GoFundMe pauses anti-vaccine mandate protest fundraiser

GoFundMe pauses anti-vaccine mandate protest fundraiser-Milenio Stadium-Canada
Some of the trucks parked on Metcalfe Street at Slater Street in downtown Ottawa Feb. 2, 2022. This is four blocks from Parliament Hill, with police stopping them from getting closer. (Christian Milette/Radio-Canada)

The popular crowdfunding site GoFundMe has paused a multi-million dollar fundraiser for the convoy protest now tying Ottawa in knots, saying it wants to ensure that the fundraiser complies with its terms of service.

Late Wednesday afternoon, a notice suddenly popped up on the “Freedom Convoy 2022” fundraising page.

“This fundraiser is currently paused and under review to ensure it complies with our terms of service and applicable laws and regulations,” the company wrote. “Our team is working 24/7 and doing all we can to protect both organizers and donors. Thank you for your patience.”

In a blog post, GoFundMe said it was “collaborating with local law enforcement” and had requested more information from the organizer about where the funds were going.

“When we do not receive required information, we may put a pause on donations as we did in this case,” the post states.

The company did not say how long the fundraiser would be paused, or what might happen to the $10.1 million already collected from more than 120,000 donors. Several questions to the company from CBC News have not yet been answered.

The announcement by GoFundMe came on the same day Ottawa’s police chief said some of the money donated has come from the United States.

A CBC News analysis of the donations last week found that at least a third of the donors were listed as anonymous or used invented names. Several donors left comments along with their donations saying they were located in countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Poland.

The fundraiser — one of the most successful Canadian fundraisers in the platform’s history — has also raised questions about where the money is coming from and how it eventually will be used.

At one point, GoFundMe froze the money — but still allowed donations to be made — while it asked organizers for more information about how the money would be spent. The site eventually unfroze the money and has turned over at least $1 million to the organizers.

Donations to the fundraiser are now on pause, although their numbers have been declining over the past couple of days.

Convoy organizers have not yet responded to requests from CBC News for comment.

Alexander Cohen, director of communications for federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, said federal cabinet ministers’ offices have not had any communication with GoFundMe.

GoFundMe’s decision comes a day after Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said he has asked the city’s solicitor to look into the city’s legal recourse because the convoy protest is costing the municipality $1 million a day for police, bylaw officers and public works employees.

Cohen said federal “public safety partners” are helping Ottawa police and the federal government will help with funding.

“The federal government supports the City of Ottawa in these types of situations through the Nation’s Capital Extraordinary Policing Costs Program,” he said. “The program sets aside $15 million over five years to help cover policing costs incurred in the course of duties specific to the nation’s capital, allowing the city access to nearly $3 million every year.

“We understand the City is still assessing the total cost of these demonstrations and has yet to make a formal request, but resources are available and we will continue to work closely together in the days ahead.”

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