GoFundMe removes donations to ‘freedom convoy’ after violations of service, will offer full refunds

As the convoy in Ottawa continues, trucks and tractors begin to descend upon downtown Toronto ahead of the anti-mandate protest tomorrow.

By Lucas Casaletto

GoFundMe has removed the donations page to the “Freedom Convoy 2022” and will begin offering full refunds to those that contributed after over $10 million was raised to help support what the crowdfunding website describes as “violence and other unlawful activity.”

“Organizers provided a clear distribution plan for the initial $1 million that was released earlier this week and confirmed funds would be used only for participants who travelled to Ottawa to participate in a peaceful protest,” GoFundMe’s statement continued.

“Given how this situation has evolved, no further funds will be directly distributed to the Freedom Convoy organizers.”

The decision came after GoFundMe paused all charitable donations through the Freedom Convoy 2022 page, saying officials were reviewing the cause through its terms and service.

“GoFundMe supports peaceful protests, and we believe that was the intention of the Freedom Convoy 2022 fundraiser when it was first created,” the crowdfunding website said on Friday. “We now have evidence from law enforcement that the previously peaceful demonstration has become an occupation, with police reports of violence and other unlawful activity.”

GoFundMe says that following a review of “relevant facts and multiple discussions with local law enforcement and city officials,” this fundraiser violated its terms of service (which prohibits the promotion of violence and harassment) and has been removed from the platform.

The “Freedom Convoy 2022” fundraiser was the second-largest in Canada after a campaign was created following the Humboldt Broncos bus crash in 2018 that killed 16 people and left 13 injured raised $15 million.

The convoy was organized in response to a federal regulation that mandates truckers returning from the United States to show proof of vaccination.

GoFundMe says that donors have until February 19, 2022, to submit a request for a full refund using a “dedicated refund form.”

Initially, the crowdfunding website said that while it prohibits user content that reflects or promotes behaviour in support of violence, the organizer, in this case, “met our requirements, and the fundraiser did not violate our Terms of Service at the time of creation.”

In a statement issued on Wednesday, a GoFundMe spokesperson said that the platform takes responsibility to organizers and donors very seriously, adding that they were “committed to operating with integrity, honesty and full accountability.”

There were growing calls for the $10 million-plus raised by protest organizers to go toward policing costs and reparations for their behaviour. A parliamentary committee called on GoFundMe representatives to testify how it guarantees that money raised on its platform isn’t used to promote hate — such as anti-Semitism and white supremacy.

One of the fundraiser’s primary organizers, Tamara Lich, claimed the money raised would be allocated to help with fuel costs, food and lodgings.

Chief Administrative Officer for the Ottawa Police Service Board, Blair Dunker, said as of Wednesday, the protests had already cost the police force $3 million, with a projected cost of $800,000 for each day the protesters remain. On Wednesday, Royal Canadian Mounted Police reached a deal with protesters to grant access to a border crossing near Coutts, Alberta.

Supporters and demonstrators are pushing for the repeal of COVID-19 restrictions they view as government overreach.

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