A Voice for the Voiceless
Looking out for our fellow citizens.
Part 1: Jonker Brotherhood
While he was in Ottawa, Jeff Tenhage gave an interview to a Christian organization. "I remember saying, 'We didn't do this just for us. We thought we could be a voice for the voiceless.’ This wasn't just about trucking, it was about Canada - and about looking out for our fellow citizens."
On the second day of the police crackdown, Jonker Trucking decided to pull back. "I remember that morning," says Jeff,
I actually had to sneak through some alleyways to get downtown. We started up our trucks, we got 'em ready to go. I was having a bit of a hard time communicating with Tim and Harold. So I said to one of the drivers, 'I'll just go find them, and we'll all come back together and get these trucks out.' This was before the violence. It was pretty early.
But there were so many more police checkpoints. And then the driver that was looking after my truck, he texted me and said, 'We got all the trucks out.' All the ones they could. I think a Frenchman that was a driver drove one of ours out. And another guy without an A license drove one of 'em out.
The way I saw it, it was very providential that God took care of our drivers. That was my one prayer, that they wouldn't be harmed. The height the government was willing to go to to get rid of us was appalling. I think that was exposed, and I think the world needed to see that.
It was quite an emotional time, I do remember that day was hard.
The keys to two of the Jonker trucks were unavailable that morning, so those vehicles were seized by the police. There's a TikTok video of someone in a front end loader, using forks to rip the sign off the back of one of them. In the case of the second truck, "They smashed the windows, but left on the sign," Tim Jonker says. The price tag to replace the passenger window and the bunk window in that instance was $1,900.
When talking about this, Jeff uses words such as 'malicious' and 'intentional.' "It was a bit of revenge, I think. They harmed a lot of people physically, and if they could do it monetarily as well, they would make you pay that price."
Jonker Trucking's banks accounts were temporarily frozen. "That's something I ended up having to deal with," says Jeff. "They denied it at first. I called our bank. I said, 'A payment didn't go through, are our accounts frozen? They said 'No.' And then a second payment didn't go through. And then a third."
The province of Ontario also yanked their CVOR - which stands for Commercial Vehicle Operator's Registration. Essentially, this is a business license. "Our ability to put trucks on the road was taken away for a week," explains Jeff. In Harold Jonker's words, "Everybody sat for a week. Which was frustrating. All our drivers, even the ones that didn't go to Ottawa. They couldn't work."
"We payed everybody's salary that week,” Jeff remembers. “Made sure they were taken care of. That was important to us."
In March 2023, Harold Jonker and Jonker Trucking were added as named defendants in a $290 million class action lawsuit filed by activist lawyer Paul Champ on behalf of a handful of Ottawa citizens. Following two years of endless pandemic restrictions, Mr Champ thinks the Freedom Convoy should pay millions in damages for disrupting the lives of downtown residents for a few weeks. It's worth remembering that this protest took place in January and February - a time of year in which people are most likely to remain at home with windows and doors tightly shut against the subzero weather.
The three men who run Jonker Trucking - Harold, Tim, and Jeff - always knew there were risks. They talked about that before they joined up. In Jeff's words:
We knew this could come at a cost. Even if it meant, you know, our company had to suspend operations, we were prepared for that. If that’s how God is leading us.
We're not going to compromise what we believe to be right and true and good.