Thursday, June 20, 2024
Feature/ProfileReviewTrucking

Letters of gratitude to Freedom Convoy Truckers preserved in kids’ book by Donna Laframboise

“Bill came to Canada as a baby. He delivered cookies for a cookie factory for 20 years. Today he has 19 grandkids,” explains “Opa’s Convoy Letters,” in kid-friendly format and writing by author Donna Laframboise. “When he drove his truck to Ottawa in the Freedom Convoy, grateful Canadians gave Bill warm gloves, food and hugs. They showered him with cards, letters and drawings. This book showcases some of them.” Photo: Opa’s Convoy Letters

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“This book is journalism. It documents a significant cultural and grassroots phenomenon that swept Canada in the early months of 2022,” reads the book’s short description on Amazon. Image: Donna Laframboise

There were lots of grandfathers and grandmothers at the Freedom Convoy in Ottawa last January.

Author Donna Laframboise wants Canadians to know their stories, and so her book/website project “Opa’s Convoy Letters” was born: “I want to make sure kids know: whatever else you might have heard, when your grandfather went to went to Ottawa, people told him he was a hero.”

Laframboise is a Canadian investigative journalist, writer, and photographer with extensive career achievements including articles and editorials for Canada’s National PostThe Globe and MailToronto Star, and others. She is a past board member of the board of directors of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Image: Donna Laframboise

“I thought I would be taking pictures and interviewing Truckers, and that’s what my book would be about.  Then, I just stumbled on this group of people, these incredible people who dropped their lives and went to Ottawa and stayed for three weeks.

“They stood out in the cold with a wood stove and cooked for the Truckers. I don’t think the Truckers would have managed to hang on for three weeks without this community, the people coming every day, shaking their hands, giving them money, giving them gas cards, thanking them and supporting them,” Laframboise recalls in amazement.

“My original idea was just to take pictures, and I did come back with thousands of digital pictures. A friend came with me, and we met a bunch of Truckers. After a couple of days, we had this little circuit where we would go around in the morning to say ‘hi’ to people that we’ve met, and chat with them. Bill was one of these Truckers.”

Bill, a grandfather to 19 grandchildren, is the “Opa” of “Opa’s Convoy Letters. “Opa” is the Dutch version of “Grampa.” He spent his career driving truckloads of cookies for a cookie factory.

Laframboise describes visiting with Bill and his wife, who first showed her the binder full of cards, letters, notes and drawings Bill had received from kids, parents and other grateful Canadians. Their daughter compiled the binder as a memento of the people who wanted to offer sincere thanks and appreciation to the Truckers.

Image: Donna Laframboise

“They put the binder in my hand; I opened it up and I said ‘Bill, this belongs in a museum!’”

Laframboise asked permission to scan the contents of the binder; this became the basis for her short, kid-friendly book “Opa’s Convoy Letters” and the much more comprehensive website on which readers can view the entire, unedited documents from the original binder. OpasConvoyLetters.com now serves as an online museum of sorts.

For example, the full letter on page 12 of the website of OpasConvoyLetters.com opens, “Dear truckers, I am a school teacher. My husband is a retired transit driver. We both agree 100% with you. We are grateful for what you are doing for us, for our country and for the world. Many people know full well that this is a stand for freedom and justice for the people and for the future of our children.”

So while the children’s book (available in paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon) is a quick and cheerful read, the website offers a much more in-depth look at the thoughts and feelings of many of the adults who were grateful to the Truckers for taking a stand. The very real support and appreciation the Truckers received from working Canadians got very little media coverage at the time.

I love this book and have already sent it as a gift to my Canadian and American family, who admired the Truckers for pushing back against ridiculous, unscientific mandates. My brothers particularly loved the street hockey games on Parliament Hill, the bouncy castles and the hot tubs: “You Canadians really know how to protest,” one told me.

“This is the closest thing I’ve ever done to an oral history,” Laframboise says. “So people will know what really went on.”

To read the full versions of the letters and notes used to create the book, visit OpasConvoyLetter.com
Sample letter from a teacher writing to thank the Truckers for speaking out. Image: Donna Laframboise
“I want to make sure kids know: whatever else you might have heard, when your grandfather went to went to Ottawa, people told him he was a hero.” Photo: Donna Laframboise

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Sending "Opa's Convoy Letters" as a gift to kids & parents
I have already sent copies of "Opa's Convoy Letters" 
as gifts to my Canadian and American family. 
The Kindle version is $7.99 Canadian, so I sent $10 Amazon email 
gift coupons and provided parents with the link to the book by email. 
--Rita Smith