Feds tackle blockade funding with sweeping Fintrac powers and instructions to banks

OTTAWA — The federal government is expanding the scope of anti-money laundering rules and ordering banks to cut services to people suspected of helping protesting truckers as it seeks to end what it calls a illegal blockades.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland also told a late afternoon news conference on Monday that crowdfunding sites, some of which are used to funnel money to protesters, will now be held to report to the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Center of Canada.

The decision, which will be made permanent, will allow Fintrac to make more information available to police and other law enforcement agencies, she said.

“We are making these changes because we know these platforms are used to support illegal blockages and illegal activity, which harms the Canadian economy,” she said.

Freeland said that under the emergency law, the government has also allowed banks to halt services to individuals and businesses they suspect are contributing to the lockdowns.

She said the banks would be protected from civil liability by doing so.

The government has ordered financial institutions to review their relationships with anyone involved in the blockades and report findings to the RCMP or CSIS, she said.

“It’s about following the money. It’s about stopping the funding of these illegal blockades.”

The measures allow for actions such as an insurer suspending coverage and a bank freezing a truck owner’s business or personal accounts.

In addition to chartered banks and credit unions, Fintrac requires reporting from institutions such as insurers and stock brokers, and professionals such as accountants and real estate brokers.

Freeland said federal institutions have broad new authority to share information with banks and work to end funding for the groups behind the lockdowns.

Major Canadian banks did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Canadian Bankers Association declined to comment.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has invoked the Emergencies Act to end anti-government blockades which he calls illegal and not peaceful protests.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on February 14, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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