A leaked database of donations made to Canadian truckers protesting against vaccine mandates has listed hundreds of Australians among the convoy’s supporters.
- The leaked data suggests more than 500 Australians donated to the fundraiser for the Canadian protesters
- The largest Australian donation was from a Melbourne woman who gave $US1,300 ($1,817)
- The money was raised on GiveSendGo, a Christian fundraising platform which has previously been used to fundraise for campaigns related to the January 2021 attack on the US Capitol
The Canadian protest has caused global consternation after it brought Ottawa to a standstill and inspired similar events in New Zealand and Australia.
The Canadian government has expressed particular concern about the role of overseas fundraising in sustaining the convoy.
A fundraiser on the self-styled Christian crowdfunding website GiveSendGo raised more than $US8 million for the Canadian protesters, with $US33,734 USD ($47,319) of this coming from donors who are listed as being in Australia.
On Monday, the GiveSendGo website was taken over by anonymous hackers and a spreadsheet was leaked containing the details of almost 93,000 donations.
The dataset lists individual names, email addresses, donation amounts and postcodes as well as messages of support for the Canadian convoy, such as: “Fighting with you all the way from Australia” and “Sending full support from our family here in Australia”.
The ABC contacted several Australians on the list who confirmed they had made payment to the fundraising campaign. On Wednesday Australian time, GiveSendGo confirmed on Twitter that its website had been breached.
The ABC confirmed the highest single donor on the Australian list to be a Melbourne woman who contributed $US1,300 ($1,817).
The woman, who did not wish to be identified, said she had family and friends who had lost their jobs due to vaccine mandates.
She said when she saw what was happening in Canada, she felt compelled to act.
“I haven’t got much, but I wanted to donate as much as I could on principle,” she told the ABC.
“I went to the Canberra protests over the weekend and do you know how exhausting it is to drive for eight hours?”
She said she couldn’t imagine truckers in Canada being able to sit in their trucks for days, and wanted to support them with food and necessities while they were unable to work.
The trucker-led movement has occupied parts of central Ottawa since late January and blocked several US border crossings.
The Melbourne woman said she was trying to get a refund on her donation after her details were leaked.
Millions in donations for the Canadian protest were initially raised on crowdfunding website GoFundMe, but the platform cancelled the fundraiser in early February, saying in a statement it had received evidence from law enforcement “that the previously peaceful demonstration [had] become an occupation, with police reports of violence and other unlawful activity”.
Donors then moved to GiveSendGo, which said on social media on February 11 it would resist efforts from the Canadian government to halt the flow of funds.
Australian donations dwarfed by the US and Canada
An ABC analysis of the dataset found donations listed as being from Canada and the US contributed 51 per cent and 43 per cent of total funds raised respectively.
Some donors from the United States and Canada gave significant individual donations: The New York Times reported that a donation of $US90,000 ($125,776) was attributed in the data to American software billionaire Thomas Siebel.
Although Australia represented the fourth-highest overall number of contributors with 588 listed donations amounting to $US33,734 USD ($47,319), they accounted for just under 0.4 per cent of total contributions.
The median Australian donation was $US38 ($53), below the global median of $US50 ($70).
About 130 donations of $US100 ($140) or more were attributed to Australians.
Simon Copland, a researcher at the Australian National University (ANU), said many Australians — such as the thousands who attended the Canberra convoys over the past few weeks — were eager to find others who had a “shared sense of what’s going on in the world”.
“There are a lot of motivations about why people might participate or donate to these movements,” he said.
“What’s happened in the past two years with lockdowns, people losing their jobs, feeling a complete loss of community … a lot of people are feeling they’re on the edge of society.”
The Melbourne donor shared a similar sentiment, saying she often looked to the United States for “leadership”.
Fundraising for the Australian convoy protests use similar tools
Australian contributions to the Canadian convoy via GiveSendGo demonstrate how global such movements have become, facilitated by online communities that share information about financial techniques and opportunities as well as ideology.
Australian far-right groups have also solicited donations using online payment tools and crowdfunding, as well as via cryptocurrencies, fuelling concerns about online platforms facilitating extremism.
GiveSendGo has become the “go-to” among American nationalist movements and extreme religious groups, according to independent researcher into far-right extremism Kaz Ross.
In early 2021, a data breach revealed how the website had been used by groups including the Proud Boys to solicit funds, including for events related to the January 6, 2021, insurrection, as well as for more typical campaigns such as medical bills and religious missions.
“It hasn’t permeated to the same extent here in Australia, but after the convoy, that’s where people were headed,” she said.
GiveSendGo has previously said it did not condone violence in any form.
Organisers of the recent protests in Canberra, which were inspired by the Canadian convoy, also asked for financial support using a range of online tools including crowdfunding platforms and payment processors, such as PayPal.
Online fundraisers for the Australian convoy also faced disruption.
The ABC reported last month that a GoFundMe crowdfunding page that raised more than $160,000 for the Australian convoy had been frozen by the company over concerns about how donations would be distributed. The fundraiser was eventually cancelled and money refunded.
Another GoFundMe page for the Canberra protest raised just over $11,000 for “fuel and food”, but is currently paused and under review by the company.
Meanwhile, an Australian fundraiser on GiveSendGo raised at least $8,000 to “help the truckers and all Aussies standing strong at the capital!” It has since been removed from the website. It is unclear why or if the money was able to be cashed out.
On Tuesday Australian time, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act for the first time in the country’s history, giving the government special powers to deal with the convoy protests, including to demand crowdfunding platforms and payment service providers register with Canada’s financial intelligence agency, meaning they must report large and suspicious transactions.
“We are making these changes because we know that these platforms are being used to support illegal blockades and illegal activity which is damaging the Canadian economy,” Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said.
GiveSendGo has been contacted for comment.