By Nichola Saminather
TORONTO -Toronto-Dominion Bank has frozen two personal bank accounts into which C$1.4 million ($1.1 million) had been deposited to support protesters fighting the Canadian government’s pandemic measures, a bank spokesperson said on Saturday.
The demonstrations, dubbed the “Freedom Convoy” by Canadian truckers opposing a vaccination mandate https://www.reuters.com/article/health-coronavirus-canada-trucking-idCNL1N2UK2CD for cross-border drivers as well as other pandemic restrictions, are now in their third week. They have gridlocked the capital Ottawa and blocked U.S.-Canada border crossings, damaging trade between the two countries.
Early on Saturday, Canadian police began clearing protesters https://www.reuters.com/article/healthcoronavirus-canada-trucking/update-1-canada-police-start-to-clear-protesters-blocking-u-s-canada-bridge-idINL1N2UN09T blocking a key bridge linking Canada and the United States.
TD applied to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Friday to take the funds, which were sent through GoFundMe and bank transfers, so they can either be sent to the intended recipients or returned to the donors “who have requested refunds but whose entitlement to a refund cannot be determined by TD,” the bank said in a statement.
TD has been put “on notice that their actions are improper and disappointing,” Keith Wilson, a lawyer for the convoy, said in an email on Saturday, adding the convoy will seek a court order next week to release the donations to a new not-for-profit corporation that has been set up to manage and distribute them.
One of the bank accounts received a lump sum of C$1 million through GoFundMe, while the rest was sent to the second account through multiple bank e-transfers, the TD spokesperson said. TD does not know where the GoFundMe payment originated, they said.
GoFundMe took down the protest convoy’s donation page on Feb. 4 after it reached $10 million, prompting most of the protesters to turn to Boston-based GiveSendGo. GoFundMe has said https://twitter.com/gofundme it will refund the donations.
The Ontario Superior Court on Thursday ordered GiveSendGo to freeze all funds sent in aid of the protest. The crowdfunding platform defied that order in a tweet https://twitter.com/GiveSendGo/status/1491940399505682434 on Thursday.
The protest has raised C$11 million on GiveSendGo, Wilson said.
“We are also going to be taking the Ontario government to court to seek an immediate lifting of what we consider to be an unlawful order,” he said.
Canada’s other major banks did not immediately respond to emails asking if they were taking steps similar to TD.
The country’s anti-money-laundering agency told a parliamentary committee on Thursday that it has not seen a spike in suspicious transaction reporting from the banks in recent weeks.
($1 = 1.2736 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting By Nichola Saminather; Editing by Denny Thomas, Daniel Wallis and Chizu Nomiyama)