Canadian government uses “Terrorist Financing Act” to target financial support to Freedom Convoy truckers
Late yesterday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked his country’s Emergencies Act of 1988 to try to quell protests against the vaccine mandate that have rocked Canadian domestic politics for weeks. The invocation of the law allows Trudeau to expand the rules of the Terrorist Financing Act to subject crowdfunding platforms and payment processors to greater government scrutiny.
The announcement of these new police powers follows the “freedom convoy“, a group of truckers and their supporters who have crossed Canada in recent weeks to protest in the capital Ottawa, demanding an end to Trudeau’s requirement that truckers be vaccinated in order to return to their home countries in coming from the U.S. The political vaccine was implemented in January.Quoting the Canadian Trucking Alliance, the Toronto Star reported at the end of January that “up to” 16,000 truckers “could be sidelined due to the new restriction”.
Trudeau said yesterday that blockades of protesters, which have been put in place at border crossings between the United States and Canada as well as on the streets of Ottawa, are “harming our economy and endangering public safety. “. Invoking the Emergencies Act will grant his government sweeping, unspecified powers to disperse protests, including calling in the military (which Trudeau has so far hesitated do, calling it a “last resort”). To invoke the law, “there must be a belief that the protesters constitute a national emergency and cannot be dealt with under existing laws,” reports The Guardian.
One of the consequences of Trudeau’s invocation of the Emergencies Act (successor to the War Measures Act) is that crowdfunding platforms in Canada will be subject to anti-terrorism laws. That’s crazy. Trudeau chose a maximalist strategy to crush these protests. It won’t go well. https://t.co/Man7vJUwls
— John Daniel Davidson (@johnddavidson) February 14, 2022
There is much debate about the extent to which the protest movement represents the Canadian trucking industry. Leaving aside who speaks for whom, Trudeau’s attempt to impose traditional banking oversight on crowdfunding platforms and payment processors is a notable development in this saga. He announced on Monday that cryptocurrency exchanges and crowdfunding platforms must now report large and “suspicious” transactions at the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Center of Canada (FINTRAC), allowing the government to better monitor who is giving money to protesters. The government will also use his extended powers allow financial institutions to freeze the accounts of companies that own trucks used in the blockades, while suspending their insurance (which could eventually finish to injure victims as well as those responsible, in addition to having little deterrent effect).
The government has already tried to exert pressure in other ways to crack down on the receipt of donations.
Earlier this month, donors raised more than $1 million for truckers via crowdfunding GoFundMe site, before the company removed convoy campaign as the recipient due to an alleged violation of the terms of service, citing “evidence from law enforcement indicating that the previously peaceful protest has turned into an occupation, with police reports of violence and other illegal activities”.
Since that site was rendered inoperable (with contributions being refunded), donors have turned to Christian crowdfunding site GiveSendGo, where they have raised more than $9 million. These efforts were also unsuccessful, with the Pirates release names of donors and a Canadian judge issue an injunction against the site, prohibiting “any party having possession or control of such donations” from giving the money to the intended recipients. (GiveSendGo spokespersons say it’s illegal.)
This type of situation – one in which protesters are blocked by crowdfunding platforms, one in which the government threatens to suppress protests and monitor financial transactions – is precisely the crypto use case, which is perhaps why Canadian officials named it in their terrorist financing announcement. Of course, collecting Bored Ape NFT that’s cool and all, but the real value of crypto is that it’s much harder to trace back to its sender, allowing pseudonymous donors to support political causes of their choosing, no matter how transgressive be they. The more intermediaries you layer, the more scope you have for surveillance, but person-to-person crypto transfers would be fairly easy to accomplish without reporting to FINTRAC.
These reporting requirements already exist for banks in Canada dealing with large sums of money, just as they do in the United States. However, monitoring cryptocurrency transactions and crowdfunding donations is not that simple; it’s unclear how they would stop a large crypto transfer if no bank is involved” Remarks Raisonby Zach Weissmueller on Twitter. If done correctly, crypto transfers have great potential to evade surveillance.
Deputy Prime Minister of Canada: Only the government can decide whether or not you can support nonviolent protests with your own money. https://t.co/ko30bqKHEj
— Avik Roy (@Avik) February 15, 2022
People should have as much freedom as possible to donate to nonviolent, anti-government political causes that match their beliefs, without the government implying that they support terrorism.
Whether it’s government officials sending muscle to private companies judging activists for violating terms of service, crypto’s liberating promise lies in the fact that it can bypass these intermediaries and make transactions more discreet – something Trudeau’s lackeys surely know and seem a little threatened by.