Critics are urging the federal government to introduce new rules for online fundraising campaigns after a fundraiser for this weekend’s protest in Ottawa against vaccine mandates raised millions of dollars – in part from anonymous donors and people using fictitious names.
Greens’ parliamentary leader, Elizabeth May, said the GoFundMe fundraiser for the protest convoy raises concerns about whether such campaigns could be used by large corporations or foreign state actors to circumvent Canada’s political funding rules.
“If this is not worrying, it certainly reveals one possibility that is very worrying, which is that you can not be a political organization, not registered with Elections Canada, but find the right kind of dog whistle and do a GoFundMe campaign.” she said.
May said she has seen GoFundMe campaigns raise money for worthy causes, but Canada’s laws have not kept pace with technological advances.
“The regulation of the online world is something (where) we are constantly playing catch-up, and this reveals an area that we should look at,” she said.
May said online fundraising campaigns should be required to register with Industry Canada to protect consumers. She said the names of donors should be available to officials even if they are not published on the website.
Follow the money: May
May said a consumer protection authority could investigate whether donations collected online go to their intended purpose.
“You want someone who confirms that the story is true and that it does not just take all the money from well-meaning and generous people and go on a cruise around the world,” she said.
The GoFundMe protest convoy campaign has raised more than $ 7.4 million since January 14 from more than 94,000 donors.
An analysis by CBC News of donations made since Monday showed that while thousands of donations were made by average Canadians or Canadian companies, more than a third of the donations were anonymous or made under aliases – names of other people or invented titles like “Justin Trudeau’s Conscience “or” Dump Trudeau. “
A number of other donations appear to have come from abroad. In the comments section of the donation page, some donors said they were sending support from foreign countries, including the US, UK, Australia and Poland.
GoFundMe says it is a violation of its terms of service for a donor to give their identity incorrectly. The company has not yet responded to questions from CBC News about what it has done about the fake names used to donate to the convoy’s fundraiser.
A fundraiser organizer has not yet responded to requests from CBC News for an interview.
Earlier this week, NDP MP Charlie Angus said people donating to a political protest calling for a halt to COVID-19 measures should not be allowed to hide behind anonymity.
Jean-Sébastien Comeau is the spokesman for Infrastructure Minister Dominic LeBlanc, whose responsibilities include electoral reform and political funding rules. He said the convoy on its way to Ottawa does not speak for the Canadians or the trucking industry.
“Canadians should exercise caution before donating to a cause, political or otherwise, to make sure the funds will serve the intended purpose,” he said. “Peaceful protest is an essential part of our democracy, but there is no room for malicious or violent rhetoric.”
Comeau declined to answer when asked if new rules should be introduced for anonymous contributions to online fundraisers for political purposes.
The Conservative Party declined to comment.
Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch, said anonymous donations to political causes are worrying.
“Anonymous donations to citizen groups are a problem because they can come from a company, a large company or another organization, and that makes the citizen group a front for that company or other organization,” he said. “Voters have the right to know if a company or other organization is actually bankrolling a group that claims to be citizen-supported.”
Conacher said the GoFundMe campaigns for political campaigns should be registered under the Lobbying Act and the source of the money should be disclosed in the lobbyist register. He said he would also like to see the election law reviewed and the issue investigated by the House of Commons’ ethics committee.
“We need to know who is funding any lobbying effort or any kind of advocacy, whether it is for a protest or traditional lobbying,” he said.
Elizabeth Thompson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org