'Freedom Convoy' donations frozen, could flow to Ottawa residents
The funds donated to the ‘Freedom Convoy’ protest will remain frozen pending the outcome of a proposed class-action lawsuit on behalf of Ottawa residents.
The parties in the case agreed to transfer cash and cryptocurrency to an escrow fund which would prevent the respondents in the lawsuit from dispersing the funds, court heard Monday.
That means the money, should the lawsuit succeed, could go to Ottawa residents and businesses affected by the protest.
"The takeaway is that we are taking steps to ensure that there are assets to be available if the class action is able to get a judgment, ultimately, against these defendants," said lawyer Monique Jilesen of Lenczner Slaght, the firm acting for Champ and Associates, which is representing Ottawa residents in the proposed class action.
"You want make sure, at the end of the day, when you bring a lawsuit that there is money that you can enforce a judgment," she added. "That’s why we have this freezing order.”
The total amount of assets being frozen was not disclosed during Monday’s hearing. But lawyers representing the plaintiffs say about $1 million of cryptocurrency will be frozen. The order permits to freeze up to $20 million dollars. The proposed class-action lawsuit is seeking $306 million in damages.
It includes residents living in parts of Centretown, the ByWard Market and Sandy Hill.
The judge hearing the case, Superior Court of Justice Regional Senior Judge Calum MacLeod, approved the order later Monday.
The funds will be in the hands of an escrow agent—a bankruptcy trustee firm—with the power to change passwords for the cryptocurrency accounts.
Henry Assad, the owner of Happy Goat Coffee and one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said he is pleased the court granted the order.
“I think it is a matter of going through the process to make sure that we get compensated for the loss of business that we had. It has been quite bad for a lot of small businesses,” he said. “This is one step forward and we will see if anything materializing from that.”
Assad estimates he lost $150,000 in revenue due to the occupation.
The lawsuit names convoy organizers as well as people who donated through GiveSendGo, the platform of choice for the protest after a GoFundMe account that had raised more than $10 million was shut down.
- with files from Leah Larocque, CTV News Ottawa