Canada’s decision to freeze the bank accounts of protestors has finally come to an end, but its implications will echo throughout history. In the past, freezing bank accounts of protestors has been a strategy only used by authoritarian regimes, not one of the freest nations in the world.
And unless something changes in United States policy, this decision to plow through basic financial freedoms could just as likely happen in the U.S.
The news originally broke with a speech not from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, but from Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland. Her speech immediately followed Trudeau’s announcement that he was invoking the Emergencies Act for the first time in Canadian history.
Although Trudeau claimed that the decision to invoke the Emergencies Act was not “suspending fundamental rights or overriding [Canada’s] Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” Freeland told a much different story.
According to her, “In invoking the Emergencies Act, we are … broadening the scope of Canada’s anti-money laundering and terrorist financing rules … As of today, a bank or other financial service provider will be able to immediately freeze or suspend an account without a court order.”
In just one week, more than 200 bank accounts were frozen in an effort to crackdown on the protests. And while those accounts are slowly being released, Ottawa’s police chief, Steve Bell, said,
“If you are involved in this protest, we will actively look to identify you and follow up with financial sanctions and criminal charges. This investigation will go on for months to come.”
Yet maybe what’s most important to take note of is a key phrase to note in Freeland’s speech is that these are “anti-money laundering and terrorist financing rules,” not rules for crowd control.
With that said, Canada certainly isn’t breaking ground by using the banks to control the population.
In fact, freezing bank accounts of protestors is nothing new for governments. In Russia, the government froze the bank accounts of those opposed to President Vladimir Putin in 2019.
In China, the government froze the accounts of people linked to pro-democracy protests in 2020. And in Sudan, the government froze the bank accounts of members of The People’s Coalition for Civil Action in 2021.
What’s different here, of course, is that Canada is ranked as one of the freest countries in the world. Where Canada is ranked 6th in the Cato Institute’s Human Freedom Index, Russia, China, and Sudan are numbers 126th, 150th, and 162th, respectively. The United States is ranked at No. 15.
If Canada can justify plowing through the freedoms of its citizens to stop the convoy, there’s little reason to think the United States will not do the same if presented with a similar emergency situation. Unfortunately for Americans, the principles that made this attack on Canadians’ financial freedom possible are also ingrained in U.S. law.
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The Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), for example, gives the U.S. government a backdoor into every bank account. Michael Casey described it as having “paved the way to an ever-expanding system of international surveillance.”
In fact, the expansion of financial surveillance after the BSA was enacted became so troubling that the issue even reached the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, though, the decision in that case — and many other Supreme Court cases that followed — only served to increase financial surveillance with the creation of the third-party doctrine.
Unless something changes in the United States, it’s only a matter of time before the government seeks to weaponize the financial system to control the public.
Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, illustrated the risk well when he said, “[Imagine] if the same thing were done to a crowdfunded BLM movement.” Or, imagine if it happened to any number of other protests that took place over the past few years.
No official should be able to shut down a political protest in this manner. Now more than ever, it’s clear that Americans should have a right to financial privacy to protect themselves from unjust intrusions. Source: Redlands Daily Facts