In February 2022, texts exchanged between two senior advisers in the Canadian Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) revealed that they were putting pressure on banks to seize assets belonging to the Freedom Convoy protesters.
As reported by Rebel, the texts between Ben Chin and Tyler Meredith were entered as evidence at the Public Order Emergency Commission, and they showed that the Liberal party was encouraging financial institutions to take action against customers who supported or participated in the weeks-long peaceful protest against COVID-19 mandates in Ottawa.
“But we are talking with banks and insurance companies about how they can act on their own and what helpful signals we might able to send,” and “One thing I should add- from what we hear most of the big banks are actually doing a lot of work already within the terms and conditions of existing account agreements to manage flow of funds if they suspect someone or something. That’s an angle we are looking at,” were two of the related text messages.
Just a week after the texts were sent, the Liberals invoked the Emergencies Act to allow for the freezing of bank accounts and seizure of assets belonging to those who supported the Freedom Convoy. The PMO’s office was struggling to deal with the negative publicity the convoy was generating for the Liberal party, as well as the damage it was causing to Justin Trudeau’s international reputation.
Despite the Liberals’ efforts, Canadian banks and insurers resisted acting against their customers for political reasons, and the seizure of assets did not occur on a large scale. Meanwhile, Commissioner Paul Rouleau ruled that the use of the counter-terrorism law was justified.
The PMO’s attempt to seize assets belonging to protesters who were exercising their democratic right to peaceful protest sparked criticism and condemnation from civil liberties groups. The incident served as a reminder of the importance of protecting citizens’ rights to free speech and assembly, even in the face of government pressure.