GiveSendGo co-founders blame government for not telling them it had issues with ‘Freedom Convoy’ blockades

GoFundMe’s president and general counsel speak before the House of Commons public safety and national security committee

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OTTAWA – The founders of Christian crowdfunding site GiveSendGo that helped collect over $ 12 million for so-called Freedom Convoy demonstrators blamed the federal government for not telling them it had issues with the blockades.

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“We were doing our business, allowing people to raise funds on GiveSendGo. Your government found issue with it, but yet they would not come to us and tell us they found issues, ”platform co-founder Heather Wilson told members of the federal public safety and national security committee Thursday.

“I think it’s a two-party act. The Bible speaks to this, that when you have an issue with somebody you go talk to them and you resolve it, ”she added.

GiveSendGo’s fundraising campaign for the Freedom Convoy is still active and has raised over $ 12.36 million, though those assets were frozen weeks ago by court order at the request of the Ontarian government.

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Earlier during the committee meeting, officials from GoFundMe – the platform originally chosen by convoy organizers to raise funds before the platform shut it down – said they suspended the fundraising campaign after receiving “concerning” information from Ottawa City and police officials.

Wilson’s brother and GiveSendGo co-founder Jacob Wells said they were never contacted by either government or law enforcement agencies after the convoy fundraising campaigns began.

He then added that the site was receiving an “unprecedented” amount of traffic at the time, including an “inundation of emails,” meaning that some correspondences “may have slipped between the cracks.”

During the hearing, Wells described the Ottawa protests, which police repeatedly said was “illegal” and an “occupation” that shut down major streets and dozens of businesses around Parliament Hill for one month, as “peaceful” but with an unsavory “fringe. ”

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“What we were seeing and feeling coming out of what we were observing was that this was a largely peaceful protest with an attempt to marginalize it by a fringe percentage of the group that was trying to tarnish the whole thing,” Wells said.

Later, Wilson insisted her website never “supported” the convoy, but simply allowed Canadians and “people around the world” to support it.

“We allowed them a platform to have a voice to do what they thought was important, which was to go to the capital to have a word about mandates that were going on,” she added.

The testiest exchange between MPs and GiveSendGo founders came at the very end of the two-hour meeting, when Liberal MP Pam Damoff asked them if they would allow organizations like the Klu Klux Klan to fundraise with them in the name of “freedom.”

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“If the fundraising activity was legal and it was legally authorized to have happened, we would allow people to fundraise,” Wells said. “We believe completely to the core of our being, that the danger of the suppression of speech is much more dangerous than speech itself.”

“My brand of Christianity is very different from yours if it includes hate,” Damoff angrily retorted.

Committee members also heard that millions of dollars raised on GoFundMe and GiveSendGo for the trucker blockades originated from outside of Canada.

GoFundMe President Juan Benitez said that 88 percent of the over $ 10 million raised originated from Canada, and 86 percent of donors were based in Canada.

That means that at least $ 1.2 million came from foreign donors before the GoFundMe campaign was suspended and then canceled on Feb. 4.

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GiveSendGo co-founder Wells confirmed that 60 per cent of donations to truckers on his platform are from Canadians, whereas 37 per cent originated from the United States.

MPs grilled GoFundMe as to why they ever let convoy organizers start a fundraiser on the website in the first place.

The company’s president and general counsel both told parliamentarians that an initial review of the fundraiser concluded that it fit within the website’s terms and services, so it was allowed to continue.

Benitez confirmed that the website released $ 1 million of the total amount raised for the convoy to one of the movement’s organizers at the end of January.

But following “concerning” changes in tone and message from convoy organizers, GoFundMe decided to pause the fundraising page just days later, and then return all donates and end the campaign after that.

“February 2 through February 4, we heard from local authorities that what had been started as a peaceful protest shifted into something else. They shared reports of violence and threatening behavior by individuals associated with this movement, ”Benitez said.

What had been begun as a peaceful protest shifted into something else

He later specified that the local authorities in question were Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and Interim Police Chief Steve Bell.

The website then decided to take down the fundraiser and refund all donations, saying that the convoy protest had turned into an occupation of Ottawa.

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