A Tweet sent out last weekend by Chilliwack-Hope MP Mark Strahl about a constituent who had her bank account frozen for providing a $50 donation to the “freedom” convoy has gone viral and garnered intense scrutiny.
As part of the Emergencies Act passed by the federal government, account-freezing powers were bestowed on financial institutions with the aim of targeting those suspected of involvement in illegal acts, so-called “influencers” involved in the illegal protest in Ottawa, and owners and drivers of vehicles who refused to leave the area of the protest.
But Strahl’s Tweet, that received more than 33,000 likes, suggested in fact it was individuals donating small amounts of money who were the target of the government.
“Briane is a single mom from Chilliwack working a minimum wage job,” began Strahl’s Tweet on Feb. 20. “She gave $50 to the convoy when it was 100% legal. She hasn’t participated in any other way. Her bank account has now been frozen. This is who Justin Trudeau is actually targeting with his Emergencies Act orders.”
Briane is a single mom from Chilliwack working a minimum wage job. She gave $50 to the convoy when it was 100% legal. She hasn’t participated in any other way. Her bank account has now been frozen. This is who Justin Trudeau is actually targeting with his Emergencies Act orders.— Mark Strahl, MP (@markstrahl) February 20, 2022
The Tweet garnered instant attention, mostly critical and skeptical suggesting it was at least possible “Briane” did not exist. The Progress asked Strahl for more about the accusation, as did several other media outlets but he declined to comment immediately.
Later Tuesday afternoon, he did respond and said “Briane is a real person. I have verified her first and last name and her address.”
On a leaked list of nearly 93,000 names of donors to the GiveSendGo account for the protest obtained by The Progress, there is no one with a name spelled “Briane.” There are two named “Brianne” but one is in Nova Scotia and the other in Oregon. There is one “Breanne” with a Chilliwack postal code but she donated just $15.
Strahl responded to that.
“While her name may not be on the hacked, stolen and illegally distributed GiveSendGo donor list, I have seen her donation receipt,” he said on Twitter. “Briane informed me that her bank account had been frozen at the same time that the government began freezing the accounts of other freedom convoy supporters.”
He said that there was considerable “hate” directed to her following her Tweet, and he said other “freedom convoy” donors have been threatened, fired from jobs, and otherwise harassed by the media, which is why he did not consent to speaking to any media on the subject.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said anyone who was not directly involved in the illegal protests who think their bank accounts have been frozen incorrectly should call police. On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked if small donors are being targeted by the Emergencies Act, and he said the measures were put in place to ensure those directly connected to the occupation were targeted.
The RCMP also said the claim wasn’t true, and responded with a statement confirming that the list provided to financial institutions “included identities of individuals who were influencers in the illegal protest in Ottawa, and owners and/or drivers of vehicles who did not want to leave the area impacted by the protest.
“We are now working with the banks to build a process to address the accounts that were frozen.”
The Globe and Mail reported that an email about Strahl’s Tweet, mistakenly forwarded to The Globe by a media-relations officer, said that an Ottawa Police Service constable searched the donor list and found the two “Briannes” mentioned above, who do not live in B.C.
“The information posted is false,” the e-mail said.
Several high profile journalists posted skepticism on Twitter about Strahl’s claim about his constituent. Globe and Mail columnist and well-known broadcast pundit Andrew Coyne expressed his disbelief, pointing to the small handful of accounts that have been frozen.
“76 accounts containing a combined $3.2 million, equals roughly $42k each,” Coyne Tweeted Monday. “But yeah, it’s all single moms from Chilliwack donating their server tips…”
That number was up over 200 and $7 million by Wednesday, but there is no evidence that small donors among the 93,000 had accounts frozen.
But Strahl doubled down, said that Finance Canada officials appearing before a Parliamentary committee on Tuesday “confirmed it was possible that the hacked list of freedom convoy donors wasn’t comprehensive.”
“They have also said that bank accounts started being ‘unfrozen’ as of yesterday. I am hopeful that Briane will regain access to her account as soon as possible.”
In total, the leaked list showed 225 donors from postal codes including Chilliwack to the protest in Ottawa. The vast majority were small dollar amounts, with a handful of $1,000 donations.
The Progress reached out to the owner of a local business who donated $5,000 to ask if he had concerns about his bank account being frozen, but received no reply.
A local Realtor who was on the list having donated $250, was asked whether or not he had trouble with his bank account or if he was concerned about that.
He replied: “The bank account is not frozen.”
The Emergencies Act orders that allow for the bank accounts of Canadian citizens to be impacted without a court order and without legal recourse against the government or the banks is an outrageous overreach. Parliament needs to revoke these powers. pic.twitter.com/CxkdVWRsLp— Mark Strahl, MP (@markstrahl) February 22, 2022
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