Lawyers for a proposed class-action lawsuit against the convoy protest in Ottawa argued in court Wednesday that GiveSendGo may be in breach of a freezing order on funds raised for the convoy on the website.
Monique Jilesen, a lawyer representing the proposed class and who obtained an injunction that froze convoy funds, said the order is meant to secure funds so the legal issue of how they should be used can be dealt with in court.
Parties in the case have agreed to move some donated funds and cryptocurrency into escrow, which could be redistributed to affected Ottawa residents and business owners should the class action succeed.
Jacob Wells, co-founder of American crowdfunding site GiveSendGo, told an Ontario Superior Court judge that the platform’s terms of service give it discretion to return funds to donors.
Police cleared the convoy protest last month. Wells saidthere is now no way for the funds to be distributed for their stated purposes and the site is refunding amounts to donors in order to “protect our givers’ intentions.”
Jilesen said this may mean that GiveSendGo is in breach of the freezing order.
However, Justice Calum MacLeod said the order was meant to target funds that were clearly in possession of the defendants, and was not intended to apply to undistributed funds on fundraising platforms.
The appearance is part of an extended freezing order on all donated funds to the so-called freedom convoy, as the proposed class-action civil suit against the convoy continues.
The suit seeks damages related to the three-week protest outside Parliament Hill that snarled traffic, shuttered businesses and plagued residents with near-constant honking.
The “Freedom Convoy 2022” and “Adopt-a-Trucker” campaigns on GiveSendGo said money raised would go to truckers who travelled to and arrived in Ottawa, paying for fuel, food and shelter.
Melissa Adams, a lawyer from the Attorney General of Ontario’s office, echoed Jilesen’s arguments on Wednesday, adding that GiveSendGo is also subject to a restraint order made in February.
On Feb. 10, the Ontario government successfully petitioned a court to freeze access to millions of dollars donated through the online fundraising platform and prohibit anyone from distributing donations.
MacLeod said the issue of whether the site is in breach of Ontario’s restraint order is not within his purview.
Meanwhile, the Conservative critic for ethics and accountable government said he asked the privacy commissioner to investigate the hacking of the crowdfunding platform.
Tory MP James Bezan said the data of tens of thousands of Canadians being illegally obtained and circulated without their consent is a “blatant breach of privacy.”
He added that it led to doxxing campaigns, identification of personal and business addresses and targeted harassment.
While those who were charged for any “illicit activities” should be held to account, it is also “important that the privacy rights of all Canadians are respected,” Bezan said in a statement.
In February, GiveSendGo was reportedly hacked and data on donors was provided to transparency group Distributed Denial of Secrets, which made the data available to newsrooms and researchers.
The privacy commissioner’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.