Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law)

An Act to provide for the taking of restrictive measures in respect of foreign nationals responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights and to make related amendments to the Special Economic Measures Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act


James Bezan  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Introduced, as of May 5, 2016

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-267.


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

This enactment enacts the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law) to provide for the taking of restrictive measures in respect of foreign nationals responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights. It also proposes related amendments to the Special Economic Measures Act and to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.


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.

Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials ActPrivate Members' Business

June 13th, 2017 / 6:15 p.m.
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Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to speak on Bill S-226, a very important piece of legislation. I listened intently to all of the comments made today, within the last hour. It is unfortunate that the government did not make this a priority to introduce on day one, because during the election everybody acknowledged the importance of Magnitsky legislation. I am not a member of the government, but I am glad the government is onside, supporting legislation that was introduced by the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman and Senator Raynell Andreychuk.

Bill C-267 was the bill of choice for the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman. He introduced the Holodomor legislation in Canada, the first western country to recognize the horrific human rights violations, with more than 10 million Ukrainians killed by the brutal hands of Stalin. We are here today because of continued violations in the same part of the world, where Sergei Magnitsky was brutally killed. He was imprisoned in a Russian prison, detained, tortured, and murdered in 2009.

There is a pattern here. Boris Nemtsov came to Canada in 2012. He was the official opposition leader in Russia opposing the Putin regime and the human rights violations, the torture, the poisoning, the aggression, and the violations, and he was brutally murdered too, just outside of the Russian Parliament buildings.

The violations continue in Ukraine with the annexation of Crimea by Putin and his regime. Sergei Magnitsky's murderers have gone unpunished. Each of us in the House has a responsibility. I start each day praying, asking God what he would have us do in the House, how we can bring justice to this country and the world. May we never shirk from that duty and accomplish what each of us has been called to do. I believe this piece of legislation, Bill S-226, is one of those things.

I am thrilled, but I also realize that this is a House where politics are often practised, and at times things are promised, things are said, and there are other things happening behind the scenes. I am thankful the government is going to support this bill. I have indicated that there is agreement on the amendments, but we need to pass this legislation, and we need to pass it quickly. It needs to go back to committee and the Senate. If we amend it, it has to go back to the Senate; if we accepted it the way it came from the Senate, it could be enacted. However, it has to go back to the Senate.

I know everyone on this side will support this bill, and I encourage everyone on the government side to do the same so that it passes, goes back to committee, comes back to the House, which can be done in one day, and then it can go back to the Senate so that this important legislation can be enacted.

I again want to sincerely thank Raynell Andreychuk and the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman. I have been on trips to Ukraine with them and have seen their passion and love for that country. The roots of their heritage are in Ukraine, as are mine; and many in the House, in all parties, have those wonderful roots. Let us stand up for human rights. It is not just about Russia's aggression in Ukraine; it is about human rights across the world and Canada being given the tools to enact sanctions that will be effective.

JusticePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 29th, 2017 / 3:20 p.m.
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James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to present e-petition 760, which calls upon Parliament to pass Magnitsky-style legislation. Petitioners mention Bill S-226, which is currently in the House at second reading, as well as Bill C-267, which is my version of the Magnitsky act. Both bills are known as the justice for victims of corrupt foreign officials act, or the Sergei Magnitsky law. As we know, the legislation is getting wide support.

In particular, the 646 petitioners that signed the petition are drawing attention to the corrupt officials in the Communist Government of Vietnam and the systematic and brutal human rights violations to political dissidents. Petitioners want us, as parliamentarians, to ensure we pass this important legislation so we can hold to account corrupt foreign officials and those committing atrocities against their own citizens.

Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials ActPrivate Member'S Business

May 19th, 2017 / 1:30 p.m.
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James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

moved that Bill S-226, An Act to provide for the taking of restrictive measures in respect of foreign nationals responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights and to make related amendments to the Special Economic Measures Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, it is indeed an honour to rise today, on my birthday, to bring forward a private member's bill from the Senate, from my colleague, friend, and mentor, Senator Raynell Andreychuk. The short title of the bill is justice for victims of corrupt foreign officials act, Sergei Magnitsky law.

In the last Parliament, before we rose and had the election in 2015, we unanimously passed a motion that was brought forward by our colleague who has since retired, Irwin Cotler. It called on the House to set up a Sergei Magnitsky style of law that would hold corrupt foreign officials and human rights abusers to account for their actions. It would prevent Canada from being used as a safe haven from where corrupt officials could launder their money, buy assets, and hide their families, essentially bringing them here to go to school, to live, and call Canada home, while back home taking advantage of their citizens and pillaging their economies.

The story of Sergei Magnitsky goes back to an individual by the name of Bill Browder. Bill Browder owned a corporation called Hermitage Capital Management. It was one of the first western funds to set up in Moscow and do business in Russia after the fall of the wall. Bill Browder, who was an American, now lives in the United Kingdom. He was able to go to Russia to do business and create a lot of assets and wealth for his clients.

After Vladimir Putin came to power, there was a crackdown on a lot of the western investors. Hermitage Capital Management, and in particular Bill Browder, was targeted for a fraudulent trumped-up charge of tax evasion. He had to flee the country. He was put on red notice on Interpol by Russia. Luckily, it was never acted upon by the international community, because they saw it as nothing more than a way to intimidate Mr. Browder. He hired a lawyer by the name of Sergei Magnitsky.

Sergei Magnitsky had risen up as a lawyer and was well recognized for his continued work on anti-corruption. He was able to uncover the biggest tax fraud in Russian history at that time. He was able to prove that corrupt government officials in Moscow were using this trumped-up charge of tax evasion against Bill Browder to pocket money themselves. It was $230 million that they were able to put into their own pockets. Sergei exposed that. He was arrested in 2008, held on trumped-up charges, tortured, beaten, and left to die on November 16, 2009, at the age of only 37. He is survived by his mother Nataliya, his wife Natasha, and his two young sons.

While in prison for 358 days, Sergei Magnitsky filed 450 criminal complaints against his abusers, and not one of those individuals was ever brought to justice. In the very bizarre world that occurs in Russia today, the Russian state posthumously tried and convicted Sergei in a Russian court on July 11, 2013. That is unheard of and unbelievable.

We have to make it clear that Sergei was fighting corruption in Russia and exposing a huge tax fraud being committed by police, judges, and tax collectors in the Russian state.

The kleptocracy around the Kremlin has crept into all departments across Russia. Bill Browder has written a book on this. He has been active on human rights around the world in trying to get Sergei Magnitsky-style legislation passed. The first country to come onside with that was the United States. The United Kingdom just got it done last month. The European Union's Parliament passed Sergei Magnitsky legislation last year. It is great that today we are debating Bill S-226 by Senator Raynell Andreychuk.

We need to first acknowledge the fact that the other night, while we were in committee of the whole, the Minister of Foreign Affairs indicated that the government will be supporting this legislation, with amendments. I thank her very much for putting her support behind this bill. It is a good piece of legislation. I understand that the government wants to improve upon it, bring in some fairness, as she explained it to me, and make a few technical changes. I, as the sponsor of the bill in the House, and Senator Andreychuk, as the sponsor of this bill in the Senate, will look at those changes. The best place for amendments to be considered is at the foreign affairs committee.

This work has been done for a long time. We have been talking about this in this place since 2013. There have been motions passed supporting Magnitsky-style legislation. Hearings were held at the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and at the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, which heard from expert witnesses from around the world about stronger sanctioning and bans for those committing human rights abuses and illegal, corrupt activities in governments in other countries. When we think about all of the work that has already taken place, there is no reason we cannot fast-track this legislation. I encourage the government to put forward those amendments as quickly as it can so that the committee can get its work done.

The committee has already produced a great report and I congratulate the committee on that report. I know all members on that committee, under the tutelage of the chair, were able to put together 13 strong recommendations on how to properly implement and resource this type of legislation. I understand and appreciate that we need to especially look at recommendation 8 on providing an appeal mechanism for those placed on the sanctions list by the Government of Canada.

If we recall, in its first form, this bill was brought forward by our friend and former colleague Irwin Cotler. I tabled similar legislation in this Parliament, Bill C-267, and felt I had improved upon it, because I provided a role for parliamentarians to play in both the Senate and the House, allowing committees to look at that sanction list every year to see if people should be added or removed based upon their actions and how situations evolve. Senator Andreychuk, in her version, took it even one step further. She has really opened it up to make sure that it has a strong global focus and concentrates on going after those who are committing human rights violations around the world.

The penultimate paragraph in her preamble sums it up better. It states, “And whereas all violators of internationally recognized human rights should be treated and sanctioned equally throughout the world”. I know there are some who criticize the bill, saying this legislation is just part of Russophobia. We heard from the Russian embassy yesterday, which said that Canada will face push-back if we pass Bill S-226, but we have to remember that this is not just about the corruption in Russia. This has application to other places around the world.

The bill is supported strongly by a lot of different diasporas in Canada. People keep saying that it is just another Ukrainian issue that we are rallying around. However, I have met with the Vietnamese community. It wants human rights abusers in the Communist government of Vietnam held to account for what it has done to its citizens.

I have heard from the Russian community. It wants democracy and human rights protected in Russia.

I have been meeting with organizations like Falun Gong. They want to see those individuals in China who have used the political system to arrest Falun Gong practitioners and then harvest organs and tissues from them after they have had them executed. It has turned into a cash cow for those individuals who are involved in that atrocity.

We need to ensure that these sanctions are enforceable. We need to ensure that the organizations in Canada have the ability to go out there and stop these individuals from using Canada to launder money and hide their families. That includes resources for the RCMP, the CBSA, and CSIS. Our financial institutions are there.

When we talk about the situation today, some of the human rights situations and some of the corrupt officials, we need look no further than the assassination of Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader in Russian. He was shot down on the bridge right in front of the Kremlin. His deputy, Vladimir Kara-Murza, who has been here and has met with the foreign affairs committee, in both the House and the Senate, runs the organization, the Open Russia Movement. He has now survived two assassination attempts on his life.

When he was here last year, what he said to the Globe and Mail in March summed it up best on what was happening in Russia today. He said that for all the similarities between the Soviet era and present day Russia, there was one major difference. While members of the Soviet Politburo were silencing dissent and persecuting opponents, they did not store their money, educate their children, or buy real estate in the west. Many of the current officials and Kremlin-connected oligarchs do. We we need to sanction those individuals.

The way it works today, and a good example is what is happening in the Ukraine, is that Canada, as a member of NATO, a member of the United Nations, a member of the OSCE, acts upon resolutions that are passed at those different organizations. Then we can implement the Special Economic Measures Act and sanction individuals who are tied to aggression, corruption and human rights abuses. They are targeted through those types of resolutions. Then we can also use the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to go after the travel bans that we need to implement to ensure those individuals and their families do not come to Canada and travel throughout the west.

What we are trying to do with Bill S-226, and something all parties support, is providing the tools to the government. We love to talk the talk on human rights and about cutting down on corruption. This bill would allow us a to walk that talk. We can, independently as a country, now sanction and ban those corrupt foreign officials who are enriching themselves through illicit means, through embellishing stories and embezzling money from the governments within which they operate, and committing atrocities, abuses and aggression in places around the world, whether it is in Iran, Saudi Arabia, or in China.

I ask that we move this in an expedited manner so we can get it to committee, where it can do the good work that it has done already on making the amendments the government has requested, and we can get it back to this place as quickly as possible and passed.

Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law)Routine Proceedings

April 13th, 2017 / 12:20 p.m.
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James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

moved that Bill S-226, An Act to provide for the taking of restrictive measures in respect of foreign nationals responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights and to make related amendments to the Special Economic Measures Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, be read the first time.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to table my colleague Senator Raynell Andreychuk's bill, Bill S-226, the justice for victims of corrupt foreign officials act, the Sergei Magnitsky law, here in the House.

Sergei Magnitsky was a Moscow lawyer who had uncovered the largest tax fraud in Russian history. He was arrested, detained without trial, tortured, and murdered while he was in prison. He died on November 16, 2009. It is in his memory that this legislation is being brought forward.

In May 2016, I tabled my own piece of legislation, Bill C-267, which was drafted alongside Bill S-226. By working together, we have been able to expedite the legislative process.

I believe the Liberal government must do more than talk a game when it comes to human rights. It must take concrete action. Bill S-226 would make the amendments, as has been mentioned, by imposing more sanctions on foreign kleptocrats and on violators of human rights. As well, it would empower Parliament, in both the Senate and the House through their foreign affairs committees, by giving them the power to review and report on how the Special Economic Measures Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act are working, and review the list to make recommendations on who should be sanctioned.

Corrupt foreign officials who continually abuse human rights and disregard international law have been using Canada as a safe haven. This must stop. Already the United States, Estonia, the European Parliament, and the U.K. have adopted Magnitsky-style legislation on a global basis. We have to work in concert with our allies to ensure that there are mechanisms in place to sanction individuals who are responsible or complicit in gross violations of international human rights or abusing their positions of authority.

This legislation has already been studied in the Senate and by the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, both of which recommend its implementation. The Liberals' policy of normalization and the appeasement of Russia, Iran, and others is not working and must stop. It is time for the government to do the right thing, support this legislation, and sanction corrupt foreign officials.

(Motion deemed adopted and bill read the first time)

Sergei Magnitsky LegislationStatements By Members

April 6th, 2017 / 2 p.m.
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James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Mr. Speaker, during the last federal election, all parties, including the Liberal Party, promised to bring forward a bill in memory of Sergei Magnitsky that would increase sanctions on foreign officials who are involved in government corruption and human rights abuses.

Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian lawyer who uncovered the biggest tax fraud orchestrated by corrupt officials. The Russian government arrested Sergei. He was tortured, denied justice, and beaten to death in a Russian prison.

This morning, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development presented its unanimous report entitled “A Coherent and Effective Approach to Canada's Sanctions Regimes: Sergei Magnitsky and Beyond”. Magnitsky legislation has been adopted by the United States, the European Parliament, and Estonia, to impose stricter sanctions on all corrupt officials and violators of human rights.

Adopting Magnitsky legislation here would further enable the Government of Canada to quickly sanction corrupt foreign officials from all corners of the world. This is not a partisan issue, but the Liberal government has refused to take action. I encourage government members to support my bill, Bill C-267, justice for victims of corrupt foreign officials act (Sergei Magnitsky law), as the bill their campaign promised.

Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2016 / 1 p.m.
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Dan Albas Conservative Central Okanagan—Similkameen—Nicola, BC

Mr. Speaker, “Canada is a friend, indeed”. Those five words, spoken by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, state a very simple truth. When one thinks of the many kinds of relationships two countries can have, such as enemies, allies, partners, and competitors, none of these words touch as far or as deeply as being described as a friend. However, can countries be friends? That is a great question and one I hope members of this chamber will let me answer.

Before I go down this path any further, I would like to inform you, Mr. Speaker, that I will be sharing my time with my friend from Yellowhead.

One of my favourite authors and speakers, in defining the very term friend, remarked that a friend is a person who will come and get us. He remarked that if he ever found himself locked up in a foreign jail and unduly accused, a true friend would, despite the obstacles and accusations, come and get him and take him home. Despite all the relationships he had built and acquired over a lifetime of business and philanthropic activities, filled with hundreds of acquaintances, partners, co-chairs, and colleagues, only one, perhaps two, would meet the standard of what it would be to be a friend. Sure, many would sympathize and say, “I totally understand your situation, and I wish there was something I could do. Please let me know when you get back stateside”. Ultimately, only a friend would come and get him, no questions asked, no matter what.

Friends will come and get us, no matter what. Friends are the ones who stand at our side during our most difficult times. They will also be there when we need to hear something, even if we do not like hearing it, and especially if we do not like hearing it.

We all know the challenges the Ukrainian people have faced and continue to face right now. Many of us were in this very chamber in September 2014 and heard the very dark assessment given by President Poroshenko that Ukrainian freedoms were being paid for in Ukrainian blood and that it was important for countries like Canada, nay, friends like Canada, to stand fast.

There is no way for Canada to simply come and get Ukraine, nor is there any way to change its geographic locale, which is of such strategic concern that Russia, whether we are speaking of the former Russian Empire, the later Soviet Union, or its current incarnation and administration, simply refuses to leave it alone. However, there are things we can do.

When Russia invaded Crimea, Canada was certainly outspoken, and this was epitomized by the former prime minister, upon shaking the hand of Vladimir Putin, telling him clearly, “get out of Ukraine”. The previous government promised and delivered monetary support, non-lethal defensive equipment, and satellite imaging for intelligence support. While I wish to say that all these efforts and more continue, alas, citing budgetary reasons, the current government has cancelled its satellite imaging. That is regretful and something I hope the government will reconsider.

I realize that some members will cite the continuing efforts to apply economic sanctions, and that is good. I encourage the government to do all it can on this front. I would also like to encourage the Liberals not to dismiss the good work of my colleague, the MP for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, with his Bill C-267, the justice for victims of corrupt foreign officials act.

With all of that said, I would like to now direct my comments to Bill C-31, an act to implement the free trade agreement between Canada and Ukraine. As we have said, Ukraine has many challenges: invasion; corruption; its fiscal and financial development; and meeting the needs and expectations of its people, who have clearly said, through marches, protests, and ultimately at the ballot box, that its future is to be an open, free economy and society, much like Canada is today.

The challenges are large. Let me read from an international monetary analyst, Mr. Benn Steil:

In April 2013, Ukraine was sporting a massive current account deficit of eight percent, and it badly needed dollars to pay for vital imports. Yet on April 10, President Viktor Yanukovych’s government rejected terms set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a $15 billion financial assistance package, choosing instead to continue financing the gap between its domestic production and its much higher consumption by borrowing dollars privately from abroad. So a week later, Kiev issued a ten-year, $1.25 billion eurobond, which cash-flush foreign investors gobbled up at a 7.5 percent yield.

Everything seemed to be going swimmingly, until May 22, when the U.S. Federal Reserve’s then chair, Ben Bernanke, suggested that the Fed might, if the U.S. economy continued improving, soon begin to pare back, or “taper,” its monthly purchases of U.S. Treasury and mortgage-backed securities. The Fed had begun the purchases the previous September in order to push down long-term interest rates and encourage private lending; their end would mean higher yields on longer-maturity U.S. bonds, making developing markets decidedly less attractive. Investors in Ukrainian bonds therefore reacted savagely to the taper talk, dumping them and sending their yields soaring to near 11 percent, a level at which they would remain for most of the rest of the year.

Ukraine’s financial problems had been mounting over many years, but it was the mere prospect of the Fed pumping fewer new dollars into the market each month that pushed the cost of rolling over its debt—that is, paying off old obligations with new bonds—beyond Kiev’s capacity to pay. Had the Fed stayed dovish, Ukraine could have at least delayed its financial crisis, and a crisis delayed can be a crisis averted. Yanukovych ultimately turned for help to Moscow, which successfully demanded that he abandon an association agreement with the European Union in return. Ukrainians took to the streets—and the rest is history.

Like many countries, it can be difficult to exist in a global market where investment can disappear overnight. The only protection is a thriving economy where domestic industries can build competitive advantage and compete internationally. Forming stronger, long-term, and diversified trade will create jobs and a more sustainable tax base that will help Ukraine.

Whatever members have heard, and despite what the NDP likes to say, Canada knows very well the benefits of trade. I mentioned the importance of the stabilizing effect trade can have on an economy when it expands trade. I mentioned an expanded tax base. When a country has a stable tax base, there are more resources for citizens for health care, schools, important productive infrastructure, such as a new bridge or airport, and quality-of-life infrastructure, such as advanced waste water management or water treatment. It also allows for institutions of the state, like tax collection and a well-resourced legal framework with authorities, that can help tackle institutional corruption and make them more inclusive.

More inclusive institutions are better equipped to help receive and share information with the public through access to information and better public monitoring of elected and other public officials. This creates a more open and productive society, and Canada can help by sharing its experiences.

It is also important for us to see that we have a way to go when it comes to transparency and making sure that corruption is stamped out. One only has to see the damage to the institutions of government, and not just to the Liberal Party's brand, when Canadians can plainly see either preferential access to elected decision-makers or perceived preferential access with cash for access fundraisers.

Let us celebrate our way of life here in Canada, but let us not be blind to our own conduct as we encourage institutional development internationally in countries that seek a path similar to Canada's.

I return to the words of President Poroshenko: “Canada is a friend, indeed”. There is much to support in Bill C-31. There is much promised and made good by the previous government, and to some extent, the current Liberal government as well. However, like a friendship, it never ends until we part ways personally or through death. I would suggest, in answering the question of whether countries can be friends, that yes, they can be. However, until we see the Ukrainian people through these dark days, stand firm with them, share with them our concerns, and help them through this trying time, only then can we say, in response to President Poroshenko, “Canada is a friend in deed”.

November 28th, 2016 / 4:45 p.m.
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Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

In the United States, there's a piece of legislation making its way through the system called the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. We also have an act being proposed in our Parliament, Bill C-267, the Magnitsky act. Is this going to be a means for a government like the United States to target these organizations, whether they're a Chinese or North Korean chambers of commerce or whatever, in order to apply additional pressure to coerce them into obeying sanctions or to constrain their ability to do business?

Is that something that's ever been discussed in the field of work you're in, in London? Has it been discussed as an extra tool that would be available? Would it be useful as a tool to try to contain North Korea's ability to get around the sanctions by using these illicit organizations and front groups?

November 28th, 2016 / 4:25 p.m.
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Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Nephew, since you have worked for the State Department, I have a question about your interaction with the Magnitsky Act in the United States. Here we have Bill C-267, a piece of legislation that was introduced by one of our colleagues. It's a slight rewrite of a bill that was proposed by Irwin Cotler, a well-respected former Liberal member of Parliament, and he's a well-respected human rights activist internationally.

What were your dealings with the Magnitsky Act? Does it work in the United States? What's the policy environment there? Is it widely seen to be an extra tool in the tool kit that policy-makers can use to try to put pressure on specific members of a regime in order to get some type of concessions during diplomacy? Has it served its purpose there?

Sergei MagnitskyStatements By Members

November 16th, 2016 / 2:20 p.m.
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James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Mr. Speaker, today we reflect on the life and sacrifices of Sergei Magnitsky.

Sergei was a Russian lawyer, an auditor, a husband, and father of two. He was a man who believed in the rule of law. Most important, Sergei was not afraid to stand up for what he believed in.

Sergei uncovered the largest tax fraud in Russian history and was subsequently arrested, detained, tortured, and eventually murdered by officials of the Russian government, seven years ago today.

The United States and the European Union have adopted legislation to impose sanctions, visa bans, and asset freezes on the people responsible for Sergei's death, as well as other Russian human rights abusers.

In May, I was proud to stand with Liberal and NDP members to announce the tabling of my bill, Bill C-267, Canada's version of the Magnitsky law. This legislation would provide new tools to sanction corrupt foreign officials.

Despite support from his caucus, the Minister of Foreign Affairs does not believe these sanctions are necessary. As we remember Sergei Magnitsky today, I urge the minister to reconsider his opposition and support Bill C-267.

JusticePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

November 4th, 2016 / 12:10 p.m.
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James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure and honour to table petition e-394, an electronic petition with over 600 signatures representing almost every province in the country.

The petitioners are calling on the House to support and pass my private members bill, Bill C-267, justice for victims of corrupt foreign officials act (Sergei Magnitsky law), which would provide the government with the tool it needs to take restrictive measures against those who are committing corruption in other countries, like Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, and other places, where they are violating human rights, where they are using their positions of influence to garner their own wealth, and often, we see, as we saw with Sergei Magnitsky, where individuals are thrown in jail, tortured, and ultimately murdered because they tried to blow the whistle on corrupt foreign officials.

With this, I hope I get everyone's support for Bill C-267.

October 26th, 2016 / 3:45 p.m.
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Dr. Meredith Lilly Associate Professor, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, Carleton University, As an Individual

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for inviting me to appear before your committee. It is a pleasure to be here today.

The presentation that I'm making today is based on my experience working with Canadian sanctions legislation and policy instruments as a former foreign affairs adviser in the Prime Minister's Office, as well as my current work as a professor in the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University.

My presentation is based on the brief that I submitted to the committee which outlined four recommendations for amending SEMA, the Special Economic Measures Act. As the committee considers whether Canadian legislation should encompass gross violations of human rights, I would note that the United Nations has long considered gross violations of internationally accepted human rights as an acceptable rationale for imposing economic sanctions, as have the United States and the European Union.

In considering potential amendments to SEMA to also address these violations, I offer several suggestions. First, as the committee is aware, subsection 4(1) of SEMA allows Canada to act unilaterally to impose sanctions in the absence of actions by the UN Security Council. This section of the act allows Canada to introduce economic sanctions in two ways, either as a member of an international organization of states, of which the Commonwealth would be an example, that has called upon its members to impose economic sanctions against a foreign state, or unilaterally, provided that the Governor in Council is satisfied that “a grave breach of international peace and security has occurred that has resulted or is likely to result in a serious international crisis”.

In 2014-15, that unilateral provision allowed Canada to act via an informal coalition of willing states, namely the United States and the European Union, to impose sanctions against Russia and pro-Russia forces over the crisis in Ukraine. Since the UN could not respond to that crisis due to Russia's veto at the Security Council, and given that Canada was not a member of an organization of states that was willing to act, Canada would not have had the legislative authority to act without the SEMA provisions as they're written. Through this example, we can see how SEMA provisions enabling Canada to act unilaterally have been usefully applied, even though Canada acted multilaterally in practice.

In considering now whether to add “gross violations of internationally recognized human rights” to the rationale for SEMA, it's my sincere hope that a similar logic would be applied before invoking its provisions. To be clear, while broadening the legislation in this way would give Canada the authority to act unilaterally, I hope that Canada would still follow previous practice and would seek to join a coalition of willing states to do so and would do so only in the absence of a recognized forum such as the UN, NATO, or the Commonwealth.

Canada has never acted in a truly unilateral fashion to invoke sanctions under SEMA. It's my view that adding human rights violations to the legislation should not be used as a rationale for doing so now.

My second recommendation relates to the implications that adding human rights provisions to this legislation will have for the test of when Canada will act unilaterally against another state. What I mean by this is that the existing SEMA legislation allows Canada to act unilaterally only when a serious breach of international peace and security has occurred and when a serious international crisis is likely to result. Therefore, by definition, the purpose of adding gross violations of human rights as a rationale for invoking SEMA must be to allow Canada to act when a grave breach of international peace and security has not occurred and when an international crisis is not likely to result, since gross human rights violations that could result in a serious international crisis such as genocide are already captured under the existing legislation. Adding the specific provisions to the act would necessarily lower the threshold for Canadian intervention against foreign states.

Therefore, if this new human rights justification for imposing sanctions is included in the act, then the act must also define what the new threshold for Canada's intervention would be. It could be, for instance, as broad as indicating that these violations have shocked the international community, or they could be much more prescriptive. For instance, the act could adopt elements from Bill C-267, a private member's bill introduced by the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman. That bill seeks to invoke SEMA sanctions for those who have committed gross violations against individuals who are either seeking to expose illegal activity carried out by government officials or who are seeking to promote human rights, democratic and other freedoms, people who we would generally think of as human rights and democracy activists.

Whether the committee supports that kind of rationale or something else, it will be necessary to identify a trigger for Canadian intervention, if Parliament decides to add gross violations of human rights to the rationale for SEMA.

A third issue I wish to raise stems directly from my experience working with SEMA generally as it pertains to the use of travel bans. I know that you heard from folks on this the other day. Changes made to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, or IRPA, several years ago allow the Minister of Immigration to use public policy considerations to deny entry to Canada by foreign nationals who have been subject to economic sanctions by Canada. The minister can also ban individuals identified under the Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, FACFOA, which I know you're also studying.

Separately and unrelated to economic sanctions, these public policy considerations also give that minister the authority to ban individuals who promote terrorism, violence, criminal activity, hate speech proponents, for instance, or those who pose a public health risk to Canada. While I'm not an expert on our immigration legislation, I suspect that the minister's authority to issue travel bans remains discretionary, due to this other set of considerations.

What this means in practice is that the immigration minister must individually approve each travel ban exercise under these provisions regardless of the rationale. When we come back to economic sanctions, this discretionary authority could result in inconsistent implementation of Canadian policy if the Minister of Foreign Affairs lists a foreign national for economic sanctions but the immigration minister either declines to do so or declines to do it in a prompt fashion.

Despite this potential for inconsistency, the two ministers and the respective departments can in practice coordinate their activities to ensure that travel bans and sanctions are implemented concurrently. Nevertheless, in my mind, given that there's no convincing rationale that the Canadian government would want to impose economic sanctions against an individual yet still allow that person to come to Canada, the government may wish to strengthen the language under IRPA to remove the Minister of Immigration's discretion in this area. I recommend that the government make travel bans automatic for individuals listed under SEMA.

Finally, returning to the issue of human rights violations, I want to highlight for the committee that travel bans on their own are already a foreign policy tool available to demonstrate Canadian action and displeasure with human rights abusers overseas even if the committee declines to recommend that the government take further action on human rights via SEMA.

Under section 35 of IRPA, persons can already be found inadmissible to Canada who have engaged in gross human rights violations. The Minister of Immigration can certainly apply these provisions more liberally in the future if he wishes. While I recognize that travel bans on their own represent a relatively weaker diplomatic response than economic sanctions, Canada may wish to issue travel bans early as part of a broader diplomatic strategy to gradually escalate pressure against a foreign state.

It would also be very straightforward to prompt Canada to issue travel bans alone unlike economic sanctions, which I believe Canada should impose in concert with other willing states.

This concludes my presentation. I'd be happy to answer any questions.

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

May 12th, 2016 / 3 p.m.
See context


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Mr. Speaker, today I was joined by Bill Browder, an outspoken critic of government corruption, to announce new legislation.

Conservatives have tabled the Sergei Magnitsky law in both the House and the Senate. Sergei Magnitsky was wrongfully arrested, tortured, and killed in a Russian prison.

Legislation and sanctions on corrupt foreign officials who violate human rights were supported by the three main parties during the last election. Will the Liberal government now stand against abusive foreign officials and support this legislation, Bill C-267?

Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law)Routine Proceedings

May 5th, 2016 / 10:25 a.m.
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James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-267, An Act to provide for the taking of restrictive measures in respect of foreign nationals responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights and to make related amendments to the Special Economic Measures Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to introduce this bill, whose short title is the justice for victims of corrupt foreign officials act. In the spirit of Iran Accountability Week, this bill would ensure that those individuals in Iran and other countries who are committing serious human rights crimes within their countries, or the corrupt individuals who are stealing the assets of people, both foreign nationals and their own citizens, can be held to account. This would provide the tools and mechanisms to the government to ensure it can put in place the proper sanctions with respect to the travel and economic activity of those corrupt foreign officials without having to do it on a case-by-case basis.

More important, it also provides both the House of Commons and the Senate foreign affairs committees with the ability to look at who is on the different lists for sanctions around the world on an annual basis and report that back to the House.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)