Canadian authorities have frozen the financial assets of individuals and businesses allegedly involved in the ongoing protests in Ottawa Mike Duheme, Deputy Commissioner of Federal Policing for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), announced Feb. 20.
Duheme said during a press conference that the RCMP froze 206 financial products, including bank and corporate accounts, and disclosed the information of 56 entities associated with vehicles, individuals and businesses.
The RCMP also shared 253 bitcoin addresses with virtual money changers; and froze a payment processing account worth $3.8 million, Duheme said.
It is unclear what will happen to the money that has been frozen by financial institutions.
“We continue to work on collecting relevant information on people, vehicles and businesses and remain in daily communication with the financial institution to help them,” said Duheme.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said on February 15 that banks would be able to freeze the personal and business accounts of anyone suspected of being linked to the protests, and would not need a court order to do it.
Crowdfunding platforms and the payment service providers they use would now fall under anti-money laundering and terrorist financing laws, with the changes covering all forms of transactions, including those in cryptocurrencies, Freeland explained.
“The illegal blockades have highlighted the fact that crowdfunding platforms and some of the payment service providers they use are not fully covered by the Proceeds of Crime and Terrorist Financing Act,” said Freeland.
His announcement came as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act for the first time in Canadian history to deal with the impact of ongoing protests against the mandates and restrictions of the COVID-19 by truckers and their supporters.
Prior to Freeland’s announcement, C$10 million ($8 million) had been raised on GoFundMe to support Canadian truckers protesting COVID-19 mandates.
Still, the platform said on Feb. 4 that it would no longer donate the billions of dollars that had been raised to organizers and would instead send the money to established charities that have been “verified by GoFundMe.”
However, a day later, the platform changed course and said it would automatically refund funds to donors.
In response, House Republicans on February 10 urged Democrats to hold a hearing to consider what they called “Big Tech Mufflerand accused the for-profit crowdfunding platform of “selectively discriminating against certain people by nullifying their ability to arrange funds through its crowdfunding platform.”
In a letter (pdf), House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) also accused GoFundMe of attempting to “defraud hard-working taxpayers out of millions of dollars in donations received to support a organization promoting individual freedom, trying to divert that money from them and channel it into other unrelated causes.
GOP lawmakers also asked GoFundMe to provide all documents and communications related to their decision to do so.
GoFundMe did not respond to a request for comment from The Epoch Times.
Following GoFundMe’s announcement that it would redirect the money raised to charity, protest convoy organizers set up the “Freedom Convoy 2022” fundraiser on GiveSendGo.
However, the government of the province of Ontario in Canada on February 10 successfully sought a court order to freeze the millions of dollars in funds raised on this platform until further notice.
Meanwhile, some critics have said the Canadian government’s decision to use financial powers to quell trucker protests amounts to unnecessary excess.
Financial crime consultant Vanessa Iafolla, expert on issues related to fraud, money laundering and terrorist financing, told The Epoch Times, “These new powers go too far and I don’t think they are necessary measures to maintain public order.”
Iafolla said the action sets a dangerous precedent because it could allow governments to economically target protesters because of their political beliefs in future demonstrations.
“In a vibrant and mature democracy, citizens and government should be able to tolerate disagreement and dissent, and our constitutional rights to protest should not be sidelined in such a brutal and undemocratic way,” said she declared.
The organizers of the Freedom Convoy in Ottawa have repeatedly said that their protest was peaceful.
But in a virtual press conference On February 18, Freeland and several federal cabinet ministers defended their decision to use broad financial powers amid protests, saying Canada’s economy and democracy “face a serious, foreign-funded threat .
“These illegal blockades and occupations cannot be allowed to usurp the authority of democratically elected governments. They cannot be allowed to threaten peace, order and good government and they will not be allowed to do so. These illegal blockades and occupations will end and they will end for good,” Freeland said.
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