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.


Lawrence Cannon  Conservative


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


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.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

October 31st, 2016 / 4:50 p.m.
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Prof. Clara Portela

Thank you very much.

I thank you for this opportunity to talk to the members. I hope that I can speak clearly and am sufficiently slow for the interpreters to translate to French.

My speaking notes are going to be very brief. Unfortunately, I have to mention that I was not able to listen to the presentation of Dr. Lopez because there were technical difficulties here. I apologize if I end up saying things that have already been mentioned by Dr. Lopez.

As a specialist in European Union sanctions, I would like to start by commenting on the comparability of the Canadian legislation with European Union measures.

The European Union has some possibilities, let's say, for imposing sanctions against countries where corruption is widespread, with the idea of actually punishing the governments that engage in widespread practices of corruption. However, it doesn't have anything along the lines of theFreezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act. There is no equivalent legislation now, and no equivalent legislation is under discussion in the context of the EU. Basically, there have been no demands coming from civil society or from any member states to put in place legislation that is similar to the Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act.

I mentioned that the EU still has the possibility of punishing government authorities, let's say, for corruption. This exists in the framework of development aid co-operation. As you know, the European Union is allowed to interrupt development aid on the basis of widespread corruption practices by government authorities. This takes place under the heading of “good governance”.

The treaty that provides for development aid from the European Union to developing countries includes a clause that explicitly foresees the possibility of interrupting development aid on the grounds of widespread corruption. This exists as an EU practice when the European Union as a whole is a donor, and it also exists in the practice of individual member states that are also important donors to developing countries, but outside this framework there are no measures along the lines of the Magnitsky Act in the U.S.

It is difficult to imagine that the EU will contemplate the adoption of an act of this nature due to the recurrent court challenges that it has been facing with regard to its designations. The EU has been blacklisting people under anti-terrorist legislation and also in the framework of its sanctions regimes against individual countries. However, these listings are subject to the scrutiny and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

The European Court of Justice has actually ruled in favour of the claimants quite often. According to calculations made by researchers, only 40% of the cases in which designations have been challenged in front of the European Court of Justice have been in favour of the European Union. In the remaining 60%, the claimants have been able to basically win the challenge and to compel the European Union to cancel its designation.

The European Union currently has a very big problem with blacklisting individuals. It is actually quite reluctant to expand legislation along these lines, because it has faced important difficulties in bringing evidence that could be made public to the court in order to support its cases.

Moving back to the Canadian version of the Magnitsky Act, which is basically the Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, this document actually puts Canada on a par with the U.S., because it is basically following a U.S. model. This departs from previous practice, in which Canada was actually not necessarily following the U.S. lead in terms of sanctions imposition, but was also coordinating with the European Union. We see that this departs from current practice.

To comment further on this act, what is good about this act is that it is actually a very targeted instrument. It allows for the imposition of very clearly targeted sanctions precisely because it focuses on individual designations. This contrasts with the practice in the case of the European Union, where state authorities are punished as a whole through the interruption of budgets support in terms of charges of corruption. To the extent that targeting is considered to be a positive innovation on the sanctions landscape, this act is actually very good. It's very good in terms of allowing there to be an effect on specific individuals without having any impact on society and on innocent bystanders.

My last point concerns the purpose of the measure. What do we actually want to do by freezing the assets of corrupt foreign officials and what effect is this likely to have?

The idea with this type of legislation is to make Canada a more hostile environment for corrupt officials, because once this type of legislation is in place and corrupt officials are aware that they have been blacklisted, they basically cannot operate in the Canadian markets. They cannot hold assets there. This delivers a very strong signal to them that they are unwelcome. They are personae non gratae in the country. This is definitely useful, because obviously it serves to single out and stigmatize these specific individuals.

We can also expect that this will have a deterrent effect on other officials who are tempted to engage in the same sorts of practices if they have any interest in maintaining assets in Canada or if they have any relationship to the country. At the same time, we should distance ourselves from the idea that by imposing these sort of measures we will be able to compel a behavioural change in any of the affected individuals.

Actually, we have to take into account the fact that even if these individuals resent the fact that they are blacklisted and stigmatized by a respectable member of the international community such as Canada, their priority is to be regarded as members of the group in power, or the elite circles, let's say, in their country of origin. If they find themselves in a situation in which all of their colleagues, associates and bosses, the other members of their circle, are part of a blacklist, it would actually be very suspicious if they did not appear on exactly the same blacklist. Consider the situation of person who has been blacklisted under the act and whose name disappears from the blacklist after some time, perhaps in response to a modification of its practices. This would put the person in a very delicate position in those elite circles if they're integrated in the country of origin. It seems to me that the moment somebody gets blacklisted under the act, we cannot expect any behavioural change at all.

What is important about this circumstance is not that the Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act should be believed to be an ineffective tool, but it is important to be clear about what the purposes and likely impact of this act will be, and it is important that this be communicated very clearly to the public, particularly to the Canadian public directly. Otherwise, the authorities will face the risk of being accused of putting legislation in place that is ineffective. Actually, this can be very effective. It will be able to fulfill certain important functions in international relations. In terms of criminalization of corruption, that should definitely be pursued, at least in my opinion, but we should make sure that no expectation is created among the public that this will actually change things on the ground.

Thank you very much.

October 31st, 2016 / 3:50 p.m.
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Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Thank you very much.

Professor Nossal, thank you for sharing your skepticism with us today. Indeed, we've heard that in fact the problems of compliance in Canada do impose significant resource costs on the banking system, on the different sectors that don't have access to consolidated lists to comply sometimes with sanctions. In fact, some potentially legal business is lost in simple avoidance because of the fear of violation of sanctions.

You brought up the Magnitsky Act. We have in fact been dealing with aspects of it for some time, even before this study officially began. I think we've been told that the Magnitsky Act isn't so much to change the behaviour as to ostracize and isolate certain gross abusers who are not caught in the Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act because they are not necessarily designated individuals. They are jailers. They are police officers. They are security people who have enriched themselves criminally and who look to take some of those funds and themselves and their families to safe havens in different parts of the world.

I think that when the U.S. Congress passed the Magnitsky Act it was in the hope that other countries separately would accept similar penalties on these individuals—again, targeted Russian criminal individuals—and that by shunning, they would send a message and achieve a purpose through that alone. I wonder if you could speak to the Magnitsky Act.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

March 24th, 2011 / 3:05 p.m.
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John Baird Conservative 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 LibyaGovernment Orders

March 21st, 2011 / 4:30 p.m.
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Calgary East Alberta


Deepak Obhrai ConservativeParliamentary 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 ActGovernment Orders

March 10th, 2011 / 10:30 a.m.
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The Speaker Liberal 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 ActGovernment Orders

March 10th, 2011 / 10:25 a.m.
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Pierre Paquette Bloc 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 ActGovernment Orders

March 10th, 2011 / 10:25 a.m.
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Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 10th, 2011 / 10:10 a.m.
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Carleton—Mississippi Mills Ontario


Gordon O'Connor ConservativeMinister of State and Chief Government Whip


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 DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

March 9th, 2011 / 3:15 p.m.
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John Baird Conservative 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 ActOral Questions

March 9th, 2011 / 3:10 p.m.
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Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario


John Baird ConservativeLeader 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 DevelopmentCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

March 8th, 2011 / 10:05 a.m.
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Dean Allison Conservative 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.
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Jean Dorion Bloc 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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James Lunney Conservative 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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Bernard Patry Liberal 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?