Meet the Top 5 Canadian Freedom Convoy Donors
A BC shooting range owner, a twice-bankrupt Durham Region charity founder, a Donald Trump fan who owns a national chain of industrial cleaning warehouses and a former lawyer who now operates a popular lodge in Killarney are among the top five Canadian donors to Ottawa’s Freedom Convoy.
Together, these five individuals have donated more than $225,000 to protesters who have been occupying neighborhoods in downtown Ottawa for more than two weeks. They used the GiveSendGo online platform, whose list of donors was leaked after it was hacked last weekend.
The Star obtained the hacked donor data from online whistleblower DDoSecrets, a website that hosts leaked data. The Star has independently confirmed the identities of many of the major donors.
In total, more than $10.7 million has been donated through the GiveSendGo campaign, which said it was for food, fuel and shelter for protesters. Of this total, $5.5 million came from Canadian sources. Most of the remaining money, about 40% of the $10.7 million, was donated by Americans. (All donations were made in US funds.)
More than 36,000 Canadians donated, the vast majority for amounts of $126 (ie US$100) or less. There were a small number of major donations. Eight people donated $12,691 or more.
Trevor Farrow, a professor at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, said crowdfunding has become an essential tool for many social movements and protest groups that otherwise don’t have access to needed money. to pay for things such as legal advice.
As part of the invocation of the Emergency Measures Act, the federal government is now requiring websites such as GiveSendGo to report more information to authorities investigating the protest.
Farrow said the federal government is naturally looking at how the protests are funded. However, he warned that using a hammer instead of a scalpel when regulating crowdfunding could have a detrimental impact on legitimate protest movements.
The biggest Canadian campaign donor was Brad Howland, 54, owner of Easy Kleen Pressure Systems, a large pressure washing company in Sussex Corner, New Brunswick. The company also has offices in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta, as well as Cambridge and Concord, Ontario.
Howland donated around $95,000 to the GiveSendGo campaign, writing “HOLD THE LINE!!!” in the comments.
A die-hard fan of former US President Donald Trump, Howland posted photos of himself on social media wearing a Trump baseball cap. The profile picture on his Facebook page shows Howland standing in front of a replica White House press room lectern next to a cardboard cutout of Trump.
Howland declined to be interviewed for this story. However, in a statement posted on Easy Kleen’s website, he said he made the donation in part because so many truckers had used his company’s services and “the way the government and the media describe is not true”.
Although the protest-turned-occupy isn’t representative of the trucking industry — about 90% of Canadian truckers are vaccinated and working — Howland says he believes he’s got their back in these trying times.
“We thank them when we can, but rarely support them when they need it, and they need it NOW,” Howland wrote. “We traveled to Ottawa and witnessed the protest firsthand. They have a beautiful legal peaceful demonstration that overwhelmed us with emotion.
From 2008 to 2021, Easy Kleen has secured over $92,000 in federal contracts. The latest contract was a 2021 deal with Parks Canada for more than $13,000 in parts and equipment, according to federal records.
According to federal government records, the company also received money under the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy to offset pandemic-related revenue losses. The records do not show how much money the company received.
Data from GiveSendGo shows that a donation of over $50,000 was made by someone who entered a Coldwater, Ontario postal code. However, the Star was unable to reach this person or confirm his identity. Fundraising data shows this person made two donations of about $25,000, the first on February 5 and the second on February 6.
Ex-lawyer Holden Rhodes, who made his fortune when his auto history business was sold for $650 million in 2015, is the source of the third-largest Canadian donation on the list.
The owner of several outdoor resorts on Georgian Bay, including the Sportsman Inn and Killarney Mountain Lodge, donated approximately $31,000.
Rhodes, 55, added a comment to his donation: “Freedom first. Everything else follows.
Contacted by the Star, Rhodes defended the “Freedom Convoy” against negative characterizations by politicians and the media.
The protest “is hardly a ‘marginal minority’ as our Prime Minister has called people who believe in freedom,” Rhodes wrote in an email. “While there have been a few large donations like mine and more, most of the donations are smaller, which shows the scale and breadth of people supporting this movement financially.”
“While it began as a protest against the January 15 federal requirement that truckers prove they were vaccinated when crossing the CDN/US border…the movement has grown exponentially and, at its core, it’s about freedom,” he wrote. “As of today, 90% of all eligible Ontarians are doubly vaccinated — what more does the government want?
“The overshoot for the past two years has been staggering, but the past two weeks in Canada has been absolutely alarming for anyone who believes in a peaceful and free society,” Rhodes wrote. “Freedom is legitimately restricted by reasonable laws based on protections framed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I am not ready to accept a country without freedom for my family, my children, my friends, my neighbors and all other Canadians. That’s why I do what I do. »
Rhodes has made several political donations in recent years, both to the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. In 2017, he donated $1,200 to the London North-Centre PC Provincial Riding Association. In 2016, he donated $500 to the Ontario PC Party.
David Slabodkin, a philanthropist and former insurance executive who was found by a judge to have swindled an elderly woman out of her home decades ago, has donated more than $25,000.
Slabodkin, 64, now lives in Cannington, Ont., just southeast of Lake Simcoe, where he has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to local charities and founded one of his own, thanks to a trust fund created in his name.
The Nourish and Develop Foundation runs a food bank, women’s shelter and community garden as part of its poverty alleviation work in Cannington. In a statement posted on its website, the organization said Slabodkin donated the convoy with “personal funds” and is “in no way connected to the values or operations of TNDF.”
Slabodkin did not respond to emails or messages from the Star.
Provincial records show he made donations to all three political parties. In 2018, he donated a total of $3,666 to the provincial NDP, his Sudbury riding association and current MPP Jamie West. That same year, he gave $1,222 to the Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock PC Riding Association and another $1,222 to PC candidate and now MP Laurie Scott. In 2017, he donated $1,200 to the Ontario Liberal Party.
In 2017, Slabodkin sent $30,000 to the Wapekeka First Nation in northern Ontario after hearing about the suicide deaths of two 12-year-old girls. He later pledged $380,000 for a suicide prevention plan, but revoked the donation after learning the federal government would fund the project, according to CBC.
Prior to starting his own insurance business, Canada Protection Plan (which he has now sold), Slabodkin seemed to have struggled more with money. In the 1980s, while working as an entrepreneur, he declared bankruptcy. Several years later, he was sued by an 88-year-old woman after her granddaughter found his forged signature on a bill of sale that transferred his house to Slabodkin.
He testified that he brought her $175,000 in cash in a paper bag before she sold the Toronto house. Slabodkin later took out a $150,000 mortgage on the Lawrence Park property.
A judge ruled it was impossible to believe Slabodkin had paid the ‘confused’ woman who ‘could only read with the aid of a lighted magnifying glass and was hard of hearing’.
A judge canceled the sale of the house to Slabodkin and ordered him to pay $191,000 to the mortgage lender. A year after the judgment, Slabodkin again declared bankruptcy, with $569,400 in debt.
Dustin Sikora, the 40-year-old owner of an indoor shooting range in Langley, BC, donated approximately $23,000.
Sikora displayed the name of his company – The Range Langley – with his donation, adding a quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin: “Those who would give up essential liberty, to buy a little temporary security, deserve neither liberty nor security.”
Sikora did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
The range’s website states that it is “owned and operated by serving and retired Canadian Armed Forces and Law Enforcement.” The Ministry of Defense was unable to confirm whether Sikora had served in the Canadian military before the deadline.
Earlier this week, a statement about the donation was posted on the website.
“Our donation to the Freedom Convoy 2022 is our way of participating peacefully in democracy. For whatever reason, some may disagree with our beliefs and support for this cause. It is their right. We will always defend the rights of those who disagree with us,” it read. “We warn all Canadians to be aware of anyone who accuses their dissidents of being ‘dangerous’ and to use such labels as justification to take away their right to peaceful protest.”
Correction — February 17, 2022: This article has been edited to correct that Holden Rhodes owns Killarney Mountain Lodge. An earlier version said it was Killarney Lodge.
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