The Canadian government today for the first time invoked the Emergencies Act in a bid to restrict the flow of funds to truck drivers protesting the country’s COVID-19 restrictions.
Under the act, the government can freeze bank accounts without going through the court system—as well as take a number of other actions to force an end to the demonstrations.
“We are broadening the scope of Canada’s anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financial rules so they cover crowdfunding platforms and the payment providers they use,” Canada Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said during a press conference today. Freeland, who also serves as finance minister, added these actions would also cover cryptocurrencies.
The move comes after weeks of protest by a group of truck drivers dubbed the “Freedom Convoy,” which has taken to blocking roadways, flouting mask rules, and honking their horns to voice their displeasure with vaccination mandates.
The group’s GoFundMe account was shut down by the platform on February 4 after pressure from the Canadian government, at which point it turned to alternative funding methods, including Bitcoin.
Though Emergencies Act measures take immediate effect, the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has one week to receive support from both of Canada’s legislative bodies: the House of Commons and Senate.
While the government is name-checking cryptocurrency—and has some leverage to freeze bank accounts connected to crypto firms and users—to Bitcoin proponents, this is nonetheless an argument for the asset, which is harder to shut down because it does not run on a centralized network controlled by a traditional payment provider.
Neeraj Agrawal of crypto lobbying organization Coin Center tweeted sarcastically: “Oh no please don’t expose how easily the state can lean on financial intermediaries [to] cut off political protest fundraising.”
Are these the people who like to give lessons to other countries about democracy and freedom?
This is one of the top ranking countries in the “democracy index”?
Your credibility on these topics is now worth 0.pic.twitter.com/wCjh9bXwDt
— Nayib Bukele 🇸🇻 (@nayibbukele) February 15, 2022
El Salvador President Nayib Bukele, the authoritarian-leaning leader who last year pushed through a law making Bitcoin legal tender, also weighed in.
“Are these the people who like to give lessons to other countries about democracy and freedom?” he wrote.
Editors Note: This article’s headline originally read “Canada Government Restricts Crypto, Crowdfunding Under Emergencies Act.” It has been revised to more precise.