“I realized that, who I am as a person, would allow me to speak for these people”
Zexi Li has become a symbol of resistance. The bubbly, energetic 22-year-old suddenly became part of the public consciousness when she decided to sue the freedom convoy.
“I had a very difficult time accepting that at first,” says Li. Eventually, she realized she was able to give voice — and hope — to a population that felt left out.
Li grew up in Toronto, spent her high school years in Montreal, and came to Ottawa at 17 to attend university. When the convoy came to town, Li was one of the first to know — she can see the flag of the Peace Tower from her apartment window. During the day, she walked around to get a sense of how the scene was evolving. While convoyers stayed up late partying, she would toss and turn in bed. After fireworks were set off close to midnight, an unaffected dispatch agent reportedly told Li: “I don’t know if [police will] be able to stop them, but they’ll make sure that it’s safe.”
Then, one sympathetic officer set off the chain of events that thrust Li into the spotlight. They gave her the card for a community liaison officer who asked to meet Li and her neighbours. Li rustled up nearly 30 people to meet that officer, one of whom knew lawyer Paul Champ, who connected with Li that same day. By Saturday they were filing an injunction to stop the honking. It was approved Monday, February 7.
Li tells me she decided to stand up because she doesn’t have kids, she isn’t disabled or elderly, she isn’t homeless. “I was not the worst off. In recognizing that, I realized that some of these characteristics, and who I am as a person, would allow me to speak for these people,” she says.
The fact that she got threatened online barely seems to phase her. She has no time for haters. Li and Champ have been joined by Union Local 613 and Happy Goat Coffee in their $306million lawsuit, and they have no intention of stopping. — Tracey Lindeman
the mainstream media were unfairly maligning the truckers by focusing on the actions of a few individuals who had been swiftly dealt with by convoy organizers. She says she never had much interest in politics. That all changed with the arrival of the convoy.
“My sister came over to my house.
She said something big is happening in Canada. She got on YouTube and put on a couple of videos of these truckers coming from all over Canada to resist the mandates.” Weiss’ reaction was instant and prolonged. “I could not stop crying.”
The strong emotions continued at convoy sites. “I felt connected to people who stood for their country, stood up for their freedoms. It felt powerful and united.”
“You didn’t see any hate, you didn’t see any racism. You saw hugs, laughter, joy, people chanting for freedom,” says Weiss, who is married with two children and runs her own business as a life coach and motivational speaker.
Weiss still gets emotional describing the realization that she is not alone in doubting the safety of rapidly produced COVID-19 vaccines. “I’m not afraid of getting needles. It wasn’t that. It just didn’t feel right … and I’m someone who goes with what my soul says.”
Weiss eventually got the vaccine; she wanted to take her kids to events and enjoy playing team sports. “Getting the vaccine was not as big a deal as being forced to get it.” Weiss encourages others to do their research to make up their own minds. She says she’s ready to debate anyone as long as the conversation stays respectful. “I had no intention of losing friends over this, but there were people who became verbally abusive to me. I won’t stand for that, and I unfortunately did lose a handful of friends.”
“There are people in Ottawa who are feeling very patriotic and want to stand for our freedoms. What that means long term I don’t know, but I’m excited to find out and be part of it.”
— Simon Gardner