Trucker convoy: Banks take action to cease financing

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says financial service providers have already frozen

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland says financial service providers have already frozen accounts of certain individuals associated with the trucker convoy blockades and protests.

Freeland said that while the government is choosing not to provide more detail about the number of the accounts suspended, “action is being taken [and] is going to increase” in the coming days.

Ottawa gave new powers to financial institutions, through invoking the Emergencies Act on Monday, to freeze or suspend an account of an individual or business affiliated with the blockades without a court order.

The government is also directing financial service providers to temporarily stop providing services to either personal or corporate accounts that they suspect are being used to further the “illegal blockades.”

“I do particularly want people who are participating in illegal blockades and illegal occupation to know these measures are real. They are being used. They will have an impact,” Freeland said.

Freeland delivered the update alongside Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair on Thursday.

As part of the suite of financial measures, crowdfunding platforms must also now comply with Canada’s financial reporting rules under the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC).

This means that in order for a company such as GiveSendGo, which is the current hosting platform for the convoy’s fundraising campaign, to operate in Canada, they are obliged to flag suspicious and large transactions, among other requirements.

The Freedom Convoy has raised more than US$9.5 million on the website.

Freeland said she’s meeting frequently with the heads of Canada’s major banks, with the director of FINTRAC, and with the commissioner of the RCMP to discuss next steps.

“It gives me no pleasure to impose any of these measures. In fact we do so with great sorrow but do not doubt our determination to act, to defend our democracy, to defend our economy, and to restore peace,” she said.

“The consequences are real and they will bite.”

Asked what safeguards are in place to ensure the right people are being targeted, Freeland said those involved are seized with this concern.

“That is something that we, law enforcement, and the financial service providers have been working on very, very carefully. And that’s why I say the use of financial tools is actually going to increase in the coming days because it was important for us to be sure that safeguards were in place,” she said.

In terms of information-sharing between law enforcement and banks, the deputy prime minister said the names of both individuals and entities, as well as crypto wallets, have been shared by the RCMP with financial institutions.

Parliamentarians’ debate of the Emergencies Act kicked off Thursday morning, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau noting it was a needed step, and that existing laws wouldn’t have been able to rectify the issue.

The Conservative Party has said the move is a “power grab” by the Liberals, specifically taking issue with the financial measures introduced.

Interim Conservative Leader Candice Bergen said on Thursday that the government’s declaration isn’t consistent with fundamental freedoms.

“The government should not have the power to close the bank accounts of Canadians on a whim. The prime minister is doing this to save his own political skin, but this is not a game. It comes at a cost to Canadians’ rights and freedoms,” she said.

Justice Minister David Lametti responded that all measures applied would be compliant with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“Any and all of our government action will be subject to the charter, and it is my job as attorney general to ensure this. I take that responsibility incredibly seriously. There is, therefore, a further check in the parliamentary oversight process as well,” he said.

Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner wrote a letter to the privacy commissioner on Thursday citing concerns about the potential risks the Act might pose to personal privacy.

“I continue to call for an immediate peaceful resolution to this ongoing situation in our country. Bust Justin Trudeau cannot take unprecedented powers without scrutiny. Canadians have the right to privacy, and I am concerned about what potential risks such a move poses. I am also concerned about the precedent this sets for the future,” the letter reads.

She calls on the government to “immediately” disclose whether it has consulted with the commissioner about the Act and take any concerns that the commissioner raises “seriously.”

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