Politics

MPs vote to call GoFundMe to testify at Commons committee on convoy protest

A parliamentary committee has voted unanimously to call officials from the popular crowdfunding site GoFundMe to answer questions about a fundraiser that has collected more than $10.1 million to support the anti-vaccine mandate protest in Ottawa.

Committee asking company to explain how it's ensuring funds are not being used to "promote extremism"

A Parliamentary Protective Service officer watches over the pandemic protest as he patrols on Parliament Hill Feb. 2, 2022. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

A parliamentary committee has voted unanimously to call officials from the popular crowdfunding site GoFundMe to answer questions about a fundraiser that has collected more than $10.1 million to support the anti-vaccine mandate protest in Ottawa.

The motion, proposed by NDP MP Alistair MacGregor, calls on company officials to appear before the House of Commons committee on public safety and national security "as soon as possible."

Liberal, Conservative and Bloc Québécois members of the committee joined MacGregor in voting to invite the company to testify.

The committee wants the company to answer questions about measures in place to "ensure the funds are not being used to promote extremism, white supremacy, anti-Semitism and other forms of hate, which have been expressed among prominent organizers for the truck convoy currently in Ottawa."

The committee also wants the company to explain how it prevents anonymous donations and money from abroad from funding extremist groups, and what it's doing to ensure that the money already released to the protest is not being used to promote extremist views and activities.

An amendment proposed by Liberal MP Taleeb Noormohamed calls on officials from the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) — Canada's money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog — to also appear before the committee.

NDP MP Alistair MacGregor rises during question period on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press )

"There are some real questions about transparency given the fact that the fund is now exceeding $10 million, many of the donors are anonymous and many of the donors are in places outside of Canada's jurisdiction," MacGregor told CBC News.

A CBC News analysis of the donations last week found that at least a third of the donors to the "Freedom Convoy 2022" fundraising campaign on GoFundMe were listed as anonymous or used invented names. In the comments section, a number of donors said they were located in other countries, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia or Poland.

The committee's decision comes a day after GoFundMe put the convoy protest's fundraising campaign on pause, saying it had questions of its own about how the money was going to be used that organizers had not yet answered.

Trucks park in front of Parliament Hill to protest COVID-19 rules across Canada on Feb. 2, 2022. (Christian Milette/Radio-Canada)

Before the company paused the campaign, it had raised more than $10.1 million from more than 120,000 donors.

Meanwhile, some donors to the convoy protest fundraiser have been posting on social media that GoFundMe has told them their donations are being refunded.

In a statement issued Thursday, GoFundMe refused to answer any questions regarding refunds. It has not yet reacted publicly to the committee calling it to testify.

During a news conference held by protest organizers Thursday, Keith Wilson of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms said that the convoy protest has taken steps to formally incorporate and set up bank accounts.

GoFundMe has said that $1 million of the money raised has been released to organizers. Wilson said lawyers and accountants working with the organizers are working on a process to reimburse protest participants once GoFundMe releases the rest of the money.

More later....

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elizabeth Thompson

Senior reporter

Award-winning reporter Elizabeth Thompson covers Parliament Hill. A veteran of the Montreal Gazette, Sun Media and iPolitics, she currently works with the CBC's Ottawa bureau, specializing in investigative reporting and data journalism. She can be reached at: elizabeth.thompson@cbc.ca.

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