Vanier Church’s Support for ‘Freedom Convoy’ Protesters Angers Residents

“These guys are doing a lot of good in our community, but now we’re seeing that side of them that we don’t like.”

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The Capital City Bikers Church has become a hotbed of controversy in its Vanier neighborhood in recent weeks because it has been a strong supporter of ‘Freedom Convoy’ participants, providing them with hot meals, a place to warm up and moral support. .

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Some Vanier residents who disapproved of nearby protesters earlier this month posted pro-vaccine and anti-convoy signs on a fence near the church. Last week, the church received a more menacing sign on red paper that read, “A Nest of Nazis. Burn it.

Pastor Rob McKee declined to comment on his church’s support for the convoy, but on his personal Instagram account he posted a photo of the menacing sign and wrote: “When you continue to open your doors to anyone in need . I guess some people will never like what you do.

Melissa McKee, the pastor’s wife, posted the same threatening sign on her Facebook page with the comment: “We have been accused of harboring (sic) terrorists, called Nazis, humiliated, ridiculed, threatened and defamed. Rob’s life was threatened this morning, and the guy who posted this threatened to burn down the church. How sad that people react to those who want freedom.

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“We love. We serve. We give. We NOURISH. And we won’t stop.”

Vanier residents concerned about the protesters’ visit to the church would speak out only if their names were not used, as they feared reprisals. “These guys do a lot of good in our community, but now we see that side of them that we don’t like,” said one resident.

As early as late January, pro-convoy social media posts portrayed the Carillon Street Church as a haven for truckers and their allies who traveled to Ottawa to protest COVID-19 restrictions and the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The church is on a residential street about a five-minute drive from the Coventry Road protesters’ staging camp which was dismantled on February 20, and this newspaper saw a photo, apparently taken inside a tent from Camp Convoy, showing a flyer touting meals for protesters available at the church from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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Through her Facebook page, Melissa McKee sought accommodation this month to visit protesters and their families. Some of her recent posts celebrated the friendships she had developed with visiting protesters or urged her Facebook friends to “hold the line”. She shared selfies taken during protests on Parliament Hill and a photo of herself posing with red jerrycans, which became a symbol of defiance after police announced they were seizing them. Other messages sharply criticized Trudeau, the police officers who eliminated the occupation and pandemic health measures.

“Some were ready to come and stand up to Justin Trudeau and demand that he answer for his wrongs of the past two years. They came in trucks. They came for you, even though you hated them,” she wrote this week on Facebook.

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“We lied to you for two years. Masks don’t work, vaxxeens (sic) kill people, and relationships are forever altered.

According to a post on Robin McKee’s Instagram page, he went to Parliament Hill during the first weekend of protests. The message quoted his approval of a sign that read: “Jesus at the wheel”.

A commenter on this post wrote, “I wouldn’t want anyone to associate Jesus with an event literally run and organized by hate groups and holding Jesus signs next to Confederate flags, swastikas and hate messages. Keep Jesus out of it.

McKee replied, “You weren’t there and you really don’t have a voice to speak about what happened. But go ahead and be that keyboard vigilante who (sic) sees a photo or two and understands why each person was there.

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Opened ten years ago, Biker Church is a place “where you can be real and enjoy a laid back atmosphere where we can be comfortable in jeans and t-shirts, where we enjoy lots of laughs and growth,” its website says. .

Anti-“Freedom Convoy” signs were placed on a fence on Baribeau Street in Vanier, near the Capital City Bikers Church. Handout

It’s a Pentecostal church, and David Wells, general superintendent of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, the largest evangelical church in the country, knows it well. “IIt certainly has a distinct DNA compared to some of our other churches in Ottawa,” Wells said.

The Bikers’ Church has helped and continues to help the people of Vanier by distributing free bread, clothing and household items that they collect. “PBefore the pandemic, they were ingrained in the social fabric of Vanier,” said a neighborhood resident now put off by the church’s support for the protest.

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“A lot of us are really upset about this,” she said.

After the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the church was known as a gathering place where public health restrictions were not adhered to. Videos posted to YouTube last September showed congregations standing, swaying to music, with no masks in sight.

Com. Mathieu Fleury, who represents Vanier, says constituents have complained to his office about the church and that Ottawa Public Health and by-law officers have visited the church.

“They certainly attended, certainly were present. I am not aware of any violations or consequences,” Fleury said.

Tania McCumber, acting director of By-Laws and Regulatory Services for the City of Ottawa, says by-law officers have conducted “several investigations” at the church. “As of today, a warning has been issued and church officials have received an explanation of provincial regulations,” McCumber said.

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As last Sunday morning’s service was taking place, five OPS cruisers “surrounded the church on a report from neighbors…because there were ‘lots of cars,'” according to a now-deleted Facebook post by Melissa McKee. . His message suggested that police were wary of “a convoy of trucks meeting again at the church”.

Wells says The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada has always encouraged adherence to public health guidelines and that the “vast majority” of its 1,200 congregations are following them.

But each congregation is "self-governed," and, "ffrankly, not all of our leaders and churches react the same way,” Wells said.

Regarding the Freedom Convoy protests, The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada issued a statement Feb. 15 to “acknowledge and mourn the current unrest.”

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The statement advocated “wisdom and discretion to avoid identifying with the polarized political labeling taking place within our culture, and currently evident on many fronts.”

The statement also said: “We recognize that there is a common concern about divisive approaches and rejection of valid policy discussions that go well beyond vaccination mandates etc. The current protests, with all properly identified concerns about extreme views and actions, do represent a broader sense of ostracism within strata of our country.

In an email, Rob McKee told this newspaper that he agreed with PAOC’s statement. He also invited a reporter to visit his church for a tour and coffee “once this all wears off.”

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