TOPSHOT - Tyler Armstrong from Hamilton, Ontario, checks messages on his social media accounts as he sits in the cab of his truck during a protest by truck drivers over pandemic health rules and the Trudeau government, outside the parliament of Canada in Ottawa on February 13, 2022. (Photo by Ed JONES / AFP) (Photo by ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images)
A bank freezes about $1.1 million in funds for Canadian border protests
TD Bank says most of the money came from a GoFundMe campaign.
By Bill Chappell/NPR
TD Bank has frozen about $1.1 million that was intended to back disruptive protests against Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates, according to multiple Canadian news outlets. The money was reportedly being held in two personal accounts.
TD Bank — the name is short for Toronto-Dominion Bank — says most of the money came from a GoFundMe campaign that was shut down, according to Canada’s CTV News. Another portion was deposited from direct donations. Supporters had sought to raise cash to sustain the protests, which have disrupted cross-border business and made international headlines in recent weeks.
TD Bank told NPR on Monday that it wants an Ontario court to decide where the money should go.
“We are unable to release the funds without the court’s direction because multiple parties, including the account holder, intended recipients and some donors, may be entitled to the funds,” a TD spokesperson said. “The Court, not TD, should decide on the distribution of the funds.”
The Ambassador Bridge, the busy border crossing that has been the centerpiece of the protest campaign, “reopened late Sunday after police cleared and arrested a lingering group of protesters demonstrating against COVID-19 vaccine mandates,” as NPR reported.
Large protests over Canada’s COVID-19 policies are still ongoing. On Monday, reports emerged that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau might take what’s being described as the unprecedented step of invoking the Emergencies Act, to give federal agencies more power to cope with convoys, blockades and other public demonstrations.
In early February, GoFundMe blocked around $10 million worth of donations from reaching the protest movement, dubbed the Freedom Convoy. The fundraising site said it would refund the money to those who contributed, after determining that the campaign violated its standards.
The GoFundMe decision prompted the fund-raising site GiveSendGo — which calls itself “the number one Free Christian crowdfunding platform” — to step in, pledging to get money to protesters.
But late last week, the Ontario Superior Court granted a government request to freeze access to money raised to back the blockade in Ottawa and at other border crossings. TD Bank then moved to freeze the money it was still holding.
GiveSendGo has insisted that it will still be able to deliver the money to protesters in Canada, despite the court’s order. The site’s campaigns, “Freedom Convoy 2022” and “Adopt-a-Trucker,” have raised millions of dollars.
But the platform was apparently hacked Sunday night: as of Monday morning, its website wasn’t loading, and reports state that hackers say they will release the names of people who donated to try to prolong the protests.