Protesters gather on Parliament hill as trucks continue to block the downtown core in protest of COVID-19 restrictions, in Ottawa, Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022. Canada's banking industry says it will follow through with the federal government's emergency orders targeting the trucker protesters. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Banking industry says it will need to diligently implement emergency orders

Banking industry says it will need to diligently implement emergency orders

TORONTO — Canada’s banking industry says it will follow through with the federal government’s emergency orders targeting the trucker protesters as discussions on how best to implement them continue.

The government published details late Tuesday on the requirements covering a wide range of the financial industry including banks, credit unions, insurance companies, portfolio managers and investment counselling services.

The Canadian Bankers Association said in a statement Wednesday that, as with other financial service providers, banks will “need to diligently implement the required measures.”

“Banks in Canada follow all applicable laws and regulations in carrying out their operations, in keeping with their commitment to protect the integrity of Canada’s financial system,” the association said.

Major Canadian banks have so far declined to comment individually and have referred to the CBA statement.

The emergency orders direct financial institutions to suspend services to both individual and business clients who they suspect are aiding the blockades.

They also require the institutions to conduct due diligence to identify accounts linked to the protests, and to disclose to the RCMP or CSIS any property or transactions they have identified as owned or controlled by those designated people.

Banks have been given protection from civil liabilities for actions done in following the orders.

Cryptocurrency platforms are also covered by the order and some, including Toronto-based BitBuy, say they’ve already received guidance on cryptocurrency addresses from law enforcement.

“We will conduct our own investigations and surveillance as part of our compliance program and report as required by the Emergency order and FINTRAC requirements,” said BitBuy chief compliance officer Torstein Braaten in a statement.

In a media briefing Wednesday, senior government officials said they are in ongoing discussions with financial institutions on the applications of the order.

Asked if financial institutions have been given guidance over which people involved should be targeted, the officials said it was up to the institutions to do their due diligence but it would make sense to first focus on key sources of funding since the intent of the order is to limit funding to the protests.

To have financial accounts unfrozen, either because someone has stopped protesting or because of mistaken identity, officials said individuals would have to reach out to their financial institutions who would then validate the information and take necessary measures.

On the insurance side, the orders apply only to auto insurance. The Insurance Bureau of Canada said Tuesday that the association and its members would work with the federal government to determine how best to implement the orders.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 16, 2022.

Ian Bickis, The Canadian Press

Banking