Canada’s government is unlocking accounts linked to organizers of the trucker protest that snarled traffic in downtown Ottawa for three weeks and was cleared by police over the weekend.
Assistant Deputy Minister of Finance Isabelle Jacques told the Canadian parliament’s Finance Committee on Tuesday that up to 206 bank accounts linked to convoy organizers, together worth $7.8 million, were initially frozen under emergency measures enacted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week.
Trudeau invoked the 1988 Emergencies Act, which has never before been used and gives the government the authority to restrict movement and freeze financial accounts, including personal bank accounts.
Jacques said that some of the bank accounts frozen under the emergency measures may be owned by more than one individual.
“Information was shared by the RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] with financial institutions and we were informed yesterday by financial institutions that they were unfreezing the accounts,” Jacques told parliament members. “The vast majority of accounts are in the process of being unfrozen.”
Jacques also confirmed that while she considered it “unlikely” to occur, Canadians who made small-dollar donations to the trucker convoy after the Emergencies Act was invoked could have their bank accounts frozen.
A member of parliament from British Columbia claimed on Twitter on Monday that a constituent had her bank account frozen after donating $50 to the convoy. Shortly afterwards, the RCMP released a statement saying it provided authorities with a list of people “who were influencers in the illegal protest in Ottawa, and owners and/or drivers of vehicles who did not want to leave the area.” However, “at no time did we provide a list of donors to financial institutions.”
Jacques said it was possible, though unlikely, that small-dollar donors to the convoy were caught up in the bank account freeze.
“In our discussion with financial entities that we had in the past week, certainly that was not the target of the activities,” Jacques told the Finance Committee. “Is it possible that somebody was captured? It’s always possible because the order provides for it, but I doubt that we’d have many of those cases.”
Conservative MP Philip Lawrence of Ontario pressed Jacques on the matter during the hearing.
“Just to be clear, a financial contribution either through a crowdsourced platform or directly, could result in their bank account being frozen?” Lawrence asked.
“Yes,” Jacques answered.