Freezing of Convoy Protesters’ Accounts Was Not Verified by Finance Department, Official Says

Freezing of Convoy Protesters’ Accounts Was Not Verified by Finance Department, Official Says
A woman reads the signboards placed by Freedom Convoy protesters outside Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 17, 2022. (Jonathan Ren/The Epoch Times)
Noé Chartier

The Department of Finance relied on the financial institutions’ “good faith” in the freezing of accounts of individuals participating or supporting the Freedom Convoy this winter and did not verify if the measure was being applied properly.

Isabelle Jacques, assistant deputy minister of finance, made the statement in testimony before the Special Joint Committee on the Declaration of Emergency (DEDC) on May 3.

“Who was monitoring the financial institutions to know if the seizures were justified or not?” Bloc Québécois MP Rhéal Fortin asked Jacques.

“There is no verification that was done. Financial institutions acted in good faith,” said Jacques.

“Why are you sure of that?” replied Fortin, “You didn’t think it was important?”

Jacques clarified that she didn’t say it wasn’t important, and Fortin retorted that her department nevertheless didn’t do a verification.

Jacques also said her department was not conducting an internal review of the application of the measures.

“Do you not find it strange that given the rarity of this invocation that this isn't something that's already been put into play by the minister? It just seems to me to be an abrogation of leadership, given the seriousness of this,” said NDP MP Matthew Green, while noting that he supported invoking the Emergencies Act.

The government invoked the act on Feb. 14 to deal with cross-country protests and blockades demanding the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions.

As part of the measures to clamp down on protesters, the government told financial institutions and services to freeze without a court order the accounts of individuals supporting the movement in order to cut its funding and deter people from participating.

Around 280 financial products were frozen in line with the measure, Jacques told the committee, and all of them were unfrozen by Feb. 24, a day after the government revoked the public order emergency.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ article 8 protects Canadians against unreasonable search and seizure, and the government has claimed that the measure was charter compliant.

Minister of Justice David Lametti has defended the measure by saying the accounts were frozen and not seized.
This argument was brought forth by Jacques as well, but challenged by Conservative Sen. Claude Carignan, who cited a 2002 decision from the Supreme Court that said a restraint order “may be characterized as a seizure within the meaning” of article 8.

Carignan harshly criticized the decision to freeze a range of financial products, from bank accounts to mortgages.

“Have you seen offences where banks are used to encourage people not to commit a crime?” he asked Jacques.

“Well, it was the Emergency Measures Act. It was an extraordinary situation,” Jacques said.

Carignan alluded to the issue of social credit in a country like China, where the state can punish individuals based on their political views by denying them access to services.

“What inspired the creation of this article? It's pretty imaginative to order that no dealings should be conducted with an individual on all economic aspects of his life to deter them from committing an act. Where does that source of law come from? You got the inspiration from which country, China? Russia?”

Jacques said the inspiration wasn’t drawn from any country and the measures were put in place to deal with an exceptional situation.