The federal government’s effort to cut off funding to protestors who have besieged the nation’s capital and blocked key border crossings could yet trickle down to the investment industry.
Under an order issued as part of the government invoking the Emergencies Act to quell the protests, securities dealers, portfolio managers and investment counsellors are being swept into the effort to cut off funding to protestors.
The regulations require investment industry firms (along with banks and other financial institutions) to identify whether they are holding assets for people engaged in prohibited activities — such as participating in gatherings that aim to prevent trade, or to interfere with critical infrastructure — and to stop providing financial services or carrying out transactions for them.
The rules also require online fundraising platforms that deal in both crypto and traditional currency — along with payment processors — to register and report transactions to the federal anti-money laundering agency, the Financial Transactions Analysis and Reporting Centre (FINTRAC).
While the intent of the emergency order is clear, at this point its practical application is not.
On background, industry sources suggest that firms would likely be concerned with getting clarity on who is being targeted by the order and that they’re legally protected when complying with its demands.
Laura Paglia, president and CEO of the Investment Industry Association of Canada (IIAC), indicated that the industry trade group has yet to hear from firms seeking its assistance in complying with the measures, but said that it’s “ready to work with them if issues arise.”
The Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada said in a statement that it requires its dealer members to comply with “all appropriate legislation.”
“We are working to gather further information on the operational implications of the Emergencies Act for our dealer firms,” the statement said.
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.
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.