Thank you very much, Chair, members and senators.
The work of this committee is very important and I hope my appearance will be helpful.
I am accompanied here today by the women of Finance, Isabelle Jacques, the assistant deputy minister; Jenifer Aitken, also assistant deputy minister of the law branch; and Sarah Paquet, the CEO of the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada.
My ministerial colleagues have explained how the Emergencies Act was invoked and carried out. I'm here to speak about the economic costs of the occupation and blockade and the measures carried out under the emergency economic measures order.
It was just three months ago that we saw the end of the blockades of key border crossings and the occupation of our nation's capital, which were doing great damage to Canada's economy and to our reputation as a reliable trading partner.
Tens of millions of dollars in daily trade were disrupted due to the blockades at border crossings. According to StatsCan, in Coutts, Alberta, about $48 million in daily trade was affected by the blockades. In Emerson, Manitoba, about $73 million in daily trade was affected by the blockade.
The blockade of the Ambassador Bridge affected about $390 million in trade each day. This bridge supports 30% of all trade by road between Canada and the United States.
The world's confidence in Canada as an investment destination was being undermined. We fought fiercely to protect Canada's privileged trading relationship with the United States during the NAFTA negotiations and in the face of the illegal and unjustified section 232 tariffs. We could not allow that hard-won success to be compromised, and we could not allow the livelihoods of Canadian workers to continue to be threatened just as we were all working so hard to recover from the economic damage caused by COVID-19.
And so, on Monday, February 14, more than two weeks after the occupation and blockades began, the Government of Canada invoked the Emergencies Act as a last resort to restore public order.
In the context of that necessary measure, the Emergency Economic Measures Order came into force on February 15 and introduced a number of temporary financial measures.
As a result of the blockades, on February 23, the government revoked the state of emergency declaration under the Emergencies Act as well as all temporary measures provided for under the Emergency Measures Regulations and the Emergency Economic Measures Order.
Madam Chair, I would like to explain the temporary measures provided for under the order and to show why the implementation of those measures was necessary and effective.
The order contains measures designed to limit financing of the illegal activities that led to the state of emergency, that is to say the funding from various organizations and individuals.
These measures meant that Canadian financial service providers—not the Government of Canada—were required, without the need for a court order, to freeze or suspend the account of an individual or business participating in the blockades, and to refuse to provide service or to facilitate any transaction related to funding the illegal blockades and occupation. In practice, they did so based either on information they received from law enforcement agencies authorized to be disclosed by the emergency economic measures order, or on information collected from their own internal processes.
I'd like to emphasize a very critical point here, that financial service providers made these decisions independently. There was no political direction.
As of February 21, during the period when the order was active, enforcement action under the emergency economic measures order had culminated in the freezing of approximately 280 financial products, such as savings and chequing accounts, credit cards, and lines of credit for a total of approximately $8 million, including $3.8 million from a payment processor. Further, 170 Bitcoin addresses were identified and shared with virtual currency exchangers.
Law enforcement agencies were authorized to provide information to Canadian financial service providers. This included the identity of persons and entities believed to be participating in illegal blockades. If the law enforcement agencies were satisfied, this disclosure would help financial service providers apply the order.
For their part, Canadian financial service providers were directed to review their relationships with anyone involved in the blockades on an ongoing basis and to report the existence of related property and transactions to the RCMP or CSIS.
Madam Chair, as the government said at the time, and has proved to be the case, these measures were temporary.