Freedom Convoy protesters to sue Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over frozen bank accounts

Freedom Convoy protesters who had their bank accounts frozen following Justin Trudeau’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act 1988 are now suing the Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Chrystia Freeland for damages.

A number of Freedom Convoy protesters who had their bank accounts frozen following Justin Trudeau’s decision to invoke the Emergencies Act 1988 for the first time in Canadian history during the country’s Covid lockdowns, are now suing the Prime Minister and Finance Minister, Chrystia Freeland for $2 million in damages.

On Wednesday 14th February – the two-year anniversary of the Act first being used – Keith Wilson, a lawyer from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, announced that “Tamara Lich, Chris Barber, Tom Marazzo, Danny Bulford and other protestors who were targeted by Justin Trudeau and Chrystia Freeland have filed lawsuits against the Federal Government” and will be seeking damages following the government’s “illegal invocation of war measures against its citizens and targeting key protestors in Ottawa by freezing their bank accounts”.

Hours later, a second class-action lawsuit consisting of twenty plaintiffs was announced, this time by Loberg Ector LLP, a law firm based out of Calgary, Alberta. In a statement, Loberg Ector said: “The Plaintiffs in this action seek compensation and related relief arising from the unjustified and unconstitutional actions of the Liberal government, as well as the actions of certain police agencies and Canadian financial institutions who followed the unlawful orders of the Liberal government, and other defendants who participated in or promoted these actions.”

The development comes just weeks after a Canadian court ruled that the government was not justified when it used sweeping policing, censorship and surveillance powers to break up protests that initially centred on the country’s Covid mandatory vaccination programme and attendant vaccine mandate, which not only infringed people’s bodily autonomy and medical freedom, but also threatened the jobs of approximately 10% of cross-border truckers, who had not been fully vaccinated.

At the time, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the protesters “hold unacceptable views”.

In his ruling, Justice Richard Mosley wrote that the government’s use of the Emergencies Act was “unreasonable and ultra vires [beyond one’s powers]” and led to infringement of Canada’s charter of rights and freedoms.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said in a statement that the court’s decision “sets a clear and critical precedent for every future government”.

However, the country’s Finance Minister – and Deputy Prime Minister – Chrystia Freeland has since reiterated the government’s belief that the decision to invoke emergency powers was appropriate, because the public safety of Canadians and national security were under threat.

“We respect very much Canada’s independent judiciary. However, we do not agree with this decision, and respectfully, we will be appealing it,” Freeland said while speaking to reporters in Montreal. “I was convinced at the time it was the right thing to do, it was the necessary thing to do. I remain and we remain convinced of that,” she added.

The Freedom Convoy protest, which began in January 2022, involved a huge number of truckers flooding into Canada’s capital, Ottawa, with their vehicles. Although the protest initially targeted vaccine mandates enforced against cross-border truckers moving between the US and Canada it later grew into a broader demonstration against Canada’s slide into Covid-related authoritarianism.

Trudeau and his government consistently refused to meet and listen to the protesters’ grievances, despite the protesters themselves being willing to engage in dialogue.

Prior to the invocation of the Emergencies Act, crowdfunding site GoFundMe bowed to political pressure when it removed the donation page for the Freedom Convoy, and then froze a fundraising account holding $8million in donations given by Canadian citizens in support of the protesters. As donors began switching from GoFundMe to GiveSendGo, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice granted a request from the provincial government to freeze millions of dollars raised on that platform.

Troublingly, public officials would later go on to gleefully share an illegally obtained donor list, exposing the private details of Canadian citizens as punishment for exercising their constitutional right to donate to a peaceful protest.

When it became clear that freezing the Freedom Convoy’s donations was unlikely to disperse the protesters, Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act, enabling a powerful police crackdown on the protests and the forced removal of the vehicles blocking the streets.

The act also allowed the Canadian government to freeze the bank accounts of those suspected of supporting, orchestrating and participating in the protests, with no due process, appeals process or court order necessary. As Chrystia Freeland cheerfully explained at the time, the financial activity of protestors could be frozen without a court order.

“In invoking the Emergencies Act,” she said, “we are … broadening the scope of Canada’s anti‐​money laundering and terrorist financing rules so that they cover crowdfunding platforms and the payments service providers they use. These changes cover all forms of transactions––including digital assets such as cryptocurrencies… As of today, a bank or other financial service provider will be able to immediately freeze or suspend an account without a court order.”

In pursuing this novel form of politically motivated financial censorship, Prime Minister Trudeau was following in the footsteps of Russian President Vladmir Putin, who in 2019 ordered his government to freeze bank accounts linked to opposition politician Alexei Navalny.