GoFundMe Freezes Over $10 Mln Raised for Canadian 'Freedom Convoy' Amid Concerns Over US Funding
08:11 GMT 03.02.2022 (Updated: 18:26 GMT 03.11.2022)
Thousands of truckers from Canada as well as the US have descended upon Ottawa to protest a vaccine mandate. They have found voices of support among some Canadian Conservative MPs as well as former US President Donald Trump, who said the convoy was "doing more to defend American freedom than our own leaders by far".
American crowdfunding platform GoFundMe has “currently paused” the fundraiser for Canada’s ‘Freedom Convoy’ after donations to the anti-vaccine mandate protest crossed $10 million CAD.
“This fundraiser is currently paused and under review to ensure it complies with our terms of service and applicable laws and regulations. Our team is working 24/7 and doing all we can to protect both organisers and donors,” said a message on the Freedom Convoy fundraiser page.
In another blog post, the crowdfunding website said that it had been in close communication with the organisers and was maintaining “close collaboration” with local law enforcement to ensure that the fundraiser didn’t “violate” the terms and conditions.
It also said that it was investigating whether the collected funds were going to the “intended recipients”.
"This process takes time and may slow down the withdrawal process. If the fundraiser does violate our Terms of Service or does not directly benefit the intended beneficiary, we will remove it from the platform," GoFundMe stated.
2 February 2022, 19:21 GMT
The decision to pause the crowdfunding activity came as Ottawa’s Police Chief Peter Sloly claimed at a press conference the same day that the donors in the US could be helping fund the anti-vaccine protest in the Canadian capital.
“We are now aware of a significant element from the US that have been involved in the funding, the organising, and the demonstrating. They have converged on our city, and there are plans for more to come,” said Ottawa’s top cop.
The demonstration by the truckers at Ottawa’s Parliament Hill over the weekend witnessed the participation of 8,000 to 15,000 truckers, authorities have said.
The protest organisers have claimed that the number of protesters could swell over another major demonstration planned this weekend.
The demonstration last weekend drew condemnation from local authorities as well as Canada’s military and civilian leadership, after the anti-vaxxers were seen waving ‘Swastika’ flags and defaced the National War Memorial.
Ottawa Police said in a statement on Wednesday that it made its third arrest in relation to the events that took place at weekend.
Ottawa’s Mayor Jim Watson said on 1 February that local authorities were contemplating “legal action” against GoFundMe for helping the protesters in the fund raising process.
"I think it's disgraceful that any company would want to be associated with what kind of action we've seen here in Ottawa," he told the country's public broadcaster Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).
NOW - #Ottawa City Council: "We need cut off the pipeline of funding to these... mercenaries that are unlawfully protesting and occupying our communities." pic.twitter.com/9i0j0VuYYi— Disclose.tv (@disclosetv) February 2, 2022
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, meanwhile, has described the anti-vaxxers as a “fringe minority”, arguing that nearly 90 percent of the truckers are vaccinated.
The Trudeau family was moved to a secure location as the protesters started to descend on Ottawa last week. Subsequently, the Canadian leader also tested positive for COVID.
“I want to be very clear: We’re not intimidated by those who hurl abuse at small business workers and steal food from the homeless. We won’t give in to those who fly racist flags. And we won’t cave to those who engage in vandalism, or dishonour the memory of our veterans," Trudeau said in a social media post in the wake of events of last weekend.