The deputy minister of finance told the Emergencies Act inquiry on Nov. 17 that the federal government was not responsible for lower credit scores experienced by Freedom Convoy protesters whose financial accounts were frozen without a court order during the events of last winter.
“I think that’s an issue for the financial institutions and how the financial institutions administer these things. I don’t think that’s something that is in the ambit of the Government of Canada,” Deputy Minister Michael Sabia said.
“That’s something that the credit system should be able to deal with on its own.”
The Trudeau government invoked the Emergencies Act on Feb. 14 to deal with cross-country protests and blockades.
Associated economic measures prepared by the finance department ordered financial institutions to freeze the accounts of convoy supporters in Ottawa.
The RCMP provided a list of entities to target to the institutions, and the government also told them to use their own risk detection measures and algorithms to freeze accounts of entities deemed involved in the protest.
Sabia said that 257 accounts were frozen based on the RCMP list and 23 based on the financial institutions’ own determinations.
Sujit Choudhry, counsel for the Canadian Constitution Foundation, questioned Sabia’s assertion at the inquiry that the government wasn’t responsible for lingering impacts of its imposed measures.
“Although it’s correct that it’s a privately administered system, nonetheless … decisions of the Government of Canada had a direct effect on how that system operated, not just in the short term, but for many months, and potentially for long after,” he said.
Sabia said he disagreed and argued that the individuals affected were involved in “illegal activities” and that the government had provided adequate warning.
“I think people had reasonable notice, and it was a very simple solution. All you had to do was leave,” he said.
Sabia said his department had not thought about the potential impact on credit scores and it wasn’t the intention of the measures.
“I suggest to you that if that had been an intended consequence, that would be a form of extra legal sanction that went beyond the penalties in the orders,” said Choudhry.
Tom Marazzo, a Freedom Convoy spokesperson, is one of the protesters whose accounts were frozen and he told The Epoch Times in a previous interview that as a result, the credit score of his former spouse dropped.
“We were never contacted by the banks before my accounts got frozen. We were never notified that the account was back up. We’ve never had an apology,” he said. “They went after all of my joint accounts with my former spouse.”
‘Did You Appreciate the Significance?’
Choudhry and other counsels representing interests opposed to the invocation of the Emergencies Act were not the only ones taking aim at the measure of freezing accounts without a court order.
Commission counsel Gordon Cameron pressed Assistant Deputy Minister of Finance Isabelle Jacques on the issue.
Jacques said that freezing accounts had the purpose of helping to stop an illegal activity and to act as a deterrent by depriving a person of access to their funds.
Cameron asked if Jacques appreciated there is a move to a “different level” when going to the “deterrent mode” since it affects more than a protester.
“In the first scenario, you’re saying to the protester, ‘We are going to cut off the money you’re using to buy gas for your truck, or whatever.’ And then the second mode, you’re saying, ‘We are going to cut off your family’s money that they use to buy groceries and pay their rent, so you’d better get out of this protest,” said Cameron.
“Did you appreciate the significance?” he added.
“The intent was not to get at the family or to have of those impacts. That was not the focus, the focus was to be able to act quickly,” said Jacques.