Online fundraising for Ottawa protesters ‘facilitating’ crime, Ottawa police argue in court

Click to play video: 'Trucker protests: Ontario declares state of emergency'
Trucker protests: Ontario declares state of emergency
Premier Doug Ford says he is declaring a state of emergency in Ontario and will enact emergency orders to end the protests that have crippled Ottawa for the last two weeks and have recently blocked the land border crossing in Windsor – Feb 11, 2022

A U.S.-based crowdfunding campaign for protesters who have laid siege to parts of Ottawa is “facilitating” crime, police wrote in a court affidavit used to freeze the funds.

The Ottawa Police Service said the roughly US$9 million raised on GiveSendGo was intended to sustain the protests, and was therefore “facilitating the indictable offence of mischief.”

Signed by a member of the Ontario asset forfeiture unit, the affidavit said the money was “critical to sustaining the protest” and thus constituted “property intended to be used for committing indictable offences.”

The Superior Court of Justice agreed and froze the money raised on the Christian crowdfunding site as crime-related property.

Although the funds are frozen, donations continued to come in on Friday, some from donors who identified themselves as Americans and described Canada as a “tyranny.”

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that close to half the donations to protesters originated south of the border.

“We see that almost half of the funding, through certain portals, that is flowing to the barricaders here in Canada is coming from the United States,” he said.

Trudeau said he had spoken to U.S. President Joe Biden about the matter. They also discussed an orchestrated campaign to overwhelm Ottawa’s 9-1-1 system that came from Americans, he said.

Responding on its Twitter account, the crowdfunding company hosting the fundraising campaign wrote that “Canada has absolutely ZERO jurisdiction over how we manage our funds here at GiveSendGo.”

“We’re not governed by Canadian courts,” the company said in a press release titled, “GiveSendGo co-founders push back against false information spread by mainstream media.”

“They have no jurisdiction over us,” Jacob Wells and Heather Wilson said, adding they would release all the donations to the campaign’s recipients.

The Ontario court, however, has prohibited anyone, including financial institutions, from having any dealings with “donations made through the Freedom Convoy 2022 and Adopt-a-Trucker fundraising campaign pages hosted by GiveSendGo.”

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Click to play video: 'Ottawa police take limited action as protesters, disruption spread out'
Ottawa police take limited action as protesters, disruption spread out

The fundraising campaign began on GoFundMe, but was shut down by the platform, which said the protest had become an “occupation, with police reports of violence and other unlawful activity.”

It then moved to GiveSendGo, a self-described Christian crowdfunding site that was used by far-right groups to fundraise in advance of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. capitol.

“GiveSendGo does not appear to be an impartial provider of fundraising services to the Freedom Convoy 2022 protest,” the Ottawa police officer, Christopher Rhone, alleged in his affidavit.

Rather, it was “expressly critical” of GoFundMe’s decision to halt its fundraiser, and “actively sought out the Freedom Convoy 2022 campaign to join its online fundraising platform,” he wrote.

Rhone’s affidavit alleged that the Ottawa protesters, who want all COVID-19 health measures lifted, were “already transitioning from traditional currency fundraising to Bitcoin fundraising because Bitcoin is ‘unconfiscatable.’”

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There was a “real risk that should GiveSendGo be given notice of this application, it would work with Freedom Convoy 2022 organizers to ensure that funds remain accessible to be used in support of the continued occupation or protesting truckers in Ottawa,” the affidavit alleged.

The GiveSendGo donations were supposed to a newly-established non-profit called Freedom 2022 Human Rights and Freedoms, run by Chris Garrah.

After the court decision was announced on Thursday, the Freedom Convoy 2022 Facebook page posted a link to its Bitcoin fundraising page, calling it “another option that many have been asking for.”

Ottawa police Chief Peter Sloly has said he would be “relentless” in pursuing the protest’s sources of funding.

GiveSendGo co-founder Wells called that “a lot of hot air and fluff” during an appearance on Fox News.

“GiveSendGo stands for hope and freedom,” the company said on its website. “We recognize the freedoms we have are God-given, not authorized by governments, but rather freedoms that ought to be protected by our governments.”

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