Emergency powers to target protest funding

Canada uses crackdown on trucker protest to expand financial controls on crowdfunding & cryptocurrencies

The Canadian government has moved to extend its financial regulations to crowdfunding platforms and cryptocurrencies, under the Emergencies Act invoked Monday to crack down on “Freedom Convoy” trucker protests against Covid-19 mandates.

Under the emergency, which is due to last 30 days unless extended, all crowdfunding and crypto platforms must register with Canada’s financial intelligence agency FinTrac and report “large or suspicious” transactions, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Monday. This is an expansion of Canada’s existing money-laundering and terrorist financing rules, and the government will propose a law that would make these powers permanent, she added.

“We know that these platforms are being used to support illegal blockades and illegal activity which is damaging the Canadian economy,” said Freeland.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government has declared trucker protests – from the “Freedom Convoy” parking in front of the parliament in Ottawa to the blockades at three border crossings with the US – to be illegal and authorized federal police to help provinces and local authorities dismantle them.

Canadian banks have also been instructed to freeze assets or “review their relationship” with anyone they suspect of being involved in such protests, without a court order. Companies whose trucks are being used in the “illegal” protests will have their accounts frozen and their insurance suspended, said Freeland.

The financial crackdown comes after Ottawa successfully pressured GoFundMe to freeze some CAN $10 million the trucker protest had raised, only to see the fundraiser move to GiveSendGo, a rival US platform. After GiveSendGo refused Canadian orders to freeze the funds, it was hacked and the trucker donor list was published online.

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A protester waves a Canadian flag in front of parked vehicles in Ottawa. © AP / Justin Tang
Personal data of Freedom Convoy donors leaked

This is the first time Canada has invoked the Emergencies Act since it was passed in 1988, to replace the old martial law first enacted in 1914. The War Measures Act had been used during the two world wars to impose controls on the Canadian economy and imprison citizens of German and Japanese origin. It was most recently used in 1970 by Trudeau’s father Pierre, to crack down on Francophone separatists in Quebec who had kidnapped a lawmaker. Almost 500 people were arrested during the period now known as the October Crisis.

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