Canada to Freeze Accounts of Anti-Vaccine Protesters

Canada to Freeze Accounts of Anti-Vaccine Protesters

Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is trying to cut funding for the protests, but the banks still don’t know how they should implement the measure

Two days after Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked emergency powers to cut funding for protests against covid-19 restrictions, Banks of Canada are still awaiting details on how they are supposed to enforce government orders. Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said Monday that banks will be required to report relationships with people involved in the blockades and will be given the authority to freeze accounts without a court order, among other measures.

Banks still had numerous questions about how to implement the measures as of Tuesday morning, according to people familiar with the matter. Outstanding questions include what types of accounts the order covers, what recourse customers will have to get banks to reconsider closing accounts and how banks will be compensated, the people said. The chief executives of Canada’s top banks held two calls with government officials about the orders: one over the weekend while the move was being considered, and another Monday night after it was announced, they said.

The legal text of the government order was made public on Tuesday, but it did not clarify many of the banks’ questions. It only says that the government will require payment processors to report certain transactions to regulators and will require financial service providers to “determine whether they hold or control property belonging to a person participating in the blockade.”

Protests that began with a convoy of truckers to Ottawa last month have brought Canada’s capital to a standstill and closed border crossings. Although the bridge that carries a quarter of Canada’s trade with the US was reopened Sunday night, two major border crossings in western Canada were blocked Monday by semi-trailers and farm machinery.

Justin Trudeau, in a television program where he seems to celebrate his victory in the elections in advance
Pic: Justin Trudeau, in a television program where he seems to celebrate his victory in the elections in advance

As part of the financial crackdown, the government is also expanding its anti-money laundering rules to cover cryptocurrency trading platforms and crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe, both of which have been used to funnel donations to protesters. Even before the government announced the emergency measures, the Toronto-Dominion Bank last week froze accounts containing 1.4 million Canadian dollars ($1.1 million) that had been donated to the protests and asked a court to take control of the funds.

This is the first time since it was passed in 1988 that Canada has made use of that law. The precedent for these emergency powers was called the War Measures Act and it was only invoked three times in the country: during the two world wars and in 1970, during the crisis caused by the Quebec Liberation Front terrorist group.

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