Bank accounts still frozen and financial investigations still underway, despite revocation of the Emergencies Act

Despite the suspension of all emergency orders issued under the Act, the financial blacklisting of Canadian citizens initiated under those orders is yet to see an end.

Bank accounts still frozen and financial investigations still underway, despite revocation of the Emergencies Act
The Canadian Press / Patrick Doyle
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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ended the use of the Emergencies Act on Wednesday, one week after it was first invoked, ahead of the Senate vote to determine whether the emergency powers would remain in place. Had the vote been rejected, the Emergencies Act would have been immediately ended. If it passed, the Act would have remained in place for 30 days before returning to another vote in Parliament.

The Act gave the government extraordinary powers to make arrests, seize assets, compel private companies to render their services to the government and to freeze bank accounts of anyone involved in the anti-government protests — all without so much as a court order. The emergency powers were used to crack down on protesters in Ottawa this past weekend, who were in Canada's capital as part of the nationwide 'Freedom Convoy' movement in opposition to the government’s imposition of remaining COVID-19 restrictions.

Despite the prime minister's revocation of the Emergencies Act on Wednesday, and the subsequent suspension of all emergency orders issued under the Act, the financial blacklisting of Canadian citizens initiated under those orders is yet to see an end.

According to Blacklock's Reporter, Canadian banks that froze millions of dollars held in accounts belonging to suspected Freedom Convoy sympathizers have not yet released all funds, cabinet’s representative in the Senate said yesterday.

“Have all these accounts been unfrozen?” Senator David Wells (Nfld. & Labrador) asked in Senate Question Period. “I can’t answer definitively that they have all been unfrozen. I suspect that is probably not the case,” replied Senator Marc Gold (Que.), Government Representative in the Senate.

The Department of Finance estimated as many as 210 accounts holding $7.8 million were affected by the Freedom Convoy freeze.

“If accounts are still frozen it would be outside the purview of the Emergencies Act,” said Senator Wells. “Therefore we would expect some immediate action.”

Senator Pamela Wallin (Sask.) noted that under cabinet orders, any individual or small business that suffered hardship due to the account freeze was powerless to claim damages. “We all understand that with the revocation of the Act that banks and financial institutions will have been asked to no longer freeze accounts or perhaps even scrutinize them,” said Wallin. “Financial institutions will continue to have immunity from liability yet customers have no access to due process.”

“I don’t really have any additional information,” replied Senator Gold. “Bank customers will continue to work together and it is hoped any issues that may arise will be resolved appropriately and quickly.”

Blacklock’s yesterday confirmed one Crown bank, Farm Credit Canada, was compiling its own blacklist that included tips from informants on customers who may have involved with the Freedom Convoy. Customers whose names were collected were not to be told their accounts were slated for review.

Cabinet had said its February 14 Emergencies Act order applied only to people who participated in truckers’ blockades. However the Department of Finance in testimony Tuesday at the Commons finance committee confirmed individuals who merely donated sums of as little as $20 could have been subject to blacklisting by banks.

Police investigations into to those who donated to the protest will also continue, notwithstanding the suspension of all emergency orders.

The Globe and Mail reported:

Interim Ottawa police chief Steve Bell faced questions about the need for the Emergencies Act at a special meeting of his city’s police services board Thursday. He said that while the act was “extremely beneficial” in managing the protests last week, the Integrated Command Centre, which consists of the Ottawa Police Service, the Ontario Provincial Police and the RCMP, is confident it can maintain peace in the downtown core heading into this weekend.

“The removal of that act created initially some dialogue and concern for us in terms of how we would manage the situation through the weekend. We were able, with our RCMP and OPP partners, to really pick apart what are our common law abilities, what are our abilities under the [Highway Traffic Act] and under the provincial act … and able to create a situation where we’re very confident and comfortable with our ability to manage the situation into the weekend,” he said.

He said the part of the act that allowed police to freeze the bank accounts of people involved in the protest was a particularly helpful tool in encouraging demonstrators to leave. He added that financial investigations initiated under the act will continue.

Ottawa Police tweeted a statement Sunday, prior to the revocation of the Emergencies Act, saying: "If you are involved in this protest, we will actively look to identify you and follow up with financial sanctions and criminal charges."

Despite rhetoric painting the demonstration in Ottawa as violent or criminal, Senator Scott Tannas (Alta.) noted suring the Senate debate Wednesday that there were no deaths or major injuries, no significant property damage and no violence or gunplay.

That also did not stop police, who are now under investigation by Ontario's Special Investigations Unit, from deploying anti-riot weapons and using excessive force to clear the demonstration this past weekend.

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