Good Friday Morning, and welcome to the long slog of American life without college or professional football available. Football is always an interesting tradeoff. My productivity without it is always higher, but is that worth it? Fortunately, hockey is here to keep everyone company, and there’s always March Madness. But with no baseball, problems are on the sporting horizon.
Fortunately, writing (and reading in your case, dear reader) is here. And this week, we’re traveling north to Canada to look at the insane regulations getting enforced in the Canadian banking industry. It’s wild. I’ll explain below, with links to follow.
Where you can find me this week
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[02/18/2022] Biden praises Americans spending more, getting less. – Conservative Institute
[02/14/2022] The student loan political football returns to haunt Democrats – Conservative Institute
Canada’s authoritarian response to the trucker protest.
What’s happening in Canada is insane. It’s hard for me to notice what’s happening in Canada and see nothing other than a tyrannical government. I’m ready to admit I have an American outlook on all things. Still, Justin Trudeau has lost his mind even accounting for that.
In case you’ve missed it, Canada’s capital has been under the throws of a trucker protest. The central point of the demonstration is over vaccine mandates and many other strict restrictions in Canada. WSJ has this summary:
Since late January, downtown Ottawa has served as a parking lot for hundreds of heavy-duty trucks, pickup trucks and other vehicles, operated by individuals who say they are fed up with the social restrictions and vaccine mandates meant to contain the spread of Covid-19.
Some of the vehicles involved in the Ottawa protest are adorned with Canadian flags, along with signs and slogans demanding that rights under the country’s constitution be restored—among them, the right to decline to get vaccinated for Covid-19—and that rules be abolished requiring vaccination to either work, travel or eat at a local pub.
I’m going to skip over the content of the protests from here on out. I find that less important than Justin Trudeau’s and the Canadian government’s response. Lest you think I’m being extreme in my view on this, I’ll stick to some official outlets in describing it.
In response to these protestors clogging up the ability of Canada to get business done, the Canadian government is pivoting to using emergency powers meant for terrorism or insurrections to go after the protest groups. The CBC, one of Canada’s top news outlets, describes what is happening. See if you disagree with my description. The CBC says:
Using powers granted under the Emergencies Act, the federal government has directed banks and other financial institutions to stop doing business with people associated with the anti-vaccine mandate convoy occupying the nation’s capital.
According to the regulations published late Tuesday, financial institutions are required to monitor and halt all transactions that funnel money to demonstrators — a measure designed to cut off funding to a well-financed protest that has taken over large swaths of Ottawa’s downtown core.
The government’s new directive, called the “emergency economic measures order,” goes beyond asking banks to simply stop transferring funds to protest organizers. The government wants banks to stop doing business with some people altogether.
The order says that banks and other financial entities (like credit unions, co-ops, loan companies, trusts and cryptocurrency platforms) must stop “providing any financial or related services” to people associated with the protests — a move that will result in frozen accounts, stranded money and canceled credit cards.
The Emergencies Act gives authorities the power to freeze the finances of those connected to blockades and protests, and the consequences could last long after the demonstrations end.
The government is also ordering insurance companies to suspend policies on vehicles that are part of an unlawful “public assembly.”
These financial institutions can’t handle cash, issue a loan, extend a mortgage or more generally facilitate “any transaction” of a “designated person” while the Emergencies Act is in place.
The regulations define a “designated person” who can be cut off from financial services as someone who is “directly or indirectly” participating in a “public assembly that may reasonably be expected to lead to a breach of the peace,” or a person engaging in “serious interference with trade” or “critical infrastructure.”
Banks also are required to “disclose without delay” the “existence of property in their possession or control” or “any information about a transaction or proposed transaction” related to a “designated person” to both the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).
I’m borderline at a loss for words. I’ve stared hard at the blinking cursor while writing this piece. Think for a moment about some of the prominent protest moments here in the United States.
Go back to 2020, and let’s say that Donald Trump ordered the Federal Reserve, Treasury Department, SEC, and other financial agencies to take actions to accomplish things like this. Imagine the Federal Government used anti-terrorism laws in banking against those protestors.
There would have been a massive outcry and allegation of authoritarian overreach. Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton wrote an op-ed at the time, saying the military needed to step in to restore order in some of the cities in disarray from constant protest waves. Restoring order is one thing. Targeting citizens like terrorists is another (sending names to Canada’s spy agencies (!!!) is wild).
And it’s not just the people in the protests being targeted in these actions by the Canadian government. Donors will likely get targeted, including those from the United States. The Wall Street Journal, talking to its banking industry sources, reported:
Law enforcement has since provided lists of names of targeted demonstrators to banks and expects financial institutions to flag transactions that seem aimed at demonstrators, the person said. The banks have turned their anti-money-laundering systems toward the task.
Apart from big banks, which are federally regulated, credit unions regulated by Canada’s provinces are also subject to the order, leaving protesters with few financial avenues that might evade scrutiny.
The issue of how to handle donations to the protests is perhaps the most thorny. Canadians and outsiders, particularly from the U.S., have given protest organizers millions of dollars in donations using GoFundMe Inc. and the Christian donation platform GiveSendGo LLC. Those platforms have been ordered to register with the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, Canada’s financial-intelligence unit. Banks must also flag accounts linked to demonstrators to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service, Canada’s spy agency.
[Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland] declined to directly address whether donors would be targeted, but the person in the banking industry familiar with the matter said banks have been instructed to flag large donations that came in the wake of the announcement of emergency measures this week. Accounts involved in suspect transactions are expected to be frozen immediately, after which suspicions can be brought to law enforcement, the person said.
In a separate interview, one of Trudeau’s ministers went on Canadian news and stated that if you showed support for Donald Trump, that could be enough to mark you under these measures. National Review reported that police had received instructions to arrest people. The police chief resigned, and the interim police chief began the task.
There was also a strange outage for several Canadian banks. Rumors spread it was a potential bank run, but nothing materialized. The outage could also be related to banks putting in place procedures for the new emergency powers. If a bank run develops, it will be worth monitoring the reaction by Canadians. That would be an unexpected wrench in the North American economy.
America vs Canada and developing a response.
I repeat, then, my original point: this is an authoritarian government. Even if you think vaccine mandates are needed — this is an excessive and heavy-handed way of driving that point home.
One of Jonah Goldberg’s points about Canada and America is that while we share a similar Anglo-Saxon background, we’re also different in every way. America is incredibly unique in this regard because our founders and pioneers were:
- The restless wilderness explorers.
- The rejects of Europe (including criminals).
- People who wanted their own life away from the government.
Canada is full of royalists to the British crown.
Australia, New Zealand, and Canada are all similar in this regard. They did not have the abrupt rupture with the UK as the US did in 1776. The United States rebelled — the others did not.
Fast forward a couple centuries later and you have two very different countries. Lipset loved to point out that in the 1970s both the Canadian and American governments told their citizens to switch to the metric system. The Canadians dutifully went the whole 8.226 meters for the idea, while Americans barely budged 2.54 centimeters. We’re ornery like that, God bless us.
I tend to agree with this point. I also admit my view of American exceptionalism causes me to watch Canada with deep alarm. If the US government did this, I’d be on the front lines seeking to get these powers removed. I’m open to creating legislation right now to prevent private banks and corporations from acting similarly. US law could treat banks and some corporations as private carriers and ban these actions on a public or private level.
There’s a form of woke capitalism seeking to accomplish similar goals to the Canadian and UK governments, just through private means. Jennifer Sey, a former executive at Levi Jeans, wrote a related piece this past week. She quit her job and rejected a severance because they wanted her to shut up and stop speaking her mind on what was happening in the world. She talks about the great depths of censorship in corporate America.
Anyone who has had to sit through corporate training of any kind can attest to this nonsense. It’s also something we need to avoid.
I say all that to confess fully: America and Canada are radically different, though sharing a similar ancestry. But even given that, these banking rules are extreme for any country. Canada and the UK both have speech laws that make my skin crawl. But they’ve upped the ante here and are targeting people, attempting to shut down lives without ever sending them jail.
It’s Chinese Communist Party-esque. It’s the monstrous leftist progressive state come to life.
I understand the reaction that says these protests shut down Canada’s economic life and harms individuals. There’s even a class-action lawsuit on that front forming.
But even with that, what did all these same lefties say in 2020 during the George Floyd marches? Property got destroyed then too. People were put out of business, many lost jobs and livelihoods. Journalists informed everyone it was all about listening to the cry of the voiceless because violence signaled that people were not getting heard.
How does that stick here? People are shutting down cities in trucks to get the attention of an unresponsive government. The liberal logic still works.
And yet, here we are.
I have many thoughts on these kinds of actions. The United States Congress will eventually have to pass common carrier rules for things like banks and other industries. A shared society cannot exist where we deny people basic access to the community. We’re also going to need broad legislation to protect privacy and prevent social scoring systems from developing in the West.
We’ll need a lot of legislation put in place to prevent American progressives (or their right-wing counterparts, the integralists) from ever getting close to this kind of power. Before the 2020 election, I said that I was voting for Trump because I saw an increasing need to tame the aristocratic technocracy forming in America.
After watching what is happening in Canada, my viewpoint is hardening. We cannot allow that kind of system to form here. It’s not conducive to a culture of liberty, nor does it portend a healthy, functioning central government. Canada’s emergency policies reek of a desperation that is detrimental to the long-term health of a society.
Links of the week
Lessons From the Viral ‘Crack Pipe’ News Cycle: The Biden administration rushed to deny claims by conservative media outlets, only to anger advocates of harm reduction measures. – Andrew Egger, The Dispatch
Spy world wary as Biden team keeps leaking Russia intel: U.S. national security figures get that information war is the new battleground. But “how many freaking times do they need to warn that anything may be imminent?” one asked. – Politico
Senate clears funding patch to kick shutdown cliff into March: Democrats agreed to Republican demands to hold certain amendment votes to avoid a government shutdown that would kick in at midnight Friday. – Politico
In Leaked Audio, CDC’s Rochelle Walensky Privately Confirms She Won’t Relax School Mask Guidance: Walensky acknowledged “limitations” of available studies but told a congressional committee “our guidance currently is that masking should happen in all schools.” – Reason Magazine
Down with the woke cartels: How key professional associations became a privileged cultural establishment – Samuel Goldman, The Week
P.J. O’Rourke was America’s greatest satirist and coolest conservative – John Podhoretz, NYPost
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire of the week
Thanks for reading!