Not many of us had a showdown between the Canadian government and a convoy of truckers in mind at the beginning of 2022, but it’s a reality and is one of the most gripping stories in the world right now. Thousands of truckers and supporters have parked up at various points in the Canadian Capital and are refusing to move until the COVID-19 vaccination mandates are lifted.
The protest has been going on for weeks now, prompting the government to invoke the Emergencies Act. It’s the first time it has been invoked since its inception in 1988.
Funding and freezing
Supporters from all over the world donated tens of millions in funds through GoFundMe and other crowdfunding platforms only to have the funds blocked or seized at the behest of the Canadian government. One of the platforms, GiveSendGo, was hacked, and the details of over 90,000 donors was leaked.
Since then, the truckers have received over $1 million in BTC donations to 34 digital currency wallets. The Canadian government has ordered all financial institutions to refuse to interact with these wallets. This effectively makes it impossible for the BTC to be cashed out via regulated fiat off-ramps.
Citizens group wins court-ordered freeze of Freedom Convoy accounts, cryptocurrency: In an extraordinary hearing, an Ottawa judge freezes bank accounts and digital wallets with bitcoin and other currencies believed to hold more than $1 million. https://t.co/HGWEjrucSe #cdnpoli
— Lorrie Goldstein (@sunlorrie) February 18, 2022
Two sides of the story
As with anything, there are at least two sides to this story.
From one perspective, the truckers are peaceful protestors who have every right to resist draconian restrictions on their lives and livelihoods. This side views the Canadian governments’ confiscation of funds, including the closure of bank accounts, as heavy-handed authoritarianism and a desire to control opposition.
From another perspective, nobody has the right to indefinitely occupy a city and to cut off vital supply routes for Ottawa business, including a major trade route with the United States. Some view the demonstration as nothing less than an unwanted occupation, and they support the government in breaking it up.
Well, I didn't think I'd get called "authoritarian" first thing in the morning, but it is what it is.
Listen, if you're commenting on what's happening in Ottawa and you don't live in Ottawa, remember that you might be missing some key facts about this occupation.
— Mx. Amanda Jetté Knox (@MavenOfMayhem) February 15, 2022
This thread shows the whole thing from the perspective of one ordinary Ottawa citizen.
BTC to the rescue—well, maybe not
After the seizing of tens of millions of dollars through GoFundMe, BTC maximalists from all over the planet saw this as their moment to prove once and for all how an allegedly decentralized, censorship-resistant, anonymous monetary network could save the day in the face of what they deem to be tyranny.
It didn’t quite work out so simply. Ottawa prohibited all FINTRAC-regulated financial institutions from interacting with the identified Bitcoin wallets. Since FINTRAC is the authority that decides whether or not digital currency exchanges can operate within Canada, there’s effectively no way for the truckers to actually sell any of this BTC for CAD to meet their needs. Even if there was a way to cash out, the government has already seized multiple bank accounts linked to the protests and would easily be able to follow the coins to their final destination and do so again.
Couldn’t the truckers just use the BTC directly to buy food, fuel, and amenities from local Ottawan shopkeepers? There are two immediate problems with this.
First, BTC is practically unusable as a currency. The average transaction fees at present are $1.65, and on the tenth of February, with just a small spike in demand, the fees almost doubled to $3.38. Truckers using BTC to pay for goods and services would have to stand in line waiting for the transaction to settle and pay ridiculous fees for doing so.
Second, Canadian authorities are now monitoring the ‘Freedom Convoy’ wallets and likely wallets that donated to them. It’s probable that they’ll also make a list of wallets the BTC coins move to. Nobody knows what will happen to these secondary wallets at this point, but it’s possible that they, too, will be blacklisted. Canadian authorities are looking at this as terrorist financing. This is not a joke, and it could lead to serious criminal convictions for involved parties.
Once again BTCers want a showdown with governments
Dr. Craig Wright once famously likened the government to a large gorilla. He said that you can kick it in the nuts and get away with it a few times, but that eventually, the gorilla will rip your limbs off and beat you with the bloody stumps.
Many BTCers naturally have an anti-authoritarian streak, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s not very useful when it comes to winning over the government agencies that will be penning the regulations for digital currencies and blockchain technology. If they come to see BTC as a threat, there’s no telling what they might do.
Rather than working with governments and showing them how Bitcoin can work within the law and can further their interests as well as those of businesses and ordinary people, BTCers are once again poking ‘the man’ in the eye. Few have stopped to imagine what might happen if governments ban digital currency exchanges across most of the globe or outlaw mining within their territories. You can bet your bottom dollar that governments are watching events in Ottawa carefully and planning what they might do to either pre-empt or counter such a situation on home turf. Whatever else you think of all this, it’s just not a smart strategy for fostering adoption and winning over regulators.
BTC is an international embarrassment
Every time BTC is tested on an international stage, it fails spectacularly. From instances where it hits its transaction capacity and fees skyrocket during bull runs to Chivo wallets losing funds in El Salvador to a government rendering donated funds virtually useless with a few strokes of a pen, critics would be right to ask what the point of BTC is at all.
It’s now clear that BTC can be stopped. With a few strokes of a pen, Ottawa effectively neutered BTC as a funding source. While it has yet to be demonstrated that the law can compel miners/nodes to freeze wallets or transactions, it has now been proven that it can effectively make the funds unspendable in the real world. It’s probable that the donated coins will be deemed ‘tainted,’ and whoever receives them next will not be able to cash them out either.
Regardless of what your position is on the truckers and where you stand on the issues at hand, the biggest takeaway from these events is that BTC is an abysmal failure. Time and again, we see evidence that other than number go up, it’s good for absolutely nothing.
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