Canadian court rejects Trudeau’s crackdown on trucking convoy donations as unconstitutional

The Federal Court of Canada has ruled that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government infringed on the country’s charter of rights and freedoms when he invoked the Emergencies Act to freeze funds, including cryptocurrencies, that were donated to truckers protesting COVID-19 restrictions.

Justice Richard Mosley handed down the decision on Tuesday, concluding that “There was no national emergency justifying the invocation of the Emergencies Act and the decision to do so was therefore unreasonable.”

Mosley said the government “cannot invoke the Emergencies Act because it is convenient, or because it may work better than other tools at their disposal or available to the provinces,” arguing instead that it should be used as a last resort.

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said the government will appeal the ruling.

Trudeau’s government invoked the law in February 2022 to stop the flow of funds to protesting truckers, who were pushing back against COVID-19 restrictions and a mandate requiring truck drivers crossing the Canada-United States border to be fully vaccinated against the disease. 

For three weeks, the “Freedom Convoy” protesters used trucks to block streets in Ottowa, the nation’s capital, as part of their demonstrations. The Canadian government claimed invoking the Emergencies Act was needed as the protests were an illegal occupation.

In November 2022, the Canadian Press reported an estimate from Transport Canada that as much as $3.9 billion in trade activity was halted because of the border blockades across the country related to protests against COVID-19 restrictions.

At one point, protestors had received more than $19 million in funds through the fundraising platforms GoFundMe and GiveSendGo. Those funds were blocked from reaching the convoy, which resulted in a shift in strategy by the protestors to start raising funds via Bitcoin (BTC). 

The main group raising funds via crypto – HonkHonk Hodl – raised 22 BTC valued at nearly $1 million through the Tallycoin BTC fundraising platform.

“Legacy financial infrastructure can sometimes be politicized and clamped down upon, whereas Bitcoin is a truly censorship-resistant method of communicating value,” HonkHonk Hodl said at the time. “Don’t allow your voices to be silenced, and don’t allow your financial sovereignty to be trampled upon. Love, unity and freedom — let’s raise some hard money for hard workers!”

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) said Justice Richard Mosley’s decision “sets a clear and critical precedent for every future government.”

“Emergency is not in the eye of the beholder,” the CCLA said. “Emergency powers are necessary in extreme circumstances, but they are also dangerous to democracy. The threshold for invoking the Emergencies Act is extremely high. The government must demonstrate that there is an emergency arising from threats to the security of Canada and that that emergency truly has a national scope. The Federal Court agreed that this threshold was not met.”