FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The MP for Prince George–Peace Region–Northern Rockies met with a Canadian veteran walking from Vancouver to Ottawa in protest of the vaccine mandates on Wednesday.

James Topp, an Afghanistan war veteran and reservist warrant officer, has reached Ontario in his months-long march and was driven to Ottawa to meet with MPs who support his cause. He will return to finish his walk, which will end this week in Ottawa at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Zimmer met with Topp after hearing a great deal about his efforts. 

“I empathized with what had happened to him again, all along,” Zimmer said. “We don’t think that any person should lose their job or their livelihood based on a health decision.”

Federal public service workers, and others across the public service and federally-regulated transportation industries, were faced with a choice over the last year: receive the vaccine or take leave without pay from their job. 

“Any employee that’s lost their job should have it back. Whether it’s Canada Post or whether it’s people like James,” Zimmer said. “First of all, they shouldn’t have lost their job.” 

Though vaccine mandates remain in place for members of the Canadian Armed Forces, they were lifted for most federal civil service employees this week.

With mandates ending, Zimmer called for a comprehensive overview of what happened and how the government responded with mandates, measures, and the Emergencies Act.

When asked about his expectations of the current parliamentary and judicial inquiries (a legislated necessity any time the Act is invoked) he said he hoped it would be successful—not only in providing truth for Canadians but to better inform government action in the future.

 “The Government might have done some good things, but if they did some bad things, we need to know that too— so we can be better next time,” Zimmer said. 

Topp took a short break from his march to meet MPs who supported him. He was joined by two noted leaders of the “freedom movement,” inspired by the Freedom Convoy protests in Ottawa last February.

They held a sit-down meeting with several tory MPs to speak to their cause, which included the dangers of vaccines and the need to repeal all pandemic restrictions. The meeting was streamed online.

Health Canada says that only vaccines that meet strict efficacy and safety standards are approved for use in the country, and that benefits of COVID-19 vaccines continue to outweigh the risks of the disease.

Zimmer stated that he was not aware of the meeting and was not in attendance. He met Topp separately while the veteran was in town.

The broad show of support for Topp comes a month after he was charged in the military justice system with two counts of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline for speaking against the mandates while in uniform in videos posted last winter. 

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces are severely limited in what statements they can make while in uniform—particularly when it comes to criticism of the government, partially in order to avoid politicization of the military. 

Though Topp’s journey is set to end in a week, Zimmer is returning to his riding and will not be at the event taking place to mark the end of Topp’s march. He says he was nonetheless honoured to meet the veteran at this stage of his journey.

Grace Giesbrecht

Grace Giesbrecht is a news reporter for EnergeticCity.ca who recently graduated from Trinity Western University with a bachelor of arts in Media + Communications. She was born and raised just outside of Fort St. John. She began reporting for her university’s student newspaper and interned with Ottawa Life Magazine where she developed a passion for asking questions, telling stories, and the written word. In her free time, you can find her drinking coffee, snowboarding, or reading novels.