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Canada freezes hundreds of accounts related to protests

OTTAWA – With the streets of the capital empty of trucks and heavy cars making it impassable for some of them during three long weeks of protests, Canadian authorities are monitoring the finances of people behind the chaos.

Michael Duheme, Deputy Commissioner for Federal Security for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, may have arrested protesters, told reporters after Ottawa’s streets were recalled over the weekend, but police need to “continue to cut financial support.”

A week ago, when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decided to invoke his country’s Emergencies Act for the first time in Canadian history to quell unrest, it gave police new powers. to handle the finances of the protesters. Some may face long-term consequences.

But for a protest organizer who was arrested last week, more immediate effect.

Appearing before the judge on Tuesday, the organizer, Tamara Lich, told the court she had all of her accounts frozen and was unable to give the $5,000 Canadian security that prosecutors demanded. bridge.

The issue may have been contested: The court refused bail.

Justice Julie Bourgeois said she did not believe that if released, Ms. Lich would leave Ottawa or stop encouraging others to continue blocking the road. “You have had so many opportunities to exclude yourself and even others from this criminal activity,” she said, “but stubbornly choose not to and persistently advise others not to.”

Justice Bourgeois noted that Ms Lich could face a “long” sentence if found guilty.

Around the time of the bail hearing, legislators in the Canadian Senate began debating Trudeau’s Emergencies Act order. The previous evening, over the objections of Conservative members of Parliament, Mr. Trudeau had persuaded the House of Commons to pass his decision.

Since the statement was released, police have unearthed the names of the organizers and people actively blocking the roads in Ottawa with their trucks and other vehicles during the blockade, which was put in place due to protests. government pandemic restrictions.

As of Sunday, the national police force said in a statement, 219 “financial products” had been frozen, and 253 Bitcoin addresses associated with protesters and organizations had been given to activists. operates a virtual currency exchange and a bank froze $3.8 million Canadian dollars due to a payment processor.

Ms. Lich, from Alberta, was the driving force behind a GoFundMe campaign that raised over C$10 million for the protest. About a million dollars was transferred to her before the crowdfunding site shut down the campaign. Authorities on Thursday charged Ms. Lich with soliciting to commit mischief, a felony under Canadian criminal law.

All accounts that have been frozen will remain so for up to 30 days from February 14, day national emergency declaration. But the government can lengthen or shorten that time.

Leah West, a professor specializing in national security law at Carleton University in Ottawa, said it’s possible other actions will be taken to obtain the funds. Despite that, she said, there are likely to be lasting effects on protesters and organizers when it comes to their finances.

“Ultimately,” says Professor West, “banks may decide that these are not the people they want to provide financial services to because they have been involved in illegal activity. Would someone give you a mortgage if you used your house for drug dealing? Sure is not.”

Before the large-scale police operation began to clear the way on Friday, many protesters drove away to avoid arrest and have their vehicles confiscated. By Monday morning, police had arrested 196 people and accused them of organizing the blockade or participating in it, and towing 115 vehicles. In the early days of the protests, more than 400 vehicles occupied the streets of downtown.

Some protesters did not get far.

After leaving the streets of the capital, a small group set up a new camp on Sunday across from a truck stop on the Trans-Canada highway about 100 kilometers east of Ottawa. As the participants busied themselves setting up the food canteen and arranging a stockpile of firewood, a leader identified only as Eric refused to discuss their plans.

Mr. Trudeau told the House of Commons that there were two other small groups outside the city.

Ottawa Police Chief Steve Bell said last week that police would continue to work “for months” to track down protesters.

“If you participate in this protest, we will actively look into it to identify you and track down financial sanctions and criminal charges,” said Sheriff Bell.

Vjosa Isai contributed reporting from Toronto.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/22/world/americas/canada-protest-finances.html Canada freezes hundreds of accounts related to protests

Fry Electronics Team

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