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.