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Canadians Need to Prepare for What Comes Next
Accounting for Frozen and Seized Assets Goes from
Murky to Murkier
Accounting for bank accounts and financial assets frozen or seized under the provisions of the Emergencies Economic Measures Order has become a veritable black hole. Measures being used against “Freedom Convoy” participants are murky indeed. What avenue of recourse people have if their accounts were frozen or assets seized is not spoken about, at least not by officials or media.
Conservative MPs have taken to social media about constituents who claim their accounts have been frozen for making contributions to the “Freedom Convoy.” These claims are being questioned by the RCMP, Prime Minister Trudeau and Finance Minister Freeland. The RCMP tweeted a response to one claim, stating that it did not provide banks with names of donors.
Public Safety Minister Mendicino said on February 19 that 76 accounts had been frozen, involving a total of $3.2 million. On February 20, the Prime Minister’s Office reported that “113 financial products” had been frozen. It said that 47 “entities” were “disclosed.” What constitutes an “entity” was not elaborated. Is an “entity” an individual, a company, a key organizer, a social organization, a church, or what? It also said, “251 Bitcoin addresses have been shared with virtual currency exchangers.” In addition, one payment processor had “proactively” frozen funds of $3.8 million. What do we understand from that statement? Does it mean that without the orders or information having come from the police under the special measures of the Emergencies Act, an “entity” took their own “proactive” approach??? Was the entity Canadian or in the U.S. or elsewhere, might be a reasonable question, along with others.
During a press conference on February 21, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland was asked about all of this. She condescendingly suggested that affected individuals should verify the reason their accounts were frozen, since, aside from the punitive measures related to the Convoy, “there are many reasons why.”
People who have ascertained that it was due to their connection with the “Freedom Convoy,” are told to contact the police. Freeland added that “it’s important for all of us to be very, very careful to get our facts exactly right,” and that the focus of the police has been on the “bigger players.” Freeland also suggested that it was important for individuals to know that the financial sanctions only started on February 15.
Pressed on the question, Freeland said, “And then finally, let me say for anyone who is concerned that their accounts may have been frozen because of their participation in these illegal blockades and occupation, the way to get your account unfrozen is to stop being part of the blockade and occupation.”
The confusion which swirled around on the matter was such that the RCMP ended up issuing a statement on February 21 in which they said, “We are now working with the banks to build a process to address the accounts that were frozen.”
Which accounts are they talking about?
The Emergency Economic Measures Order uses the language of “designated person” defined as “any individual or entity that is engaged, directly or indirectly, in an activity prohibited by sections 2 to 5 of the Emergency Measures Regulations” – i.e. the “Freedom Convoy” and various blockades.
The RCMP does not talk about “designated persons;” it talks about “influencers.” Its statement says, “Under the Emergency Economic Measures Order (Emergencies Act), the list that was provided to financial institutions included identities of individuals who were influencers in the illegal protest in Ottawa, and owners and/or drivers of vehicles who did not want to leave the area impacted by the protest. At no time, did we provide a list of donors to financial institutions.”
So, from murky to murkier. The statement from the RCMP clearly begs the question of what “process” are they talking about. Is it the “process” already outlined in the Emergency Economic Measures Order? Or are they perhaps talking about a “process” to reverse the freezing of accounts that have been frozen outside of the extraordinary measures of the Emergency Economic Measures Order?
What all these people are saying is not at all clear.
(Renewal Update, posted February 22, 2022)