Peter Shawn Taylor for C2C Journal
“We’re in the customer business.” That’s how Angelina Mason, General Counsel and Vice-President of the Canadian Bankers Association (CBA), described her industry to the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Finance in March. It’s certainly an image the retail banking sector seems keen to promote.
Handed a list of clients who were allegedly connected to the truckers’ Freedom Convoy protest rally in downtown Ottawa the banks, along with other financial services companies, dutifully froze the accounts in question without ever publicly questioning the authority of the order, or the legitimacy of the list. Neither did they challenge the constitutionality of the directive in court, or at the very least seek legal clarity, as one might expect from institutions whose very business model involves safeguarding other people’s money. They didn’t even demand to see written instructions.
“Any of the banks could have challenged the lawfulness of the order made pursuant to the Emergencies Act, and applied for an injunction pending the hearing of the case,” says Queen’s University law professor Bruce Pardy. There’s no guarantee such a last-minute challenge would have succeeded, he admits. “But at least it would have sent a signal that they regarded their customers’ interests as sacrosanct and objected to being strong-armed by the government.” Doing so would have also laid bare the federal government’s role and intentions in this entire matter.