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Canada's 'Freedom Convoy' attracts support from U.S. and around the world

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The eyes of the world are on Canada amid the ongoing "Freedom Convoy" protests against vaccine mandates and other COVID-19 measures – and support for the movement continues to grow internationally, particularly in the U.S.

Politicians, conservative commentators and right-wing online communities south of the border and beyond have cheered on the convoys, while demonstrators continue occupy the streets of downtown Ottawa and block U.S. border crossings in at least three provinces.

"(The Canadian convoy) kind of speaks to a lot of the similar frustrations that are being shared in the United States," Kayla Preston, a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto who has been studying Canadian far-right movements, told over the phone on Wednesday.

Like in Canada, U.S. President Joe Biden's vaccine mandates for health care workers, the military and employees of large businesses have been a wedge issue there, sparking outrage from the Republican Party. Top Republicans like Texas Senator Ted Cruz and former President Donald Trump have signal-boosted the Canadian convoy's cause -- the latter going as far as calling Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a "left-wing lunatic."

"I think the Canadian truckers are standing up not just for the freedom of Canadians, but for the freedom of Americans," Cruz told reporters on Wednesday.

Fox News and other conservative media outlets have also given the convoys extensive and glowing coverage. On Tuesday, Fox commentator Tucker Carlson, who hosts the most-viewed cable news show in the U.S., praised the convoys for protesting "the tyranny of Justin Trudeau's government."

"This is a peaceful, political protest. No one has shown any evidence to the contrary. It's not a drug trafficking or human trafficking operation," Carlson said on his show. "These are Canadian citizens who drive trucks for a living, but they're being treated like a terror group."

Trucking groups, including the Canadian Trucking Alliance and the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada, have distanced themselves and their members from the convoy protests, stating that nearly 85 per cent of truckers are vaccinated. These groups have also noted that many of the organizers and participants of the convoy have no connection to the trucking industry.

The convoy protests in Canada have also inspired similar protests against COVID-19 health measures internationally.

Officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have warned that a group of U.S. truckers and supporters are planning a similar convoy starting in Los Angeles, coinciding with the Super Bowl this weekend. From there, officials say the convoy will arrive in Washington, D.C. by March 1, when Biden's State of the Union Address is scheduled.

In Europe, a convoy of approximately 200 protesters gathered in the south of France on Thursday, from where they plan to head to Paris and Brussels. Another convoy in New Zealand also rolled through the country's capital of Wellington on Tuesday.


After GoFundMe removed the Canadian convoy's fundraiser, organizers moved to GiveSendGo, a website which describes itself as the "#1 free Christian crowdfunding site."

Some U.S. state Republican officials have also vowed to investigate GoFundMe for shutting down the fundraiser -- while confirming that some Americans had indeed donated.

“Many Texans donated to this worthy cause. I am acting to protect Texas consumers so that they know where their hard-earned money is going, rather than allowing GoFundMe to divert money to another cause without the consent of Texas citizens,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement on Wednesday.

Before GoFundMe removed the fundraiser, the group raised more than $10 million on the platform. As of Thursday morning, the GiveSendGo fundraiser had raised more than US$8.2 million, equivalent to C$10.4 million.

It's unclear how much of that money is from foreign sources. CTV News sampled some 6,500 donations on the platform, worth about $622,000 during a 12-hour period.

Of those, about 35 per cent were anonymous donations, or credited to obvious pseudonyms, such as “Justin Trudeau.”

Of the remainder, CTV News counted those who declared their location or made it clear what country they were from totalled about 10 per cent. Of those donations, 52.6 per cent were from the U.S. while only 36.8 per cent were Canadian.

"The obvious impact that this has is the ability of the protesters to continue with the occupation of downtown Ottawa," national security researcher and Queen's University professor Christian Leuprecht told on Thursday.

"As long as somebody is effectively paying them and providing for their livelihood while they're there, they will be able to sustain that occupation," he added.

Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino says the federal government will be in a position to act should law enforcement detect nefarious financial support of the convoy. He said on Monday that Canada has a "robust" intelligence community that will flag to the government concerns of national security, as well as a separate branch within the RCMP that looks into these types of issues.

"That’s why I’m certainly confident that wherever there’s foul play of the sort, that we’ll be in a position to act appropriately," said Mendicino.

However, Leuprecht says that FINTRAC, Canada's financial intelligence agency, has little to no enforcement mechanisms and only serves intelligence functions. He also notes that some countries, such as Australia, have foreign interference laws that would allow authorities to seize money – but such laws don't exist in Canada.

"Even if we could investigate it, even if we could track it, we really lacked the instruments to be able to interfere in these financial flows," Leuprecht sad.

On Tuesday, Liberal MP Taleeb Noormohamed proposed to expand the House public safety and national security committee’s study of the “Freedom Convoy” fundraising efforts to include a study on the rise of ideologically-motivated extremism.

If passed, it would see an investigation into the influence of foreign and domestic actors funding and supporting violent, extremist ideologies in Canada. It would also include an invitation to American crowdfunding platform GiveSendGo to appear before the committee

With files from CTV News Toronto's John Woodward and's Sarah Turnbull and Christy Somos. Top Stories

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