A business owner from the southern New Brunswick village of Sussex Corner has confirmed he made what appears to be one of the largest donations to the Freedom Convoy that has gridlocked the streets of Ottawa around Parliament Hill.
In a written statement Monday afternoon, Brad Howland called the protest “a beautiful, legal, peaceful protest” that he visited on the weekend.
“To see the love, peace, and unity that many of us have longed for, for a long time — It was an experience of a lifetime,” he wrote.
“This will go down in the history books of our nation.”
In fact, the protest has forced many downtown businesses to close and violates several laws.
It’s now the subject of the federal Emergencies Act, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked on Monday.
CBC News has reviewed information that appears to identify tens of thousands of Freedom Convoy donors to the website GiveSendGo.
The data, hacked and released briefly on its front page, includes names, locations, dollar amounts, personal email addresses, even the credit card companies used for each transaction.
CBC has not been able to independently confirm if the people on the list did in fact donate to the Freedom Convoy.
Howland confirmed to CBC News that his donation was $75,000.
A database from GiveSendGo released publicly lists that as the second-highest amount of all donations.
A sign supporting truckers was visible at Easy Kleen’s property near a Highway 1 off-ramp earlier this month.
Howland said in his statement that Easy Kleen has been in business for more than 40 years and has relied on truckers for deliveries to and from the factory.
He called truckers “salt of the earth people with the biggest hearts” and said the convoy is a rare opportunity to thank them.
“We are thankful to be blessed enough to support their efforts to do what they have to do in a peaceful way until the government removes the mandates to restore all our freedom as pre-COVID,” he said.
Records from the federal government show that Easy Kleen has received funding from the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program, set up to help employers who have “seen a drop in revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
It’s not clear how much the company received, but when asked about the subsidy, Howland said it was spent on wages at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020.
Howland has also donated thousands of dollars to the provincial Progressive Conservatives and the federal Conservative Party since 2018, according to public records.
Distrust of vaccines
On Facebook, Howland has posted support for former U.S. president Donald Trump and about his distrust of vaccines.
“They say the Democrats are worried about outside interference in USA elections,” he wrote in August 2020, in a post that was no longer public as of Monday afternoon. “They should be, from the country of Lowest of Kars we are doing just that.”
On Feb. 11, Howland posted that “a truck load of us” from Kars, a community about 50 kilometres from Sussex, would be heading to Ottawa.
“It is about time we act like we own it and show them who calls the shoots [sic] and determines mandates,” Howland wrote on Jan. 25, in a post that is also no longer public. “That is the people. Governments got people in fear.”
In 2009, Howland received a conditional discharge after he threatened the principal of a New Brunswick elementary school when they stopped daily singing of O Canada.
CBC reported at the time that Howland threatened to beat the principal senseless, but Howland said he meant it as a figure of speech rather than a threat.
“Other provinces adopted playing the anthem because of this situation in my life arose, which worked out very well in the end for thousands for children playing the anthem in their schools,” Howland wrote to CBC when asked about the court case this week.
In total, the database shows donations from more than 500 people who used New Brunswick postal codes, but CBC cannot verify whether those individuals actually live in the province.