Thursday, February 10, 2022

The trucker convoy and "choking off" their funding

Look, I don't support the so-called "Freedom Convoy." Of the two big demonstrations currently going on in Canada the Freedom Convoy and the Fairy Creek protests  I'd pick the Fairy Creek protestors (who want to stop logging of old-growth trees in B.C.).

But I think some critics are going too far in calling for a "choking off" of the money that finances the convoy, as Mark Carney recently did. Carney went on to describe anyone sending money to the convoy as "funding sedition" and wants to "identify and thoroughly punish" the convoy's foreign funders. Meanwhile, Jagmeet Singh's NDP Party has launched a petition calling on the government to contact Joe Biden and "shut down funding coming from the US".

What Carney and Singh have in mind is probably the convoy's massive crowdfunding campaign. Initially launched on U.S.-based GoFundMe, the campaign was frozen last week citing police reports that the demonstration had become an "occupation". The convoy has since switched to a so-called "Christian" crowdfunding site called GiveSendGo. Funds raised via GiveSendGo now clock in at almost $8 million. Presumably Carney and Singh want this $8 million stopped.

I agree with the majority of Canadians (65%, according to Leger) who see the convoy as representing a "small selfish minority." This minority want to lever Canadians' Covid fatigue into a funnel for importing toxic Trumpism into Canada. 

However, Canadians have a right to protest. Any demonstration, whether it be Fairy Creek or the Ottawa trucker convoy, is inevitably going to involve some degree of disruption to the regular flow of life. That's how protestors attract attention and change minds. Protesters often need money, especially well-organized protestors. And crowdfunding sites, both domestic and foreign, offer them the ability to connect with donors.

We have rules about how far this disruption can go. Once this point is reached, an Ontario court will issue an injunction ordering an end to the protest, at which point the convoy must disband. Those who continue to gather are doing so illegally and can be arrested.

As far as I know, the Freedom Convoy has not been declared illegal by a judge. And so GiveSendGo is probably in its rights to host a fundraiser for the convoy. Until the protest has definitively crossed the line into illegal territory, talk of "choking off" funds is premature, indeed irresponsible it amounts to calling for the state to censor Canadians' ability to protest.

Nor does the fact that Americans are major contributors to the convoy justify a government-led choking-off of funding. The proper trigger for freezing funding isn't the nationality of a protest's financial contributors. The proper trigger is when the court deems the protest illegal, and whether law enforcement believes that its enforcement strategy requires a blocking of funds.

By the way, these same principles would apply if the Conservative Party's Andrew Scheer had called for a choking-off of funds to the Fairy Creek protestors. As long as Fairy Creek protest is legal (more on that later) the funds should be allowed to flow freely, even if lefty Americans are donating.

In the next few days things could get interesting. Imagine an Ontario court issues an injunction ordering the protest to end... but the protesters do not leave. The police begin to enforce the injunction by  removing illegal protestors, but the whole thing explodes into a riot. At this point one would expect GiveSendGo to pull the plug on the $8 million campaign. According to its own terms of service, GiveSendGo doesn't allow campaigns that "violate any law, statute, ordinance or regulation."

Spurned on by wingnuts on the American right, GiveSendGo could very well choose to ignore its own terms of service. Let's say that it keeps on hosting the convoy's now-illegal campaign. 

Is Canada helpless to stop the funds raised on a U.S. based platform from reaching the illegal protestors? Jagmeet Singh seems to think so, suggesting that we must contact the US administration to shut down funding.

Relax. Canada already has all the tools necessary to uphold the law. Before the funds can be spent by the convoy, GiveSendGo will have to wire the $8 million from its U.S. bank account to the Canadian bank account of Freedom 2022 Human Rights and Freedoms, the non-profit representing the protestors. Law enforcement can ask the non-profit's bank maybe Royal Bank or CIBC to freeze the convoy's account, should it deem this step necessary. Problem solved.

Incidentally, the Fairy Creek protestors in B.C. continue to raise funds on the Fundrazr crowdfunding platform. (Like the trucker convoy, GoFundMe froze Fairy Creek's first campaign, forcing it to pivot to an alternative platform.) The Fairy Creek protester's Fundrazr campaign hasn't been halted despite B.C. courts having issued and renewed an injunction restraining "unlawful interference by protesters," and Fundrazr's terms of service prohibiting the violation of "any applicable local, province, state, national or international law."

It could be that the Fairy Creek campaign's lawyers are being very careful about how they spend the funds. Or maybe the police's enforcement strategy doesn't yet extend to freezing the protester's funding sources.

But ultimately, sustaining the rule of law is vital (as Brian Lee Crowley so ably describes here). If putting a halt to illegal activities requires the extreme step of removing funding supporting those activities, then that's a justifiable step to take, whether that be the dollars raised by the Freedom Convoy or the protesters at Fairy Creek.

PS: A few hours after I posted this the Ontario government successfully petitioned the Superior Court to freeze the convoy's GiveSendGo funds based on the allegation that it is "offence-related property." Here are the relevant sections of the code. Unfortunately the government has given no indication of what the offence is.


  1. This is where Bitcoin is supposed to come in. Not sure if it already has or will, in this case.

    1. Unlikely. Bitcoin has to be swapped into Canadian dollars at an exchange like BitBuy. These exchanges will comply with an order to freeze funds.

    2. Bitcoin doesn't need changed into anything unless the bitcoin holder wants to. It is money and something that retains value. And where there is a need to change, use of exchanges is not mandatory. It is p2p where the coins don't have to be transferred using a third party service.

  2. You say, “I agree with the majority of Canadians (65%, according to Leger) who see the convoy as representing a ‘small selfish minority.’ This minority want to lever Canadians' Covid fatigue into a funnel for importing toxic Trumpism into Canada.”

    Did ever occur to you that just maybe they are protesting the overreach of government domination over their lives and livelihoods? And that it has nothing to do with Trump? That they just want to be able make a living delivering the goods and food you rely on to survive? And to make decisions about their own healthcare?

    1. As I said, I think the convoy is about much more than just vaccine mandates. It's people trying to import the full Trump package up to Canada. But we're not the U.S. The last thing we need is toxic Trumpism. That being said, while I don't agree with the convoy, I support their right to protest and raise money.

  3. What if someone markets the ecosystem services benefits of the standing old growth trees to guilty billionaires? Can the social benefits of carbon sequestration, currently an externality, be priced higher than the timber value of the trees, and sold to the Bezos Earth Fund because he saw the forest for the trees, from space?

    Can ecosystem services benefits of not logging be securitized and sold something like NFTs, giving the holder the right to boast how much they're doing to save the planet? Can Bezos sell his ecosystem service asset to Gates, as they bid up values among themselves?

    Can financial engineering of the ecosystem benefits of not logging provide better outcomes than physical obstruction of loggers? Is there a way to use finance to buy out the loggers?