Most bank accounts frozen under Emergency Measures Act released, committee says

More than 200 bank accounts worth nearly $8 million were frozen when the federal government used emergency powers to end a mass occupation of downtown Ottawa.

Federal officials report that most of the accounts are in the process of being released, a House committee heard on Tuesday.

Isabelle Jacques, assistant deputy minister of finance, told a committee of MPs that up to 210 bank accounts holding around $7.8 million had been frozen under financial measures contained in the Emergencies Act .

“Information was shared by the RCMP with financial institutions and we were informed yesterday by financial institutions that they were unblocking the accounts,” she said.

“The vast majority of accounts are being released, subject to any new information the RCMP may have.”

Jacques said that because the accounts are released now, the number of affected accounts and their total dollar value continues to decrease day by day.

She also said that the fact that more than 200 bank accounts were frozen does not necessarily mean that more than 200 people lost access to their funds. Jacques said individuals may have held more than one account affected by the measures.

Some Tory MPs said voters reported their bank accounts had been frozen after donating to the convoy protest as part of one of its crowdfunding campaigns.

In a statement on Monday, the RCMP said it only provided banks with the names of convoy organizers and truck owners who refused to leave the protest area. The RCMP said it has not released a comprehensive list of all donations made.

“At no time have we provided a list of donors to financial institutions,” the statement said.

Small donors unlikely to be affected: official

Jacques said the financial measures of the Emergency Measures Act came into force on February 15 and were specifically designed to apply enough financial pressure to convince protest organizers and participants to return home.

“Based on the knowledge I have, I think it would be unlikely that someone who gave … $20 three weeks ago, or even $20 after Feb. 15, was captured by a freeze. “, she said.

“It is not impossible given the order, but given the exchange of information and the targeted approach that has been taken to stop the illegal financing of these activities, it seems unlikely that this will happen. be produced, but not impossible.”

She said the measures should not affect anyone who provided financial support to the convoy before February 15. Jacques said anyone who had their account frozen and then left the blockade zone should expect to have their account unfrozen in the next few days.

Since the Emergencies Act was invoked, the Liberal government has been asked to explain what specific powers the act provides that did not already exist under conventional Canadian law.

Jacques told MPs that before the Emergencies Act was invoked, FINTRAC – Canada’s financial intelligence unit – could not control the movement of money through certain crowdfunding websites and certain payment service providers.

She also said that while the federal government has the power to freeze bank accounts in certain limited circumstances without using the Emergencies Act — on suspicion of terrorism or financial crimes, for example — it does not. did not do in this case.

“There is no other place to freeze the accounts given the … illegal blockades that were in progress,” she said.

Shawanda H. Saldana