How American cash for Canada protests could influence US politics
WASHINGTON (AP), -- The Canadians who disrupted trade and travel with the U.S. for almost three weeks and occupied Ottawa's downtown core have been supported and funded by right-wing activists in America and conservative politicians who oppose vaccination mandates and the country’s liberal leader.
Experts say that the outside support is aimed at strengthening conservative politics in the U.S., regardless of the impact protests had on Canadian society and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government. "And so using this protest as an opportunity to galvanize their own supporters, I think it's very much an opportunity for them." Protesters fear that the protest will be used as a way to mobilize their supporters. On Thursday, police poured into Ottawa. Work crews set up fences around Parliament.
According to an Associated Press analysis, 44 percent of nearly $10 million in donations to support protesters came from U.S. donors. U.S. Republican elected officials including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene have praised the protesters, calling them "heroes” and "patriots."
Fox News host Sean Hannity said Wednesday to two protest organizers that he had a lot support from American friends. "That I can tell, you." Hannity added that there is a movement underway in America.
Trudeau and other Canadian senior officials have strongly criticized the financial support from other countries.
"What this country faces is a largely foreign funded, targeted, and coordinated attack against critical infrastructure and democratic institutions," Bill Blair, Canada’s minister of emergency preparedness and public safety, stated earlier this week.
Professor of historical studies at State University of New York Ian Reifowitz called the protests "a gift" for Republicans in America and predicted that they would use the popular appeal of the demonstrations as a way to raise money before the November midterm elections.
He said, "It's an amazing (issue) eight to nine months before they election for them." It allows you to bank money and bank volunteers, and it energizes the base, which you want to do.
Ottawa has provided fuel and food to demonstrators, and the area surrounding Parliament Hill was often reminiscent of a carnival, complete with bouncy castles and gyms. There is also a stage where DJs can perform.
According to DDoSecrets (a non-profit organization), GiveSendGo has received donations of at least $9.58million dollars. This includes $4.2 million (44%), which came from the United States.
However, the Canadian government has tried to stop protesters from accessing these funds. It is unclear how much money actually got through.
After Canadian officials raised objections to GoFundMe about millions of dollars in crowdfunding, the company ruled that it was illegal activity and blocked the funds.
The AP analyzed the GiveSendGo database and found that there were more than 109,000 donations to protests-related campaigns through Friday night. Just under 62,000 of these came from the U.S.
According to GiveSendGo data, several Americans gave thousands to tens of millions of dollars to the protest. The largest single donation was $90,000. It came from Thomas M. Siebel.
Siebel Systems founder and billionaire, Siebel, didn't respond to messages sent via email to an account associated with his foundation or to his LinkedIn account.
Jennifer, a representative of the Siebel Scholars Foundation, declined to answer questions about whether he donated the money. She said that Siebel is known for supporting many causes, including those that "protect individual liberty."
She wrote that these were her personal efforts and had nothing to do the companies with whom he is associated.
According to Federal Election Commission records and a $400,000 donation in 2019, Siebel made to "Take Back the House 2020," a GOP fundraising committee.
Tamara Lich created the GiveSendGo Freedom Convoy campaign on Jan. 27. She was previously a member of the extreme-right Maverick Party which advocates for west Canada's independence.
This week, the Canadian government took action to stop funding for protesters by expanding the country's anti money laundering and terrorist financing rules. It also covered crowdfunding platforms such as GiveSendGo.
Chrystia Freeland, Canadian Finance Minister, stated that the changes were made because they know that these platforms are being used for illegal blockades and other illegal activities which are damaging Canada's economy.
More important than the financial support, the Canadian protesters received cheerleading from prominent American conservative pundits and politicians, such as Hannity. They see their northern neighbors as like-minded people who oppose vaccine mandates.
Retired Army Lt. General Michael Flynn posted a video of the convoy on Telegram, the messaging app.
Flynn, who was briefly President Donald Trump’s national security advisor, wrote that "These truckers are fighting against the nonsense, tyranny especially coming from Canada."
Flynn appealed to people to support the Canadian protesters a few days later. He posted twice earlier this week the Telegram message "#TrudeauTheCoward", referring to Canada's prime minister and leader of the Liberal Party.
Fox News hosts often praise the protests and Trump responded by calling Trudeau a "far left lunatic", who has "destroyed Canada" with insane COVID mandates. Greene stated that she can't wait to see a protest convoy in Washington.
Rand Paul, R-Ky. said that he hopes truckers will come to America and "clog-up cities" during an interview with the Daily Signal, a conservative news site of the conservative Heritage Foundation.
Inspirated by the Canadian protests, far-right and antivaccine activists are planning American versions.
Protests in Canada have created an opportunity for moneymaking for many, including a chain "New England for Trump" shops that were selling merchandise inspired from the protestors. $25 for a mesh-back "Freedom Convoy 2022” trucker hat. ---
Swenson reported in New York and Smith from Providence, Rhode Island. This report was contributed by the Associated Press writers Amanda Seitz (Washington), Larry Fenn (New York), Frank Bajak (Boston) and Camille Fassett (Oakland, California).