Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act

An Act to provide for the taking of restrictive measures in respect of the property of officials and former officials of foreign states and of their family members

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

Sponsor

Lawrence Cannon  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment permits, at the request of a foreign state, the taking of restrictive measures in respect of the property of officials and former officials of the foreign state and persons associated with them.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

March 24th, 2011 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

John Baird Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

When members are called smug, they all cheer and applaud.

As for the business of the House, I believe the minister responsible for the Status of Women has a motion that she would like to move after I have concluded my response to the Thursday question. Following that, without anticipating the outcome of any vote of the House, there seems to be an appetite to allow members who will not be running in the next election to have two minutes each to make statements. Following these statements, we will continue with day one of the budget debate.

Tomorrow we will consider the last allotted day in this supply period. I do not know why the opposition coalition is talking about ending this very productive Parliament to force an unwanted and unnecessary election. Recent weeks have led me to conclude that this is the most dysfunctional Parliament in Canadian history.

Yesterday our Conservative government achieved royal assent for the following bills: Bill S-6 to eliminate the faint hope clause; Bill C-14 to provide hard-working Canadians some fairness at the gas pumps; Bill C-21 to crack down on white collar crime; Bill C-22 to crack down on those who would exploit our children through the Internet; Bill C-30, R. v. Shoker; Bill C-35 to crack down on crooked immigration consultants; Bill C-42 to provide aviation security; Bill C-48 to eliminate sentencing discounts for multiple murderers; Bill C-59 to get rid of early parole for white collar fraudsters, a bill the Liberal government opposed but the Bloc supported; Bill C-61, the freezing of assets of corrupt regimes; and Bill S-5, safe vehicles from Mexico. What a legacy for the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.

The work of this Parliament is not done. There are a number of key and popular government bills that Canadians want. Next week, starting on Monday, we will call: Bill C-8, the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement; Bill C-46, the Canada-Panama free trade agreement; Bill C-51, investigative powers for the 21st century; and Bill C-52, lawful access.

Does the Minister of Justice ever stop fighting crime? He gets more and more done. In many respects, as House leader I am like the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Justice.

Of course, we need to complete the budget debate to implement the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, a low tax plan for jobs and growth. Therefore, Tuesday we will debate day two of the budget, Wednesday we will debate day three of the budget and on Thursday we will debate day four of the budget. We have lots to do and I suggest to the members across that we turn our attention back to serving the interests of the public.

While I am on my feet, I would like to serve those interests by asking for unanimous consent for the following motion. I move that, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Balanced Refugee Reform Act and the Marine Transportation Security Act shall be deemed to have been read a second time, referred to a committee of the whole, deemed considered in committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.

United Nations Security Council Resolution Concerning Libya
Government Orders

March 21st, 2011 / 4:30 p.m.
See context

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Chair, I thank the Bloc. It is a rare thing for somebody from the west to thank a separatist party. Nevertheless, those members were very co-operative in getting Bill C-61 through the House and is now in front of the Senate. The bill would freeze the assets of all the dictators who have stolen money. On that basis, I thank the hon. member for his party's rapid support. I want to tell those Canadians who are watching that there was unanimous support for that bill from all parties.

This morning we had a very extensive briefing by officials from both the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of National Defence. They discussed the legal aspects. They made it very clear what the resolution means. They made it very clear that no invasion was to be done. Invasion means occupying territory and that is not in the resolution. Protecting civilians is in the resolution and in rate cases protecting civilians requires ground troops.

The Bloc members made their position on this issue very clear. The UN resolution was extremely clear in stating that there will be no invasion. Today, President Obama said that removing Mr. Gadhafi was not the target, but rather it was about protecting civilians as the UN resolution states. It is quite clear that it is about protecting the civilian population, as the Prime Minister has also said.

I would like the hon. member to take that into account based on our briefing this morning.

Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act
Government Orders

March 10th, 2011 / 10:30 a.m.
See context

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Order. Pursuant to an order made earlier today, Bill C-61, An Act to provide for the taking of restrictive measures in respect of the property of officials and former officials of foreign states and of their family members, is deemed read a third time and passed.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act
Government Orders

March 10th, 2011 / 10:25 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, we were very pleased to delay our opposition day in order to fast-track Bill C-61. As you know, the Bloc Québécois has been asking for weeks, during question period and in committee, that the government freeze the assets of Ben Ali and his family, who live in Quebec, notably in the Montreal area. Just recently, Ben Ali's brother-in-law was conducting transactions without repercussion.

We believe that the government has for several weeks now had the means to freeze these assets under the Criminal Code of Canada and the UN Convention against Corruption, but passing Bill C-61 means that the government will have to act and freeze the assets of this dictator and his family as well as any others who find themselves in a similar situation in the future.

Let us hope that the Senate moves quickly on Bill C-61. I am anxious to speak to the Minister of Foreign Affairs or the hon. member for Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher in a few days and see what has been done. The Bloc Québécois is pleased to be supporting Bill C-61.

Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act
Government Orders

March 10th, 2011 / 10:25 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Business of the House
Routine Proceedings

March 10th, 2011 / 10:10 a.m.
See context

Carleton—Mississippi Mills
Ontario

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Minister of State and Chief Government Whip

moved:

That, notwithstanding any standing or special order or usual practice of the House, C-61, An Act to provide for the taking of restrictive measures in respect of the property of officials and former officials of foreign states and of their family members, be allowed to be called for the third reading stage today; that, during the debate at the said stage, not more than one member from each recognized party may speak for not more than two minutes, after which the bill shall be deemed read a third time and passed; and that the House then immediately proceed to consideration of the opposition motion under the Business of Supply.

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

March 9th, 2011 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

John Baird Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, my friend from Ottawa South was unsure what I said in the second motion I presented.

It was Bill C-61, an act to provide for the taking of restrictive measures. I just wanted to clarify that for him.

Freezing Assets of Corrupt Regimes Act
Oral Questions

March 9th, 2011 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, Bill C-61, An Act to provide for the taking of restrictive measures in respect of the property of officials and former officials of foreign states and of their family members, be deemed concurred in at report stage and allowed to be called for the third reading stage later today; that, during the debate at the said stage, not more than one member from each recognized party may speak for not more than 10 minutes, after which the bill shall be deemed read a third time and passed.

(Bill C-61. On the Order: Government Orders:)

March 8, 2011--Consideration at report stage of Bill C-61, An Act to provide for the taking of restrictive measures in respect of the property of officials and former officials of foreign states and of their family members--Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Foreign Affairs and International Development
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

March 8th, 2011 / 10:05 a.m.
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Conservative

Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development in relation to Bill C-61, An Act to provide for the taking of restrictive measures in respect of the property of officials and former officials of foreign states and of their family members.

March 7th, 2011 / 4:20 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Jean Dorion Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Perhaps we could introduce a motion. In the case before us, there does not seem to be a motion that requires a 48-hour notice.

The bill we are discussing today is extremely important. We, the Bloc Québécois members, have been demanding for almost a month and a half—I even did so at the end of January, in Strasbourg, at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe—that the government freeze the assets of the Ben Ali family in Canada.

It is important to adopt this bill quickly if it is deemed to be appropriate. Of course, everyone knows that Parliament is in recess next week . Everyone also knows that we are perhaps in a pre-election period.

For these reasons, I wanted to suggest that the committee hold an additional meeting during the week of March 7, in order to study Bill C-61, An Act to provide for the taking of restrictive measures in respect of the property of officials and former officials of foreign states and of their family members, and that the committee complete its clause-by-clause study during the same meeting. Mr. Chair, there are not that many clauses involved. I think that we are perfectly capable of completing our study.

March 7th, 2011 / 4:05 p.m.
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Conservative

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Thank you very much.

First, I appreciate the ministers being here on short notice to address Bill C-61, and also the officials. I know they've been acting quickly. They briefed the opposition members on Thursday and have briefed many of us this morning already on this technical bill.

First of all, I just want to say by way of review that we have a legal framework that governs our relations with other nations on some of these criminal matters. We've already mentioned the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act. There is also the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, and we have mentioned the Special Economic Measures Act, SEMA.

Those things normally govern our affairs, but we have seen a need to act quickly because of the rapid changes around the world. It seems that, for the pace at which things normally move around here, this has gone very quickly. While on the surface it looks as though it is quickly, I know officials have been working very hard analyzing what has been done around the world with many of our democratic partners.

Can you give us some idea how this legislation compares with what many of our Commonwealth or other democratic partners are doing?

March 7th, 2011 / 3:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Bernard Patry Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

You talk a lot about safeguards in Bill C-61. What about the safeguards for...? Can you give me the definition of a family? Where does it stop? You could have cousins, you could have.... Where does the family stop?

My second question is this. Let's say you have someone in Tunisia who is co-owner of a hotel, a big...une chaîne d'hotels. I don't want to name any one of them, but let's say it's 50-50. What's going to happen? You freeze the hotel? What's going to happen about safeguards?

March 7th, 2011 / 3:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON

Thank you very much.

I'm pleased to be here today to speak to you about Bill C-61, the Freezing Assets of Corrupt Regimes Act.

As you know, the Government of Canada is strongly committed to working with emerging democracies. These countries in turmoil need assistance, not sanctions. We must work together to ensure that states emerging from repressive regimes are given the assistance they need.

This bill, if passed, will allow Canada, at the request of a foreign state, to take rapid action to freeze the assets of persons who have been in positions of power in their home states and may have misappropriated state assets or illicitly acquired funds by virtue of their office or family connection and moved these to Canada. The capacity to restrain assets would extend to the family and close associates of such people.

This new legislation is designed to assist states experiencing political turmoil by allowing for the rapid preservation of assets. As such, the legislation would allow a country that finds itself in difficult circumstances the time and opportunity to make a request to Canada for the recovery of assets using existing Canadian laws. Due to the situation these states may find themselves in, their authorities may not be able to gather the evidence required to use existing Canadian legal mechanisms that govern asset restraint and recovery.

The proposed legislation is about preservation so the assets are not dissipated during the time it may take a state to put itself in a position to take legal measures in Canada. Bill C-61 will close a gap in Canada's existing capacity to assist a foreign state that finds itself in a position of turmoil with the restraint of assets.

The law in Canada, as enacted by Parliament, requires that certain preconditions be met before alleged criminal proceeds located in Canada may be restrained at the request of a foreign state. In particular, the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, which governs such requests, requires that a foreign state provide Canada with a restraint or seizure order issued by their criminal court ordering the freezing of specified property as proceeds of crime. The foreign order may then be filed with the Canadian courts and executed as if it were an order issued in Canada. The Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act also requires that charges be laid in the foreign state against the person whose property is sought to be restrained and/or frozen.

Canada's laws on mutual legal assistance reflect our commitment to assisting our treaty partners in fighting criminality while at the same time protecting the interests of individuals.

As I am sure you will agree, these legal safeguards are fundamental to Canada's criminal justice system. In requiring that a foreign state provide Canada with sufficient information to meet these safeguards, we are protecting the rule of law, a principle that is paramount in a free and democratic society.

Canada's proceeds of crime regime, as set out in our Criminal Code, also allows for the seizure and restraint of alleged proceeds of crime and their subsequent forfeiture. However, our domestic proceeds of crime regime also incorporates preconditions to seizure and restraint. Under our domestic proceeds of crime regime, assets may only be restrained if the following conditions are met: the assets to be restrained and/or frozen are identified; there is evidence linking the Canadian assets to an alleged criminal offence in Canada or in the foreign state; and there is evidence that the Canadian assets are the proceeds of crime.

Generally speaking, our criminal forfeiture system is conviction based. In order to obtain a forfeiture order, the law requires a successful criminal prosecution unless the offender has absconded or died. In those cases an application for criminal forfeiture of the tainted property is possible.

The preconditions of our domestic laws may be difficult for a transitioning state that is still in turmoil to meet. The information and evidence required by Canada may simply not be made available in time to prevent the assets from being diverted or depleted. The Freezing Assets of Corrupt Regimes Act would permit a freezing order without requiring the evidence of criminality or specific identification of assets that now exist under current law.

The freezing of assets would automatically expire after five years, although the period could be extended if circumstances warrant.

To ensure that companies are not put out of business while assets are subject to restrictive measures, the legislation would incorporate safeguards that would permit persons to carry out specified activities or transactions. Where necessary, it would also ensure that affected persons and their dependants have access to reasonable expenses.

We believe that the Freezing Assets of Corrupt Regimes Act will address the existing gap in our laws. We want to ensure that any misappropriated property or illicitly acquired assets are preserved in order to provide a foreign state with the time that is necessary to seek their return and make them available to the new authorities and the people of the states in turmoil.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

March 7th, 2011 / 3:30 p.m.
See context

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Foreign Affairs

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Colleagues, I am here to speak today on Bill C-61, the Freezing Assets of Corrupt Regimes Act. Recent events in North Africa and the Middle East have brought home again how quickly the political landscape can change and how important it is that we have the tools in place to be able to respond quickly and effectively to those changes.

In order to be able to support efforts at democratic reform, it is critical that Canada has the ability to ensure that misappropriated property may be frozen to allow for its return to the new authorities and people of the state concerned. It is also critical that we support efforts to hold accountable foreign officials who have misappropriated state funds or inappropriately acquired property as a result of their public office or family, business, or personal connections.

Colleagues, this legislation responds to those needs by creating a new and effective means to allow us to respond to requests from foreign states to freeze the assets of corrupt former officials.

The draft legislation would permit the government to freeze the assets or restrain property of foreign politically exposed persons upon receipt of a request from a state, and where the Canadian government has determined that the state is in turmoil or political uncertainty. Assets would be frozen for a five-year period, which would provide the foreign state with an opportunity to initiate the necessary proceedings to allow for seizure and forfeiture of assets situated in Canada. The time period is open to renewal.

Colleagues, it may be asked why we are creating new legislation instead of imposing sanctions under existing Canadian law or simply proceeding with existing criminal law instruments. If the United Nations Security Council has not imposed sanctions, then Canada can use the Special Economic Measures Act to impose unilateral sanctions. This tool, however, requires a high threshold to be met, namely that there has been a grave breach of international peace and security leading to a serious international crisis.

Another possible tool at the government's disposal is the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act. This act however requires a foreign state to produce evidence of criminal activity or the existence of legal proceedings or a court order in order for Canadian authorities to be able to act on assets situated in Canada. In the case of a newly emerging governing authority, it may be difficult to come by such evidence on short notice.

The time required to meet the procedural steps under the existing criminal law-based framework in situations where speed is of the essence could potentially allow the foreign national in question to conceal or deplete the assets in question.

Our existing sanctions legislation, while effective in addressing states of concern, is not the appropriate mechanism when the state in question is in the process of democratic transformation. In these cases, using the sanctions tool would punish the whole state and not solely the corrupt former regime. This would not be an appropriate response at a time when the Government of Canada and the international community wish to express their support for democratic transition.

Both sanctions in criminal law-based proceedings will remain available for use in appropriate circumstances. However, it is clear that we need a nimble legislative regime that will permit asset freezes in circumstances where our existing tools are not sufficient.

This new legislation includes a number of procedural and substantive safeguards. It provides that freezes are imposed for a limited period of time and automatically expire if they are not removed. It provides authority to the Minister of Foreign Affairs to recommend the revocation or repeal of an order or regulation if the person does not meet the definition of a politically exposed foreign person. It also provides authority to the Minister of Foreign Affairs to issue permits for dealing with certain property, exempt certain persons and property, issue certificates in cases of mistaken identity, and provide exemptions for reasonable expenses.

It is important to note in this context that this bill is about assets preservation, not seizure. The bill allows the government to help a foreign state, without bypassing ordinary due process in relation to asset restraint or forfeiture.

We encourage the move toward political, economic, and social reforms to create more free and open societies. We are working with other states to promote freedom and democracy in the region, and we stand ready to support peaceful and legitimate aspirations for democracy and justice.

Tyranny and corruption cannot go unchallenged. The Government of Canada does not want to say no to requests for help from emerging foreign democracies, especially when speed is of the essence to avoid allowing a former dictator to conceal or deplete assets that rightfully belong to his people and are needed to assist the state in its recovery from misrule. The government also wants to ensure that individuals who have misappropriated state funds can be held accountable for their ill-gotten gains.

This bill will allow us to meet these important objectives. We hope the committee can swiftly return this bill to the House so we can put this important new tool into place as quickly as possible.

Merci. Thank you.