GoFundMe pauses donations to ‘Freedom Convoy 2022’ as funds exceed $10M

The Freedom Convoy occupying downtown Ottawa has raised more than $10 million dollars, but some intelligence experts are wondering where all the money is coming from. Nigel Newlove reports.

Crowdfunding site GoFundMe says it has paused and is reviewing the fundraising campaign for the Canadian truckers convoy to ensure it complies with its terms of service.

The “Freedom Convoy 2022” fundraiser is now the second-largest in Canada after a campaign created following the Humboldt Broncos bus crash in 2018 that killed 16 people and left 13 injured raised $15 million.

“This fundraiser is currently paused and under review to ensure it complies with our terms of service and applicable laws and regulations,” GoFundMe writes on the donation page. “Our team is working 24/7 and doing all we can to protect both organizers and donors. Thank you for your patience.”

There have been calls for the $10 million-plus raised by protest organizers to go toward policing costs and reparations for their behaviour. Chief Administrative Officer for the Ottawa Police Service Board, Blair Dunker, said to date the protests have cost the police force $3 million, with a projected cost of $800,000 for each day the protesters remain.

Some on social media claim that in the past 24 to 48 hours, refunds have been issued through GoFundMe.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, a GoFundMe spokesperson said that the platform takes “responsibility to organizers and donors very seriously,” adding that they’re “committed to operating with integrity, honesty and full accountability.”

“Recent events in Ottawa, Canada, have generated widespread discussion about the Freedom Convoy 2022 fundraiser on GoFundMe,” the organization says, confirming that they have requested more information from the organizer regarding the use of funds.

To “provide clarity” on the current circumstances of the donations, GoFundMe says that they must first identify the organizer, who they are raising funds for, the organizer’s relationship to the recipient of the funds, and how the funds will be used.

“If the organizer is raising funds on behalf of someone else, we safely hold all or some of the funds raised until the recipient is added to the fundraiser to withdraw, and their identity has been confirmed,” GoFundMe writes.

“Fundraisers must be transparent about the flow of funds and have a plan for how the funds will be spent. Prior to withdrawal of funds, we conduct a thorough review of information provided by the organizer.”

One of the fundraisers’ organizers, Tamara Lich, says the money raised will be allocated to help with fuel costs, food and lodgings.

“It’s a small price to pay for our freedoms. We thank you all for your Donations and know that you are helping reshape this once beautiful country back to the way it was.”

Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee has called on GoFundMe representatives to testify about how it ensures that money raised on its platform isn’t used to promote hate, such as antisemitism and white supremacy.

New Democrat MP Alistair MacGregor won the unanimous approval Thursday of the House of Commons public safety committee to invite representatives from the crowdfunding website to answer questions about its security measures to ensure its funds are not used to promote extremism.

MacGregor said he brought the motion forward because he was concerned by a statement by Ottawa police the previous day that said a “significant element” from the United States had been involved in funding the Canadian protest.

“We have questions about the anonymity of those donors, whether or not they live in foreign jurisdictions, and what kind of controls GoFundMe has in place to make sure that the money is not funding extremist views like antisemitism, white supremacy and other forms of hate that we saw in a prominent display amongst some of the members of the protest in Ottawa,” the British Columbia MP said in an interview Thursday.

MacGregor said Canadian MPs need to subject GoFundMe to a closer examination of its anonymous donors.

“We don’t really have an idea because of the anonymous nature of those donors as to what their prime motivation is or what their endgame is. It could be quite nefarious; it could be quite innocent. We don’t know and that’s a very real, big problem.”

The motion calls on the committee to invite representatives of the company to “appear as soon as possible to answer questions,” including how it prevents the influx of foreign funds, and what it is doing to ensure that the $1 million that it has already released isn’t being used to foster hate.

It was not immediately clear if GoFundMe would comply. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the committee’s decision.

With files from Michael Talbot of CityNews

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