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With police investigating the sources of nearly $9 million in donations for the so-called “Freedom Convoy” that has occupied downtown Ottawa for more than two weeks, at least one donor they will uncover is a household name in this province.
On Monday, The Independent confirmed that former PC leader Ches Crosbie made an $800 donation to the cause—which has been linked to far-right, white supremacist groups, has been condemned by politicians from all major political parties, and has shut down businesses and schools in the nation’s capital.
The occupation, which some are calling an insurrection, has reached a boiling point. On Sunday, after days of criticism leveled against Ottawa and allied police forces for failing to end the disruption, hundreds of residents took matters into their own hands and blockaded streets to prevent trucks from joining the occupation.
Crosbie, who is among an apparent 200 donors with postal codes registered in Newfoundland and Labrador, said Monday he supports the position that vaccine mandates and other pandemic-related restrictions must end.
He explained that he made the donation anonymously, but that anonymity was lifted when the list of more than 92,000 donors was leaked by hackers who retrieved the data from Christian crowdfunding site GiveSendGo, which had raised $8.7 million for the convoy.
An analysis of the leaked data by VICE on Monday shows 56 percent of donors came from the U.S., while only 29 percent originated in Canada.
When contacted by The Independent Monday afternoon, Crosbie confirmed that he donated $800. Although he is listed as having made two $800 donations, the lawyer explained that the first was a donation to GoFundMe, which will be refunded—so he decided to donate an equivalent amount through GiveSendGo.
“I can only tell you my interpretation of the facts,” Crosbie said. “I made a donation because I think it’s high time that this indefinite state of emergency be terminated by all governments in the country. They’re doing that in other countries, like the United Kingdom. We should be doing that now.”
“If we’re not going to do this under Omicron, which is comparatively mild, when are we ever going to do it?”
Crosbie also said that he made the donation at least a week ago. By that point, protesters had entrenched themselves in Ottawa and blockaded border crossings in Alberta, Manitoba, British Columbia, and Ontario—and the far-right connections of many convoy organizers were exposed. He disputed that the occupation was unduly disruptive for residents.
“I’m not seeing that the organizers are associated with far-right groups or anything that’s not mainstream Canadian values,” Crosbie said. “My perception is that people are exercising their right to peaceful protest, and that […] the people that are involved with this are people you’d be proud to have as neighbours. They are freedom-loving citizens and they are trying to uphold their Charter rights. People should be prepared to put up with some degree of discomfort or inconvenience.”
In Ottawa, local businesses have faced vandalism, residents have reported harassment from convoy participants, schools shut down to keep students safe, and politicians have received threats.
On February 6 Ottawa Police announced they had launched almost 100 criminal investigations, and that the previous night “demonstrators exhibited extremely disruptive and unlawful behaviour, which presented risks to public safety and unacceptable distress for Ottawa residents.”
According to the leaked data, it was the following evening, on February 7, when Crosbie’s first donation was registered. The second donation, made in lieu of the first being withheld from convoy organizers, is registered on February 8.
“The majority of the people involved in this are protesting peacefully and respectfully,” Crosbie insisted. “All throughout this pandemic, governments have played far too fast and loose with our constitutional rights, and have not done what the Charter asks of them, which is demonstrably justify all infringements on our rights and freedoms.”
While occupiers have maintained a central message that they are fighting for freedom, others argue that ending vaccine mandates would place vulnerable populations at risk.
As the nationwide protests enter another week, there are signs of a coming crackdown. On Friday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a provincial state of emergency, which includes measures like $100,000 fines, yearlong jail terms, and the seizure of commercial vehicle licenses. On Monday, following a call with Canada’s premiers, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the never-used federal Emergencies Act to deal with the crisis.
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