Some 'freedom convoy' donors are using aliases of well-known Canadians
Despite bearing the names of some of Canada's most recognizable figures, some donations made out to a convoy on its way to Ottawa to protest vaccine mandates and other pandemic restrictions are not as they appear.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, are among individuals whose names have been used as aliases by donors contributing to the "freedom convoy" that plans to stage a protest on Parliament Hill this weekend.
Although some media reported that donations were at times made using the names of the Trudeaus, the Prime Minister's Office confirmed to CTVNews.ca that neither one has made a donation to the GoFundMe page.
In another case, Dr. David Fisman, a professor of epidemiology at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto, took to Twitter after a $15,100 donation was apparently made in his name.
That donation isn't currently on the page's list of top donors, and Fisman also confirmed he did not contribute.
"Indeed, I am not a lawyer but I think 'personation' is illegal in Canada," he told CTVNews.ca in an email.
CTVNews.ca asked GoFundMe for a comment on the use of aliases when making donations but did not receive a response before publication.
The company's terms of service, as of Dec. 31, 2021, state that the list of donors is provided "as is," with GoFundMe making "no representations, warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or timelines of any donor list or any information contained therein."
The convoy, which has traversed the country on its way to Parliament Hill, has called for an end to vaccine mandates and public health restrictions brought about in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The protest began in part over a federal government mandate requiring cross-border Canadian truckers to quarantine if unvaccinated when returning to Canada. The United States also has launched a similar mandate.
Supporters have greeted the convoy along its way to Ottawa. Prime Minister Trudeau has previously noted that nearly 90 per cent of Canadian truckers are vaccinated, while decrying the "unacceptable views" of the "small fringe minority" heading to Ottawa.
A GoFundMe page, started in an effort to help truckers with the cost of the journey, namely for fuel as and any food or shelter that’s required, has raised well over $7 million to date from tens of thousands of donors.
This week, GoFundMe said it would release an initial $1 million in fundraising money to the organizers.
In a statement to CTVNews.ca, a company spokesperson said they are following a standard verification process to ensure the funds are distributed as stated by the organizer.
"Our goal is to protect the generosity of donors and ensure that all donations go to those intended," the spokesperson said.
"As part of our verification process, we require full transparency from the organizer about the flow of funds to ensure there's a clear plan and donors are informed on how the funds will be spent."
The organizers have since written on their fundraising page that despite stories saying the funds had been "frozen," the temporary hold was due to international banking regulations.
A look at the page's rolling list of top 100 donors showed that 37 made donations anonymously as of noon EST on Friday.
The largest donation to date, worth $25,022, also came from an anonymous donor.
Altogether, the 100 top donations, as of midday Friday, totalled more than $456,000. Of that, more than $198,000 or about 43 per cent were anonymous.
Anonymous donations are not a new feature on GoFundMe nor are they uncommon on that platform. Most of the top donors have names attached, including some purporting to be businesses.
Among those listed as top donors is Jodhveer Singh Dhaliwal, the brother-in-law of NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who donated $13,000 donation to the convoy.
An NDP source speaking on background to CTV News said there was a misunderstanding around what the donation would be for and a process began to return the donation.
The amount was still visible on the top donations list as of noon Friday.
"I unequivocally disagree with him about this donation and told him so," Singh said in a statement about the donation.
"I am against this convoy and against the dangerous and divisive rhetoric we're seeing coming from it. I understand people are frustrated that we're still in this pandemic two years later. The best way to get out of this pandemic, and to keep ourselves, our families and our communities safe, is to get vaccinated and to listen to public health experts."
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