Canada Tests New Measures on Freezing Crypto Funds (UPDATED)
The Canadian government is going ahead with its controversial moves to end the “truckers’ protest” over COVID-19 restrictions, which has brought much of the nation to a standstill – by freezing crypto-related bank accounts in an effort to cut off protesters’ access to their own funds. Meanwhile, an injunction was signed that forbids moving funds in a number of crypto addresses. (Updated at 16:07 UTC: updates throughout the text.)
The funds in over 120 addresses connected to bitcoin (BTC), ethereum (ETH), cardano (ADA), litecoin (LTC), ethereum classic (ETC), and monero (XMR) were frozen following a private class-action lawsuit against the protesters.
The suit was filed by Zexi Li, Happy Goat Coffee Inc., and Geoffrey Devaney, while among the defendants are listed Patrick King, Tamara Lich, Chris Garrah, Benjamin Dichter, and Nicholas St. Louis.
The justice signed the injunction on Thursday, February 17. It is a so-called Mareva injunction, otherwise known as a freezing or asset protection order.
The court orders that the defendants, or anybody associated with them, cannot “by any means whatsoever” sell, remove, dissipate, alienate, transfer, assign, encumber, or similarly deal with the assets listed in the document.
According to Ottawa lawyer Paul Chimp, this move was “exceptional advocacy,” and the frozen crypto funds may be used as compensation in the future.
Amir Attaran, a professor in the Faculty of Law and the School of Epidemiology at the University of Ottawa, commented that “this Mareva unfolded secretly over the last several days in court.”
Meanwhile, Alex Gladstein, Chief Strategy Officer at the Human Rights Foundation, argued that the injunction does not “prevent” those involved from selling, transferring, or dissipating funds, but instead “threatens them.” “Key distinction. In legacy finance the powers that be could prevent them,” he wrote. He further argued that crypto users can be imprisoned and released without ever giving up their cryptoassets.
Freezing bank accounts
Meanwhile, new police and government powers have been ushered in hurriedly as an amendment to the Emergencies Act, which effectively seeks to classify the protesters as terrorists, allowing banks and other bodies to freeze conventional bank accounts, including those related to crypto.
Notably, while accounts on centralized crypto exchanges can also be frozen for a variety of reasons, it's not the case with crypto wallets, controlled by their users.
The Canadian government finds that domestic and overseas supporters of the protests are attempting to fund the blockade operators using donations made in crypto.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland stated:
“The names of both individuals and entities as well as crypto wallets have been shared by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police with financial institutions, and accounts have been frozen. And more accounts will be frozen.”
In an opinion piece for the Toronto Sun, Freeland was quoted as stating further that “the consequences” of the move were “real and they will bite.”
But, the report continued,
“While Freeland made it sound as if only truckers with big rigs would be targeted, the rules stipulate the bank freezes can apply to anyone ‘directly or indirectly’ involved in the protests.”
And in the same media outlet, a leading conservative tabloid, the same columnist claimed that the “incredible powers that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has given his government to freeze people’s bank accounts” had been justified using “‘analysis’ from the CBC” (Canada’s biggest broadcaster).
The columnist added:
“The basis for some of the most controversial measures they’ve brought in merely rely on nothing more than CBC reporting.”
Law enforcement agencies even went so far as to warn pet-owning protestors that they might never see their animals again if they were arrested – drawing a biting response from El Salvador’s BTC-keen President Nayib Bukele.
Some have pledged to fight the measures, including the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), which claimed in an official release that it would seek to block the government from using the Emergencies Act.
The CCLA’s Executive Director, Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, was quoted as stating that it had employed a lawyer to “take the federal government to court,” adding: “We have said all along that the federal government did not meet the high burden necessary to invoke the Emergencies Act.”
“This morning I listened carefully to the Prime Minister and heard no new legal justifications for a national emergency and the enormous power the government is hoping to give to itself to bypass the typical democratic process. [...] This use of the Emergencies Act is unnecessary, unjustifiable and unconstitutional.”
Some have claimed that the government has been forced to take extreme measures to put an end to protests after roads all over the country were blocked, bringing trade and transport to a halt.
But others claimed that the moves sent a dangerous precedent about the fact that governments ultimately retain the power to cut off the finances – be they fiat or crypto – of their own people whenever they see fit.
In a Twitter post that now appears to have been deleted (but was reported on by the Daily Beast), Tesla’s Elon Musk jokingly compared Trudeau’s behavior to Adolf Hitler’s. The media outlet called Musk’s tweet “lazy, offensive and attention-seeking.”
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