GoFundMe has frozen access to the more than $4.7 million in funds raised by the trucker convoy now wending its way across the country toward Ottawa in a protest against vaccine mandates.
"We require that fundraisers be transparent about the flow of funds and have a clear plan for how those funds will be spent. In this case, we are in touch with the organizer to verify that information," Rachel Hollis, a spokeswoman for the crowdfunding platform, said in an email.
"Funds will be safely held until the organizer is able to provide the documentation to our team about how funds will be properly distributed."
As of Tuesday afternoon, funds were raised from 61,100 donors, according to the GoFundMe page of the "Freedom Convoy."
Tamara Lich, who is also secretary of the fledgling Western separatist Maverick Party, launched the campaign on Jan. 14. It states that the money will go toward fuel as well as food and lodgings for big-riggers taking part.
"Our current government is implementing rules and mandates that are destroying the foundation of our businesses, industries and livelihoods," the convoy's GoFundMe page states.
"We are a peaceful country that has helped protect nations across the globe from tyrannical governments who oppressed their people, and now it seems it is happening here."
As of Jan. 15, the federal government required Canadian truckers to be fully vaccinated if they want to avoid a 14-day quarantine when they cross the border from the United States.
Labour Minister Seamus O'Regan has also announced that vaccination will become mandatory for workers in all federally regulated industries, though no timeline has been laid out.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance, which has denounced the convoy protest, says more than 85 per cent of the 120,000 Canadian truck drivers who regularly traverse the border are vaccinated, but that up to 16,000 may be sidelined due to the new restriction, exacerbating supply chain problems.
The big-riggers are bound for a protest set for Saturday in Ottawa, where drivers from across the country are planning to converge.
In a joint release Tuesday, the federal government and alliance president Stephen Laskowski acknowledged "unprecedented challenges" to a sector that ships the vast majority of food and consumer products, but stressed vaccination as the route to economic health.
“Vaccines, medications, personal protective equipment, food, and supplies continue to arrive where they need to be thanks to the efforts of our dedicated commercial truck drivers," said Laskowski, O'Regan, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra and Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough.
“The government of Canada and the Canadian Trucking Alliance both agree that vaccination, used in combination with preventive public health measures, is the most effective tool to reduce the risk of COVID-19 for Canadians, and to protect public health."
Last Saturday the U.S. barred unvaccinated Canadian drivers from entering the country, mirroring Canada's border filter for American truckers.
In a Twitter thread Monday showing pictures of depleted grocery store shelves, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said he was "on the phone with U.S. governors" that morning who share his concerns. He said he is was working on a joint letter to U.S. President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to end the dual vaccine mandates.
The convoy was greeted in Saskatchewan on Monday night by supporters — Conservative members of Parliament Andrew Scheer and Warren Steinley were among them — and by more backers Tuesday morning before it left for Manitoba.
Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole warned last week that "we're going to see prices skyrocket for groceries, for everything," and that the Liberal government's vaccine mandate would spark "division and pink slips."
Trudeau said Monday that Conservative politicians were “fearmongering” about the supply chain.
“The best way to continue to prevent supply chain disruptions is to ensure that everyone gets vaccinated,” Trudeau said in French. He noted the Canadian Trucking Alliance backs vaccination — though the association argued persistently against the mandate in the lead-up to its implementation earlier this month.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2022.
Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press