Editor’s note: This story has been updated for clarify the location of Easy-Kleen Pressure Systems Ltd.
A security breach has revealed that a company with offices across Canada has donated US$75,000 to an online fundraising campaign for so-called “freedom convoy” protesters who have disrupted the nation’s capital.
Brad Howland, president of Easy-Kleen Pressure Systems Ltd., confirmed the donation, the largest from within Canada, following a hack of crowdfunding platform GiveSendGo. Easy-Kleen’s head office is in the village of Sussex Corner in New Brunswick with other offices in Ontario, Alberta and Nova Scotia.
Howland declined to speak to Global News but said in a statement he had travelled to Ottawa to witness the “beautiful, legal, peaceful protest that overwhelmed us with emotion.”
“We are thankful to be blessed enough to support their efforts to do what they have to do in a peaceful way until the government removes the mandates to restore all our freedom as pre-COVID,” he said.
Protest organizers have secured millions in pledges from donors on GiveSendGo, the U.S.-based Christian crowdfunding platform that is hosting the fundraising campaign.
Last week, the Ontario court froze the funds as offence-related property after the Ottawa Police Service alleged the money was facilitating the crimes committed by anti-lockdown, anti-vaccine protesters.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said Monday the government was increasing the scope of the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) to oversee crowdfunding websites, allowing banks to freeze accounts without first obtaining a court order.
“We are making these changes because we know that these platforms are being used to support illegal blockades and illegal activity which is damaging the Canadian economy,” Freeland said at a press conference.
Although many of the donations were made anonymously, or using what appeared to be false names, data shared with news organizations showed the email addresses used by donors.
Among them was a $100 donation associated with a Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) government email address. The federal agency said it was looking into the matter.
“At all times, CSC employees are expected to act according to legal and ethical standards, and are subject to our rules of professional conduct and code of discipline. This includes proper use of CSC email accounts and electronic devices,” a spokesperson said.
Other pledges came from emails associated with an Ontario school board, which declined to comment, as well as the U.S. army, U.S. navy and other U.S. government agencies.
The navy said the individual in question had retired. The U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment about the apparent use of its email by a donor. The Department of Homeland Security said it was looking into it.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday that close to half the donations to the protesters had originated from south of the border.
The list provided by the collective DDOS indicated that $4.3 million came from Canada and $3.6 million from the United States, but the reliability of the data is uncertain, since donors self-report much of their personal details.
The protests have generated support among the American political right and backers of former U.S. president Donald Trump, who claimed Trudeau had “destroyed Canada with insane COVID mandates.”
A Seattle resident confirmed in an interview he had donated US$5,000 to the protesters, whom he said were “just getting together and saying, ‘Hey government, we’re done with you telling us what we can and cannot do.’”
Asked to respond to concerns of U.S. interference in Canada’s domestic affairs, Ben Lynch said the protesters were “carrying the flag of freedom,” something that usually garners global support.
“I mean when Myanmar was being severely suppressed, a lot of people were trying to step up and help as well,” he said. “So we are not meddling in Canadian affairs, we are supporting a specific movement, which is freedom.”
Ontario business owner Holden Rhodes also confirmed he and his wife donated US$25,000 through GiveSendGo, and said the sums raised on the platform showed it was “hardly a ‘fringe minority’ as our prime minister has been calling the folks who believe in freedom.”
“As you know GiveSendGo was hacked last night, which is a pathetic and weak way of disagreeing with someone,” Holden, president of Killarney Mountain Resorts, said in an email.
“How about a conversation, a debate, some respect, some evidence? Hardly peaceful like the thousands who have showed up to protest.
“Without freedom, we have nothing. I am not prepared to accept a country without freedom for my family, my children, my friends, my neighbors and every other Canadian. That is why I am doing what I am doing.”
Before moving to GiveSendGo, 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.”