta is producing child pornography and claims children are being “hunted down like animals” and “thrown in a rail car” by “degenerates on horseback.”

Other individuals connected to the convoy have promoted the QAnon slogan “WWG1WGA,” both in their online profile descriptions and in postings mocking police for arresting and criminally charging convoy members.

(Facebook)

One truck at the Casselman base camp owned by New Brunswick resident Sylvain Sinclair also prominently displays a “WWG1WGA” QAnon bumper sticker. Sinclair also posts similar messages on his TikTok account.

Sylvain Sinclair (TikTok)

In a recent speech calling for the replacement of Canada’s government, Berry asserted that he believes “White Hats” (QAnon slang for government and military officials quietly working behind-the-scenes to help Trump in his battle against the “Deep State”) are working to replace Canada’s system of government too.

Despite the influence of QAnon-inspired activists on the convoy, other members of the “Save the Children Convoy” are split. Chat room messages on the convoy’s private Facebook group show supporters debating whether or not QAnon content should be banned.

“These QAnon posts should be banned from this site,” wrote one convoy supporter. Several others agreed, including one who suggested “the focus must be the kids only.”

“Leave the Q peeps alone for chrissakes, they’re on our side,” disagreed another supporter. “Q people are good Christians.”

 

New Age Spirituality and ‘Spiritual Warfare’

There’s another big influence on the thinking of the “Save the Children Convoy” that might come as a surprise: New Age spirituality.

Previously unlikely allies for the far-right, during the pandemic some followers of New Age spirituality, natural health and wellness fads were radicalized by anti-vaccine sentiments and pandemic conspiracies – notably, including QAnon.

In fact, the convoy also briefly operated a second base camp at a “horse energy healing” centre in Phelpston, Ontario that offers group meditation and spiritual healings led by horses.

The Save the Children Convoy’s leaders frequently refer to themselves as “spiritual warriors,” with Berry claiming on a September 25 livestream that they are battling a “spiritual war” against “dark people” with a “dark agenda” who are “full of dark energy”:

“That’s how we win that battle – spiritually. And we can’t win it if we do not utilize spiritual powers, spiritual warriors and the energetic side of it, because that’s what they have over us, they are demonic, they have evil energy, they throw that evil energy at us, the dark spirits at us, we have to win that in the spiritual realm.”

Berry insists he and his convoy followers can manifest a change in Canada’s government – and, indeed, “save the children” – simply by focusing their minds, channeling their “energy” and increasing their “vibrations” and “frequency.”

To that end, Berry claims the Save the Children Convoy is receiving help from God: “I know that there has been help from the spirits and the creator and God … This journey hasn’t been easy and there’s been some significant roadblocks that were miraculously taken care of.”

In addition to God, Berry has suggested he also receives help from “lightworkers” – a term sometimes used in QAnon and New Age “conspirituality” circles to describe enlightened souls who use their “energy” to help others, such as former US President Donald Trump.

One of those “lightworkers” is Barbara, a Canadian woman living in Italy who has been leading morning meditation sessions for convoy supporters online, leading supporters to envision a “cone of light” protecting convoy supporters in downtown Ottawa.

Carla Mannix (Facebook)

Barbara is also the leader of an anti-chemtrails group and holds other meditation sessions focused on encouraging “first contact with benevolent galactic beings.”

Berry and Barbara recently created a private Facebook group called “Great Awakening 2023: Shifting the Consciousness” which is described as a “Spiritual Warrior Group.”

The group shares inspirational memes about “energy” and “consciousness,” as well as videos claiming humanity can force the planet earth to quite literally shift dimensions simply by “raising the frequencies and vibrations” in their bodies.

 

Pseudolegal Sovereign Citizen Beliefs

Another defining feature of the Save the Children Convoy is a set of beliefs that revolve around amateur and incorrect legal arguments rejecting the legitimacy of the government and the judicial system itself.

Kurt Phillips, an extremist researcher and board member with the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, has noted the convoy is heavily influenced by the sovereign citizen movement.

“It appears to be motivated to a significant degree by a sovereign citizen ideology that rejects the authority of the state and replaces it with a pseudolegal belief that suggests that they have what amounts to be a secret formula of legal phrases that will take them out of the system,” Phillips previously told PressProgress.

Berry and other convoy influencers have advised supporters not to register the births of babies, claiming the state has no authority over children with no birth certificates.

“The legal system does not apply to men or women, the legal system applies to corporations, that’s a fiction they created with the birth certificate fraud,” Berry explained in a recent speech. “The bottom line is they have no jurisdiction.”

Berry has also frequently expressed his desire to replace Canada’s government and “install” a so-called “de jure government” – a vague system of governance he believes emerges naturally from organic social structures and rooted in whatever he thinks is the law of nature.

McDavid echoed this call during an early livestream on July 15:

“This entity known as Canada is a corporation, it’s a business. Don’t let them fool you. It’s time to take this country back because the children are really depending on us … “We will take you from Power. You’re a de facto government. We will not listen to anything you say. We’re gonna have a de jure government in this country.”

Inchooh Isdai (Facebook)

The convoy’s leader’s misunderstandings of law have also led them to believe they have the lawful authority to place politicians and police officers under citizen’s arrest.

“We’ve had the legal right for almost 100 years or better to set a de jure government,” Berry said in a recent livestream. “What is wrong with putting these people in prison for the crimes that they have committed and setting a system in place that benefits the people?”

“These police should be arrested and these politicians.”

Phillips has noted that this kind of rhetoric is troubling given “in the United States, we’ve seen sovereign citizens engage in significant violence including the murder of law enforcement.

The emphasis on New Age spirituality also overlaps with the influence of the sovereign citizen movement on the Save the Children Convoy’s belief system in important ways.

The convoy’s leader repeatedly asserts that the power of the government and legal system is only an “illusion” – and he proposes “meditation” as a way to escape this “Matrix society.”

“I’ve said this the whole time we’re living in this inverted reality where right is wrong and up is down,” Berry told supporters in a September 27 livestream.

“We have the power to create our own reality.”

 

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Luke LeBrun
Editor
Luke LeBrun is the Editor of PressProgress. His reporting focuses on the federal political scene, right-wing politics as well as issues in technology, media and culture.

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