OTTAWA — The co-founder of GiveSendGo, a crowdfunding platform used by protesters who blockaded the national capital, testified Thursday to being OK with hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan and Proud Boys fundraising on the site, so long as it was legal.
The statement emerged from one of the many testy exchanges between MPs on a parliamentary committee and Jacob Wells and Heather Wilson, siblings who founded the U.S.-based site they describe as Christian.
The platform became the vehicle used by organizers of a weeks-long protest in downtown Ottawa last month after GoFundMe cancelled an earlier campaign that raked in more than $10 million.
That decision came after GoFundMe consulted with police in Ottawa about the protest, company president Juan Benitez told the committee separately on Thursday.
Local leaders described the protest as an “occupation” because demonstrators in big rigs blocked street access around Parliament Hill and honked incessantly, causing headaches for local residents.
There were also reports of local businesses facing harassment by those involved and concerns raised over some protesters displaying swastikas and other Nazi symbols.
MPs pressed the GiveSendGo founders for allowing protest organizers to use their site to raise millions of dollars after the city of Ottawa declared a state of emergency over the situation.
Wilson said she believes it was wrong of GoFundMe to pull the plug on the initial fundraiser and said many of the campaigns they host turn to them after being removed due to “political beliefs.”
She also questioned why the federal Liberal government didn’t reach out directly to GiveSendGo with concerns about the site facilitating funding. Wilson said the information they were receiving about the situation was “hearsay” from media reports.
“I really believe that if Trudeau had just come out and spoken with the truckers when they got there, a lot this would have been avoided,” she added.
Wells said most of the donations made were under $100 and confirmed that roughly 60 per cent of the money originated from Canada, while about 40 per cent came from the United States.
He told MPs he saw the protest as being “largely peaceful” and felt there were efforts by what he called a “fringe percentage” of the group to ruin it.