Dozens of bank accounts have been frozen since the federal government invoked the Emergencies Act, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said on Feb. 19.
“At least 76” accounts have been frozen, which represents $3.2 million, associated with the ongoing protest in Ottawa opposing the federal government’s COVID-19 mandates and restrictions, Mendicino said in a virtual press conference.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act on Feb. 14 to give authorities sweeping additional powers to oust the protesters encamped in Ottawa’s downtown core. Several financial measures were also brought in to reduce funding for the protests, such as allowing banks to freeze accounts of individuals or corporations involved in the protests.
The government also broadened the anti-money laundering mechanisms to require crowdfunding platforms to register with the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC).
“Additionally, FINTRAC’s pre-registration process is ongoing and it is working with small- and medium-sized banks to implement the Emergencies Act’s orders,” Mendicino said.
He refused to answer when asked what has happened to the money being frozen by financial institutions or what would happen to it once the emergency order expires, citing “operation sensitivity.”
“The operationalization of the measures under the Emergencies Act is something that is being undertaken by police in conjunction with financial institutional partners including the banks. So that is being done in an independent manner on the operational side and it would be inappropriate for us to comment further due to operational sensitivity,” Mendicino said.
“But I would stress that the numbers that we have been able to provide to you thus far … shows very obviously how the Emergencies Act is being used to bring about the peaceful conclusion of the illegal blockades.”
Previously, federal officials refused to disclose the exact number of accounts affected, citing a need to maintain secrecy as police operations were underway.
On Feb. 18, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and several federal cabinet ministers held a virtual press conference in which they defended the use of the act, citing the need to address the economic impacts and challenges posed to Canada’s democracy by the protest at the national capital and the blockades of Canada-U.S. border crossings in Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba, and B.C., which have now ended.
However, a majority of premiers have voiced opposition to the decision following the Liberal government’s invocation of the Emergencies Act.
A heavy police presence remained in downtown Ottawa on Feb. 19, a day after law enforcement escalated operations in order to clear protesters from the precinct of Canada’s Parliament buildings.
The police had made over 100 arrests as of Feb. 19, with many vehicles towed, Mendicino said.