Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino says the federal government will be in a position to act should law enforcement detect nefarious financial support of the “Freedom Convoy.”
His comments come amid speculation that the convoy received American-backed financing as it pursued its occupation of the nation’s capital in an attempt to convince elected officials to remove all vaccine mandates and other public health restrictions.
American crowdfunding platform GoFundMe, where the convoy’s more than $10 million were raised, removed the group’s fundraising page last Friday after stating it violated the platform’s terms.
“We now have evidence from law enforcement that the previously peaceful demonstration has become an occupation, with police reports of violence and other unlawful activity,” a statement from GoFundMe reads.
One million dollars had already been released to the organizers of the protests with the intention of being spent on fuel, food, and lodging costs. The rest of the money will be refunded directly to donors.
While information about donors, their location, and their intention remains limited, Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly indicated in a press conference last week that there may be U.S. ties.
“We are now aware of a significant element from the U.S. that have been involved in the funding, the organizing,” he said.
Mendicino said on Monday that Canada has a “robust” intelligence community that will flag to the government concerns of national security, as well as a separate branch within the RCMP that looks into these types of issues.
“That’s why I’m certainly confident that wherever there’s foul play of the sort, that we’ll be in a position to act appropriately,” said Mendicino.
The public safety minister added that there are laws in place that prohibit anyone from contributing to an initiative that undermines national security.
“If, for example, someone was contributing with the intent of either causing public harm of trying to undermine public safety, that would be something that would be against the law and there would be appropriate sanctions for that, if proven in the court of law,” he said.
Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair added that it is necessary to cast a light on the sources of funding who are endorsing “illegal activity.”
“I think when [Canadians] understand the source of some of this funding, it helps them understand the motivation of this protest – who is actually behind it – and I think it also reveals some of the false nature of claims being made and the positions being put forward,” he said on Monday.
MPs on the House of Commons Public Safety and National Security Committee have called GoFundMe to testify about the funds raised.
“Important questions remain about how such a huge sum of money could be raised by anonymous donors and what their motivations were. People are rightly worried about American interference and what sort of standard is applied when donations are accepted,” reads a statement from the NDP’s public safety critic Alistair MacGregor.
“It’s not enough for GoFundMe to cancel the campaign as though there’s nothing to see here.”
Tamara Lich, one of the protest organizers, said in a video last Friday that they are redirecting donations to U.S.- based GiveSendGo, which describes itself as a free, Christian crowdfunding platform.
Co-founders of the platform said in a statement Monday the Freedom Convoy has become GiveSendGo’s largest campaign ever with more than US$4.5 million raised in less than 24 hours.
“In light of allowing this campaign we have seen an overwhelming outpouring of support from across the globe,” said Heather Wilson.
However, they also make note of recent attempts of “bots” seeking to overwhelm their system.
Some U.S. Republicans, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, have criticized GoFundMe for its conduct amid the events.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also tweeted out that “patriotic Texans” donated to the “worthy cause,” and that he has assembled a team to investigate potential fraud.
“Texas donors will get justice! #GoFundMe,” he said.
Responding to these comments, Mendicino said it’s not the concern of the attorney general as to how Canada operates in accordance with the rule of law.
“We have rules, we have laws, we have principles, we have values, those are all enshrined in the Charter and where those rules are broken there is an appropriate way to address that through law enforcement,” he said.
Blair simply added: “We’re all entitled to an opinion, and in my opinion he’s wrong.”
The protests have gained the attention of former U.S. president Donald Trump who released a statement last week applauding the movement.
“The Freedom Convoy is peacefully protesting the harsh policies of far left lunatic Justin Trudeau who has destroyed Canada with insane Covid mandates,” Trump said.