Canadian Underwriter

No one’s auto insurance was suspended under the Emergencies Act: Inquiry Report

February 21, 2023   by David Gambrill

Police barricades around Parliament Hill in Ottawa after the Freedom Convoy protestors were cleared

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Police chose not to apply federal Emergencies Act measures to suspend the auto insurance policies of any Freedom Convoy protest participants last year, according to the Report of the Public Inquiry into the 2022 Public Order Emergency.

“The duty to cease dealings [with clients involved in the Freedom Convoy protests] under the [Emergencies Act] was not limited to banks and credit unions,” Public Order Emergency Commissioner Paul S. Rouleau commented briefly in a 2,000-page report released Friday. “It applied to a wide range of financial institutions, including insurance companies with respect to automobile insurance.

“However, those provisions were not ultimately applied, insofar as the RCMP did not distribute its lists of designated persons to insurance companies. Law enforcement officials were concerned that suspending insurance policies might make it difficult for protesters to leave, since they would not be able to drive their uninsured vehicles.

“In the circumstances, the RCMP considered that this would do more harm than good.”

Rouleau led a mandatory inquiry into the use of the Emergencies Act, which was enacted in 1988, but had never been used prior to February 2022. At that time, a series of nationwide protests against public health measures enacted to address the COVID-19 pandemic culminated in the so-called Freedom Convoy.

“The convoy was a loosely organized collection of groups who travelled across the country to Ottawa, entrenching themselves there for three weeks and demanding radical change to government policies,” as described in the report.

After several weeks, the federal government invoked the federal Emergencies Act measures to start clearing the protestors out of Ottawa, some of whom drove to the city in privately owned commercial vehicles.

On Feb. 14, 2022, Deputy Prime Minister Crystia Freeland announced the feds’ initial intention: “We are today serving notice: if your truck is being used in these protests, your corporate accounts will be frozen. The insurance on your vehicle will be suspended. Send your semi-trailers home.”

The announcement created some confusion within the property and casualty insurance industry.

Several noted provincial legislation governs the provisions to terminate an auto insurance policy, including notice periods. It was not clear whether the Emergencies Act trumped the provincial laws for terminating auto insurance, which include sending registered letters to policyholders.

Plus, it was not clear what conditions would be required to reinstate an auto insurance policy, as Bryan Yetman, president at First Durham Insurance, told Canadian Underwriter at the time of Freeland’s announcement.

“It’s not clear to me — when they say ‘coverages suspended,’ do they mean is coverage suspended while the rigs are part of the protest?” said Yetman. “What happens when [protestors driving the rigs] begin to say, ‘Okay, fine, we’re going to go home now, we’re going to vacate the city,’” he posed. “Does the coverage immediately get reinstated?”

Related Stories: Are Freedom Convoy Truckers Covered?  Are businesses covered for damage caused by the Freedom Convoy?

Ultimately, it didn’t matter, as Rouleau pointed out in his report, because the Emergencies Act was not applied to P&C insurance.

The Emergencies Act measures were applied to the banking sector, with whom police shared information about the people participating in the protest in two streams.

In one stream, police passed along information to the banks about protestors under criminal investigation for their activities. In another, they shared information about people participating in the protest. Regarding the second stream, if people left the protest, their information was not shared. Banks checked the information to verify whether the protestor was a client and, in some instances, froze their bank accounts.

“The Department of Finance also received aggregate reporting from the RCMP,” Rouleau wrote in his report. “Based on these reports, the Department of Finance has estimated that, in total, approximately [290] accounts, worth around C$8 million, were frozen….

“It is important to note that although approximately 290 accounts were frozen, fewer than 290 individuals or entities were affected, because in some cases multiple frozen accounts belonged to the same person. Indeed, one update indicates that the RCMP provided financial institutions with a list of 57 individuals or entities representing a total of 240 financial accounts that were no longer involved in the protests.”


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