A day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked emergency powers to choke off funding to protests against Covid-19 restrictions, Canada’s banks were still waiting Tuesday for details on how they’re supposed to enforce the government’s orders.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said Monday that banks would be required to report relationships with people involved in blockades and would be given the authority to freeze accounts without a court order, among other measures.
The banks still had numerous questions about how to implement the measures as of Tuesday morning, according to people familiar with the matter. Outstanding questions include which types of accounts the order covers, what recourse customers will have to make the banks reconsider account closures and how the banks will be indemnified, the people said.
Chief executive officers of Canada’s major banks have held two calls with government officials about the orders: one over the weekend, while the policy was being considered, and one on Monday evening, after it was announced, the people said. Public statements about the crackdown by public officials have been consistent with what the banks have been told, one of the people said.
The legal text of the government order was made public on Tuesday, but it didn’t clarify many of the banks’ questions. It says only that the government will require payment processors to report certain transactions to regulators and will require financial-services providers to “determine whether they have in their possession or control property that belongs to a person who participates in the blockade.”
Protests that began with a trucker convoy to Ottawa last month have gridlocked Canada’s capital city and closed border crossings. Although the bridge that carries a quarter of Canada’s commerce with the U.S. was reopened Sunday night, two major border crossings in Western Canada were blocked on Monday by semi-trailers and farm equipment.
As part of the financial crackdown, the government is also broadening its anti-money-laundering rules to cover cryptocurrency trading platforms and crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe, both of which have been used to funnel donations to protesters.
Even before the government announced the emergency measures, Toronto-Dominion Bank last week froze accounts containing C$1.4 million ($1.1 million) that was donated to the protests and asked a court to take control of the funds.