Funds frozen after millions raised for truckers protesting vaccine mandate
Truck drivers protesting against the vaccine mandate at the border have raised more than $4.5 million from donors around the world but the fundraising platform GoFundMe has temporarily stopped organizers from using the money.
The Freedom Convoy 2022 aims to bring truckers from across the country and the U.S. to Ottawa to protest new rules that require all travellers -- including essential workers like truck drivers -- to be fully vaccinated before crossing the border.
The rule came into force on Jan. 15. The United States imposed a similar requirement on truckers crossing the northern border with Canada and the southern border with Mexico as of Jan. 22.
The online fundraiser is organized by Tamara Lich of Medicine Hat, Alta., a member of the board of directors of the conservative Maverick Party that emerged from the “Wexit” western separatist movement.
“It's our duty as Canadians to put an end to this mandate,” the fundraiser description says. “It is imperative that this happens because if we don't our country will no longer be the country we have come to love.”
The GoFundMe page says the money raised will be used to pay for convoy drivers’ fuel, food and lodging on the trip to Ottawa. Any excess, it says, will be donated to a “credible Veterans organization which will be chosen by the donors.”
But GoFundMe told CTV News that it has temporarily put a hold on money raised to ensure the generosity of its donors is protected.
“We require that fundraisers be transparent about the flow of funds and have a clear plan for how those funds will be spent,” Rachel Hollis, GoFundMe’s director of communications said in an email. She said the company is in touch with the organizer.
Funds will be safely held until the organizer is able to provide the documentation to our team about how funds will be properly distributed.”
In videos posted on the convoy’s Facebook page, Lich acknowledged the GoFundMe money was being held up but said convoy organizers are working with the company to provide the necessary documentation.
“Trust me, we got this covered,” she said.
She claims that opponents of the rolling protest are attempting to shut it down by cutting off the flow of money.
“When they’re scared, the first thing they’re going to try to do is come after your money. And when that doesn’t work, they’re going to try and shut us down.”
Lich did not respond to emails requesting comment.
In one video, Lich encouraged supporters to keep contributing to the GoFundMe drive and also suggested they could send donations by email direct deposit. She provided an email address that directs donations to a bank account that lists the name “Tamara Lee Lich” as the recipient.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance, an industry trade group, says about 90 per cent of all Canadian truck drivers are fully vaccinated.
"The Canadian Trucking Alliance does not support and strongly disapproves of any protests on public roadways, highways, and bridges," the alliance said in a statement.
"CTA believes such actions -- especially those that interfere with public safety -- are not how disagreements with government policies should be expressed."
Several Conservative MPs have tweeted their support for the convoy but leader Erin O’Toole was non-committal when asked if he’d meet the truckers when they’re scheduled to arrive in Ottawa on Saturday.
“It's not for the leader of the opposition or political party to attend a protest on the Hill or a convoy,” he said Monday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused the Conservative of trying to raise fears about the supply chain to erode support for vaccination mandates.