GoFundMe to Refund $10M of Canadian Trucker Donations After Fraud Probe Threat Trucks and supporters travel down Bloor Street during a demonstration in support of a trucker convoy in Ottawa protesting COVID-19 restrictions, in Toronto, Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)
By Charles Kim | Saturday, 05 February 2022 05:10 PM
The crowd sourced GoFundMe platform said Saturday it will automatically refund what is left of the estimated $10 million raised for the Canadian trucker convoy protesting COVID-19 vaccine mandates after Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and others threatened a fraud investigation into the operation.
"The update we issued earlier enabled all donors to get a refund and outlined a plan to distribute remaining funds to verified charities selected by the Freedom Convoy organizers. However, due to donor feedback, we are simplifying the process and automatically refunding donations," the organization posted to Twitter early Saturday.
"To simplify the process for our users, we will be refunding all donations to the Freedom Convoy 2022 fundraiser. This refund will happen automatically—you do not need to submit a request. Donors can expect to see refunds within 7-10 business days."
The organization paused the distribution of some $10 million raised through donations on the site for the Canadian "Freedom Convoy," an ongoing protest of more than 50,000 truckers, according to the New York Post.
DeSantis joined others in calling out the platform for "fraud" by not allowing protest organizers to withdraw the money.
"It is a fraud for @gofundme to commandeer $9M in donations sent to support truckers and give it to causes of their own choosing," De Santis said in a post on Twitter Saturday.
"I will work with @AGAshleyMoody to investigate these deceptive practices — these donors should be given a refund."
In a prior statement, the fundraising platform said it takes its mission to help people, organizers, and donors, seriously and remains "committed to operating with integrity, honesty, and full accountability."
"As the activity surrounding the protest evolves, we have been monitoring the fundraiser to ensure the funds are going to the intended recipients and that the fundraiser remains within our Terms of Service," the organization’s Feb. 2 statement read.
"Our monitoring includes maintaining close communication with the organizer as well as collaborating with local law enforcement. This process takes time and may slow down the withdrawal process. If the fundraiser does violate our Terms of Service or does not directly benefit the intended beneficiary, we will remove it from the platform."
According to the BBC, the $10 million in donations came from more than 120,000 donors throughout the world, including "many" from the United States.
While there appears to be grassroots support for the protest, Canadian law enforcement has called it "unlawful demonstrations."
"We want to thank @gofundme for listening to our concerns as a city and a police service," the City of Ottawa’s official Police Department Twitter account posted Friday. "The decision to withhold funding for these unlawful demonstrations is an important step and we call on all crowdfunding sites to follow."
Reuters reported that the convoy has "shut down downtown Ottawa," that nation’s capital, and includes protesters waving Confederate and Nazi flags.
The group has also been accused of smashing windows, threatening reporters and healthcare workers, and abusing "racial minorities," Reuters reported.