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

This bill was last introduced in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2019.

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 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.

Elsewhere

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.

Votes

Oct. 4, 2017 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of 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

November 5th, 2020 / 4:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Can I ask you one last quick question? Why did the government use sanctions under the Special Economic Measures Act, rather than the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, when it announced sanctions in the last couple of months?

June 7th, 2018 / 1:05 p.m.
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Ihor Michalchyshyn Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, Ukrainian Canadian Congress

Thank you very much. It's an honour for us to be here, and we are very grateful for the opportunity.

We represent the Ukrainian Canadian community in Canada in all of our branches and member organizations. We have six provincial councils, 19 local branches, and 29 national member organizations. We speak on Ukraine and issues of importance for the community here in Canada. The recent census tells us that there are around 1.4 million people in the Ukrainian-Canadian community in Canada.

As well, we work closely with our partners at the Ukrainian World Congress and other ethnocultural communities in Canada. We work with the Government of Canada through CUSAC, the Canada Ukraine Stakeholder Advisory Council, where we speak about Canada-Ukraine relations. Also, we regularly meet with members of Parliament, politicians, stakeholders, and other policy-makers.

You've invited us here today to talk about the human rights situation in Ukraine. As we know, Ukraine is a country at war. Since 2014, Russia has waged a war of aggression against Ukraine. Crimea and parts of the eastern Ukrainian oblasts—or regions—of Donetsk and Luhansk are under Russian occupation.

Russia's war has led to over 10,000 deaths, 24,000 wounded, and over 1.5 million internally displaced people. Far from being a frozen conflict, Russia's war against Ukraine is a hot war, in which Ukrainian soldiers and civilians die every day.

In the parts of sovereign Ukrainian territory occupied by Russia, the occupational authorities have instituted a regime that systematically, purposefully, and methodically violates internationally recognized human rights. It's these actions that we feel Russia wants to hide from the world as it hosts the FIFA World Cup starting in mid-June. Our organization, UCC, will be part of a global information campaign to highlight the deplorable human rights record of the Putin regime, and we call on all members of Parliament to ensure this message reaches as wide an audience as possible.

In Crimea, a regime of terror has been implemented against the indigenous Crimean Tatar population, ethnic Ukrainians, and anyone who opposes Russia's occupation. The severe restrictions on and violations of internationally recognized human rights that have been documented include restrictions on and violations of freedom of expression; the right to the equal protection of the law; the right to a fair trial; freedom of assembly and association; freedom from torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; and freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile.

In April 2016, the Russian authorities banned the Mejlis, the representative assembly of the Crimean Tatar people. Since the beginning of Russia's occupation, there has been a campaign against the Crimean Tatar people, ethnic Ukrainians, and other institutions of both groups, and they have been systematically targeted in an attempt to quash dissent in the peninsula.

Illegal arrests, detentions, searches, and intimidation are commonplace tactics in Crimea. Over 70 Ukrainian citizens are illegally imprisoned today, either in Crimea or in the Russian Federation, on falsified charges. Many have been handed long prison sentences for no crime other than opposing Russia's invasion and occupation.

These are people like Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian filmmaker from Crimea who opposed Russia's invasion, and Volodymyr Balukh, another who is in prison for his views. Both Balukh and Sentsov are part of a group of people on hunger strikes, as are several other Ukrainian prisoners, in opposition to their illegal imprisonment. Earlier this week, on June 4, Russia sentenced Ukrainian journalist Roman Sushchenko to 12 years in prison on fabricated espionage charges.

Russia has consistently ignored the international community's demand for the release of these Ukrainian political prisoners. As one of Ukraine's staunchest international allies, Canada has a unique opportunity to leverage the G7 presidency to support peace and security in Ukraine and to ensure that Ukrainian political prisoners jailed by Russia are released and returned home to their families. In our letter to the Prime Minister, public statements, and numerous meetings with Canadian officials, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress has called on the Government of Canada to ensure that ending Russia's aggression against Ukraine will be a priority of the G7 leaders' summit.

Since the adoption of the Magnitsky act in October of 2017, the Government of Canada has had the tools to sanction Russian officials responsible for these violations of internationally recognized human rights. The government has not taken any action thus far against the Russian judges, prosecutors, investigators, security service officials, and politicians responsible for these violations. Therefore, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress recommends that the government immediately use the tools available in the Magnitsky act to implement sanctions against Russian officials responsible for the violations of internationally recognized human rights of Ukrainian citizens.

I will now turn it over to my colleague Orest Zakydalsky.

Sergei Magnitsky LegislationStatements By Members

November 1st, 2017 / 2:15 p.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Mr. Speaker, Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian lawyer, accountant and whistle-blower. While working on behalf of Bill Browder, he uncovered an elaborate tax fraud being carried out by the Russian government. For this, Sergei was arrested, beaten, tortured, and murdered in a Russian prison.

On October 18, the work of parliamentarians of all parties came to fruition when Senator Raynell Andreychuk's Bill S-226, the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, the Sergei Magnitsky law, received royal assent.

This legislation ensures Canada will not be a safe haven for foreign officials responsible for corruption and gross human rights violations. It is a tool to project our values abroad while protecting our own sovereignty.

Visiting Ottawa today is Sergei Magnitsky's widow Natalia and son Nikita. They are accompanied by Magnitsky's champion and human rights defender, Bill Browder. They wish to thank all parliamentarians for our unanimous support of Bill S-226.

On behalf of everyone here and in the Senate, I thank Mr. Browder and the Magnitsky family for their tireless efforts in defending human rights on the world stage.

October 23rd, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to thank our witnesses for appearing.

Mr. Westdal, I don't have a lot of time, so I want to go through some stuff fast.

Have you ever read Bill S-226, yes or no?

October 20th, 2017 / 2:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'm going to start with No Fly List Kids, and then I'll move to Mr. Goodis.

Mr. Fergus asked a lot of the questions I was going to ask. I just want to say that I look at your son, and he is about the same age as my oldest. I have three kids, and I can't imagine what you go through. You have my sympathy and support, as well.

I also want to draw a parallel. I used to sit on the foreign affairs committee. We completed a report a few months ago where we offered recommendations to the government on changes to the Special Economic Measures Act. As well, we passed Bill S-226, and it has received royal assent.

In that act, for cases of mistaken identity, we offer foreign nationals an opportunity to get off the sanction list Canada has. In the report the foreign affairs committee put together, we also say that, in cases of international sanctions, people with mistaken identity who wind up on no-fly lists and have their assets frozen should have a legal mechanism to seek redress. I find these two situations completely ridiculous—that we offer foreign nationals a better opportunity than we do for our kids here in Canada.

Mr. Goodis, you have been one of the public advocates against the proposed changes. There are extra proposals now, proposals for the proposal that was put down in July. Obviously, you are a seasoned tax professional. In your professional opinion, how does the series of consultations that the government has put out compare with past consultations on tax policy that Finance Canada has put forward?

October 18th, 2017 / 3:15 p.m.
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Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Rideau Hall Ottawa

October 18th, 2017

Mr. Speaker,

I have the honour to inform you that Ms. Patricia Jaton, Deputy Secretary to the Governor General, in her capacity as the Deputy of the Governor General, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 18th day of October, 2017, at 1:00 p.m.

Yours sincerely,

Stephen Wallace

The schedule indicates the bills assented to were 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, and Bill S-231, An Act to amend the Canada Evidence Act and the Criminal Code (protection of journalistic sources).

October 16th, 2017 / 4:40 p.m.
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Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Thank you, Chair, and I want to thank our witnesses for presenting today and knowing how important this study is. For those of us who have been to Ukraine many times and those of us who have Ukrainian heritage, it's something we're quite passionate about. As the sponsor in the House of Bill S-226, I'm proud that all parliamentarians of all parties supported the bill unanimously in the House of Commons, and I'm sure similar results in the Senate. I think this sends a message to all human rights abusers around the world that Canada will not be a safe haven for their money that they've been able to garner through abuse of authority and by treading on the rights of their own citizens.

I want to come back to the idea of making sure Ukraine gets the weapons they need to defend their territory. Professor Luciuk and Professor Kuzio, both of you who are students of eastern European history, if we look at military studies and their impact on the future, do you believe that diplomacy is gained through strength of negotiations because of a powerful military?

October 16th, 2017 / 4:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Thank you.

You spent a bit of time criticizing the House's unanimous passage of Bill S-226. All five parties, in a rare show of unanimity, passed this legislation, global Magnitsky legislation against gross human rights abusers.

I'd like to follow your logic. You said the passage of this bill precludes us from doing some of the work that we're discussing today here in Ukraine. Would it also preclude us from doing work in Venezuela and Myanmar? If we follow the opposite tack, if we're not to enact legislation that would sanction gross human rights abusers wherever they're found, and for a country that is militarily invaded and has territory annexed, something we haven't seen in Europe since the 1930s, that country is not to be provided with defensive weapons, and we're not to support human rights people who stand up against dictators and corrupt regimes for basic human rights, isn't that the definition of diplomatic appeasement?

October 16th, 2017 / 3:35 p.m.
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Peggy Mason President, Rideau Institute on International Affairs

Thank you very much for inviting me here today.

I apologize as I don't have a written text, but I did provide a copy of my notes to the interpreters.

I want to focus very specifically on what might be possible now. It seems to me that there is an urgent need to focus on the opportunity that has opened due to proposals from both Ukraine and Russia for a UN peacekeeping operation in support of the Minsk agreement. Of course, they're differing proposals and they're a long way apart, but nonetheless, it is an opportunity for dialogue in support of the Minsk agreement.

I would note that very recently the Ukrainian minister of defence, President Putin, and Chancellor Merkel have all reiterated strongly there is no alternative to the Minsk agreement, so it seems to me that we, and I include in that Canada, but the west in particular, must urge both sides, that is, Russia and Ukraine, to do much more to arrange and implement local ceasefires, including humanitarian ceasefires. There is a terrible humanitarian situation on the ground, but there's a long UN experience—and OSCE, I might say, not as long as the UN but nonetheless important—with trying to facilitate and implement local ceasefires, including humanitarian ceasefires and, of course, negotiation of the last of the three agreed disengagement areas. That would improve civilian lives in the war zone, but it would also be a step towards addressing the grave danger that exists right now of the deployment of hostile forces and weapons systems close to the line of separation. There's no doubt that in the context of those elements discussion, good faith discussion, on a UN peacekeeping operation, its scope and mandate, can help in those areas.

In order for this fragile opportunity to bear fruit, it seems to me there is a need to avoid any escalatory actions, such as delivery of weapons, even defensive, which from all I can gather from my review of the commentary, provide little military advantage yet could undermine fragile prospects for progress. The escalation would result because each side feels it must respond to a show of force by the other. In this regard it seems to me that Canada should be guided by the caution that Europeans have shown to the prospect of weapons supplies to Ukraine.

Speaking of a Canadian role, despite the calls by some, regrettably in my view—and I speak to this with 20 years of experience in UN, NATO, and European Union peacekeeping training—I do not think that Canada can contribute to a potential UN peacekeeping operation due to our military role in Ukraine as part of NATO, which vitiates the requirement of impartiality, and also the potential passage of the Canadian version of the Magnitsky Act, which will only exacerbate our perceived hostility against Russia. I'll say more about that.

This act, and I speak as a lawyer with a long experience of how Canada has handled this in the past, involves, in my view, Canada adopting American unilateralism and extraterritorial application of its domestic law, which we have always avoided doing, except in a couple of cases, such as UN sanctions, UN arms embargos, and also, I think, child trafficking. I think those are the only areas where we have extraterritorial application of our domestic law. It involves adoption as well of American double standards when it comes to addressing gross human rights violations by friends and allies.

I say adopting American double standards because does anyone seriously think we're going to apply this law to Saudi Arabia, which is routinely listed as one of the worst human rights abusers in the world? What about Israel for its actions in the Palestinian-occupied territories or Gaza? What about the question Russia asked: does anyone believe that Canada would sanction the U.S.A. for legalizing torture and unlawful detention in Guantanamo Bay and secret prisons in Europe? That's very topical again because the CIA has recently declassified information that reveals the vast scope and horror of those events beyond what we even thought we knew.

Unless there is a jurisdictional connection through harm to Canadians, the consistent Canadian approach in the past has always been to follow international law and multilateral approaches through the UN Security Council and Human Rights Council.

I want to end, because that leads me to the bigger problematic background to the crisis in Ukraine. It's really the main reason I wanted to have the opportunity, for which I'm grateful, to testify here today. It is in relation to the overall context in which we consider the Ukraine crisis.

I speak as someone who was very actively involved as a Canadian official during the Cold War at many multilateral and some bilateral tables. This is the new cold war, as it's being called, that is in many ways more dangerous than the original one.

Because the epicentre of the conflict is not Berlin or the third world, but directly on Russia's borders, this puts the urgency of progress on the Minsk protocol in very sharp relief. We have other fronts, and the possibility, with recent activities, of direct engagement between Russia and the United States in Syria. There is an unprecedented deterioration in Russia-U.S. relations. In the height of the Cold War, this was not the case.

There is the demonization of Russian President Putin in the U.S.A. in a way that was never seen during the Cold War. Commentators have noted that if this demonization had taken place during the Cuban missile crisis, President Kennedy would never have been able to take the steps he took to avert that crisis. Russiagate paralyzes Trump's ability to engage in any crisis negotiations with Russia.

The other aspect is that there's no anti-cold war media. During the original Cold War, there was a vigorous debate about the approach we should take with regard to Russia. There were those who wanted a hard line, and those who wanted a very different approach, and very often, Canada, of course, was taking the very different approach, as in the six-nation five-continent peace initiative by Pierre Elliott Trudeau in the height of the Cold War.

I end, regrettably, with a very interesting op-ed in The Globe and Mail today by former NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen. He was calling for Canada to play a kind of bridge-building role in support of the Minsk protocol and this discussion that's opened up on the kind of UN peacekeeping operation to help the OSCE monitor and verify the ceasefire. Regrettably, Bill S-226, if it passes, would effectively remove our ability to play that kind of bridging role, and it's really one that's needed very much.

Thank you very much.

Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials ActPrivate Members' Business

October 4th, 2017 / 6:45 p.m.
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Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill S-226 under private members' business.

October 4th, 2017 / 4:30 p.m.
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Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Ironically, Mr. Chair, I am going to do it in an unusual fashion. Normally I ask very short questions and ask for answers, but this time I'm going to read into the record bits and pieces of letters I have received, which I think will be of interest to all colleagues here, and which I think are right on point with what Mr. Kolga's testimony was about.

All of us received from the Russian Congress of Canada a letter dated June 15, a statement of the Russian Congress regarding the “announced adoption of the so-called Magnitsky Act, Bill S-226”.

In it they say that it is a “dangerous precedent” and “divisive identity politics” that is “further closing dialogue with Russia“ at this time.

In addition, they say that the “Foreign Affairs Committee in the House of Commons heard only one side of the Magnitsky controversy” , and it was detrimental to Russia's interests.

They say that Magnitsky was an accountant, not a lawyer—somehow or another that's very important—and that Magnitsky was “arrested and put in a pre-trial detention facility” and “After 11 months...he died”.

“The official Russian investigation...did not find any evidence of maltreatment or torture”, they say. “The reports of his beating by prison officials...have not been based on empirical or documentary evidence.” However, just in case it's possibly true, “several high-level functionaries in the prison system” and the bureaucracy “were fired or demoted”.

They go on to say that they won't do it again, because they've changed the law. Then they say that the “death of Sergei Magnitsky was unfortunate indeed”.

Like all colleagues, I dismissed this as a bit of a crank letter. After I read that into the record last Monday night in the debate, we got an opinion from the very person you quoted, Mr. Kolga, namely, Natalia Veselnitskaya , who had some dealings with the Trump administration. This sentence is the most incoherent sentence I've seen a lawyer read. I'll read it to you, and if any of us can make any sense out of it, I'd be appreciative. Natalia Veselnitskaya wrote:

Now, a “new Prevezon” on the example of the new “Denis Katsyv” will appear in Canada, “having received a dollar from the blood money stolen from the people of Russia”, cases would be initiated, will bring Russian judges and prosecutors on the lists of “non-entry” to Canada, as if they were ever there at all or were going to visit, their mythical assets will be arrested, and the cases will “go out” for years with zero results until the generation of these politicians ready to betray their people and dance to the tune of a transnational criminal group will change.

By the way, we are the politicians who have betrayed our people, which again, you would dismiss as crank nonsense.

Yesterday evening I received a letter from the Russian Embassy, signed by the press secretary, Kirill Kalinin. He references a couple of articles where prisoners have died in Canadian jails, as if these deaths of Canadian prisoners are analogous to the torture and death of Mr. Magnitsky.

So, I would say that it's here, it's present, and it's real, and it's very interesting that we should be having the Magnitsky debate at the same time that we're talking about this very thing.

Mr. Kolga, what are your comments?

Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials ActPrivate Members' Business

October 2nd, 2017 / 6 p.m.
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NDP

Wayne Stetski NDP Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to support Bill S-226, also known as the Sergueï Magnitsky law and the justice for victims of corrupt foreign officials act.

The background to this important bill reads like a John le Carré novel. A Russian lawyer uncovered corruption, theft, and tax fraud by a group of senior bureaucrats and police. He reported it and suddenly found himself arrested and imprisoned. Days before he has to be released he mysteriously dies. A former business associate, who had asked the lawyer to look into the corruption, is himself expelled from Russia under threat of criminal charges. Years later, the U.S. agree on sanctions against the perpetrators of the corruption, only to find representatives of the Russian government, people with close ties to the corrupt officials, lobbying a U.S. presidential candidate to repeal the legislation. All of this happened. The lawyer was named Sergei Magnitsky, and after he reported high-level corruption in 2008, he was thrown into a brutal prison where, according to many well-respected sources, he was tortured for months until he died.

The Washington Post wrote:

Independent investigators found, “inhuman detention conditions, the isolation from his family, the lack of regular access to his lawyers and the intentional refusal to provide adequate medical assistance resulted in the deliberate infliction of severe pain and suffering, and ultimately his death.”

In 2012, the United States passed the Magnitsky Act, which named the individuals connected with the corruption and Magnitsky's death, and imposed financial and travel sanctions on them. The European Parliament has passed a similar act, and both the United Kingdom and Ireland are also looking at new laws.

In Canada, a resolution was adopted in 2010 that also imposed sanctions, much to the annoyance of Russian officials, one of whom, according to The Washington Post, called it, “none other than an attempt to pressure the investigators and interfere in the internal affairs of another state.”

I am proud to say that the NDP has long been at the forefront of calling for targeted sanctions against those responsible for human rights violations. We have consistently called for Canada to coordinate our sanctions regime with the United States and the European Union, and to tighten sanctions to address major gaps. We believe that the individuals targeted by sanctions should also be inadmissible to Canada.

Unlike the U.S. and EU versions of the legislation, which targeted individuals connected with the case, the bill that is before us today is a type known as a “global Magnitsky law”, which is broader and meant to be used to impose sanctions on any individual or official from any country, not just Russia. This is an important step in fighting government corruption worldwide.

Last January, I had the opportunity to travel with the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs to Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Poland, and Latvia to cement our diplomatic friendships. On those visits we continually heard from officials and NGOs about their concerns with ongoing Russian aggression and the need for continuing and even increasing sanctions against Russia.

Paul Grod, the national president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, stated:

Through its invasion of Ukraine, illegal imprisonment of Ukrainian citizens, and widespread and systematic abuse of human rights, the Russian regime continues to demonstrate its contempt for international law and democratic values….The adoption by Canada of Magnitsky legislation, and the sanctioning of Russian officials responsible for human rights violations would be a strong signal that their actions are unacceptable to Canada. We call on Canada’s Members of Parliament to swiftly adopt Magnitsky legislation, and the Government of Canada to enhance sanctions on the Russian Federation, and ensure appropriate enforcement of the sanctions.

I could not agree more, and I am glad to see that our legislation can be applied not only in Russia but also to corrupt officials anywhere in the world. Corruption is a global problem and a global threat. Transparency International, which is dedicated to exposing and ending corruption worldwide, has stated that “the abuse of power, secret dealings and bribery continue to ravage societies around the world.”

They go on to say:

From children denied an education, to elections decided by money not votes, public sector corruption comes in many forms. Bribes and backroom deals don't just steal resources from the most vulnerable—they undermine justice and economic development, and destroy public trust in leaders.

Canada is a signatory to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, the only legally binding universal anti-corruption instrument. It covers five main areas: preventive measures, criminalization and law enforcement, international co-operation, asset recovery, and technical assistance and information exchange. It includes bribery, trading in influence, abuse of functions, and various acts of corruption in the private sector among its definitions.

The Sergei Magnitsky law we are discussing today dovetails perfectly with our international obligations under the UN convention. It does more than commemorate a man who fought a corrupt regime and died for his work. It provides real sanctions against corrupt individuals.

This bill includes the ability to freeze, seize, or sequester the Canadian assets and property of foreign nationals who have been deemed responsible or complicit in gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.

Sergei Magnitsky began looking into the accounts of Russian officials at the request of an American-British financier, Bill Browder, who has taken on global corruption as a lifelong cause. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Browder last year at a lunch meeting here on Parliament Hill. He is now the head of the International Justice Campaign for Sergei Magnitsky. He wrote:

one of the questions I got at various different stages of my advocacy work in Ottawa about the Magnitsky act was, what does this have to do with Canada? The fact that we found millions of dollars from the blood money of the Magnitsky crime coming to Canada makes Canada directly involved in this thing. This is not a hypothetical or an abstract notion. This is a situation in which a man was murdered for money, and some of that money came to Canada.

I believe that everyone in this House believes that Canada should not have any role in assisting government corruption abroad. This bill will ensure that Canada can no longer be an unwitting accessory to such acts, and it sends a strong message to corrupt officials everywhere: we are watching, we are paying attention, and we will not help you get away with it.

Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials ActPrivate Members' Business

October 2nd, 2017 / 5:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to speak about Bill S-226, Justice for Victims of Corrupt Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law).

First, I would like to pay tribute to Sergei Magnitsky, who lost his life in a brave campaign to expose massive corruption at the highest levels in Russia. The circumstances surrounding Mr. Magnitsky's death have made it abundantly clear that state corruption and human rights violations go hand in glove. To protect their ill-received wealth, kleptocratic regimes dismantle the rule of law and then the institutions of democracy. These regimes steal the people's wealth, then their rights, and in the end their people's futures.

Like Sergei Magnitsky, countless brave individuals across the globe have suffered violations of their fundamental human rights for speaking out. Like Mr. Magnitsky, many have been victimized by the very institutions and individuals entrusted with protecting them. Like Mr. Magnitsky, many have not seen the perpetrators brought to justice, and instead have found themselves incarcerated, and tortured on behalf of criminals by prosecutors and judges in show trials, not to uphold justice but to uphold the power of the corrupt. Many are eliminated, or murdered, as was Mr. Magnitsky, to send a message to those foolhardy enough to take a stand on behalf of truth and justice.

Human rights are integral to Canada's international engagements. We stand up for these inalienable rights and we do not hesitate to speak out against human rights violators and abusers, wherever they reside. Speaking out is important. However, words are not enough. That is why Canada needs to, and intends to, have a wide range of tools at its disposal to protect and promote human rights. We will assess the circumstances and then choose the tools that have the best chance of getting the job done for the people directly affected and for the cause of advancing human rights globally.

At the end of the 20th century, with the fall of the Iron Curtain, there were those who celebrated the end of history. Democracy, human rights, and the international rule of law were victorious. Clearly, the celebrating began too soon. Today we find ourselves in a world where too often our shared western principles of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law are being flouted or undermined, not just by small dictatorial countries but also by major powers.

We seem to be entering a world of disorder in which there are those who believe they can disregard the human rights of their citizens, flaunt international law treaties and agreements, or undermine the stability of their neighbours. It is not coincidental that the worst human rights violators, from Syria to North Korea, are also major threats to international peace and security. It is no surprise that a kleptocratic Russia, which killed Magnitsky, has militarily supported both of these states and militarily invaded and illegally annexed neighbouring Ukraine's territory. This has important and dangerous consequences for all of us.

Canada and our government has and must continue to engage constructively and deliberately. Let me briefly illustrate Canada's current human rights tool kit, and then speak to how Bill S-226 will make an important contribution to Canada's ability to lead on human rights and anti-corruption efforts worldwide.

First, no one should doubt that Canada and our government puts human rights on the agenda when we talk to other governments at all levels, from officials to heads of state. These dialogues are not finger-wagging exercises. Canada raises concerns, and does so forcefully when needed, privately and publicly. However, we also seize opportunities to learn from each other, and work together to effect positive change. As the Prime Minister said in his speech at last week's UN General Assembly, we pursue human rights as a partnership through “listening, learning, and working together” as a way to build a better world.

Second, Canada provides funding to multilateral, regional, and civil society organizations to protect and promote human rights. This includes the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which is the principal human rights focused UN office.

Third, we support human rights defenders. Recognizing their critical role, Global Affairs Canada has recently released the document “Voices at risk: Canada’s guidelines on supporting human rights defenders”. This practical tool helps Canadian officials abroad to provide human rights defenders with the support they need to be more effective advocates and to do so safely.

Bill S-226 would add a new and important tool to this particular tool kit: the ability to take restrictive measures to sanction foreign nationals responsible for gross violations of human rights.

To be effective, sanctions must be used wisely and selectively. During its review of the Special Economic Measures Act and the Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development heard from some of the world's top experts on sanctions and the effective use of sanctions as a tool. As was heard in that testimony, sanctions are a “policy instrument that can be useful in combination with other tools as part of an integrated political strategy.”

The role of sanctions as part of our engagement tool kit was evident recently when the Minister of Foreign Affairs announced sanctions against individuals in the Maduro regime in Venezuela. Doing so sent a clear message that anti-democratic behaviour, the physical abuse and murder of protesting citizens, and incarceration of opposition leaders would have consequences. These sanctions are targeted against people responsible for the deterioration of democracy in Venezuela and are part of the multifaceted effort that the Government of Canada has been undertaking to pressure for a return to democracy.

Bill S-226 would provide another tool to add to Canada's human rights tool box, by creating a new mechanism to respond to gross human rights violations, as well as significant corruption in a foreign state by imposing sanctions on individuals responsible for these violations.

The government proudly supports Bill S-226 and we are confident it will become a valuable addition to Canada's efforts to promote and protect human rights internationally.

I would like to say a few words about the importance of the non-partisan nature with which all members of the House have approached Bill S-226. On an issue as fundamental and as important to Canadians as the defence of human rights, it is uplifting to see we can all work together.

In particular, I would like to thank our Minister of Foreign Affairs who so proactively engaged on this file; Senator Andreychuk from the other place, for her passion in bringing this legislation forward; the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman for all of his hard work; and the chair and members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development for their diligence and perseverance and their unanimous report which provided invaluable guidance for the legislation.

I would also like to thank Marcus Kolga. His facilitation and advocacy has been invaluable.

Finally, I would like to thank Magnitsky legislation champion Bill Browder, who I came to know during this process. His relentless and principled efforts to honour the memory of his friend Sergei Magnitsky is enshrined in this legislation.

I would also like to thank Natasha and Nikita, the wife and son of Sergei Magnitsky. Their husband and father was by profession a skilled lawyer and principled auditor. However, within this lawyer and auditor resided a hero who would shine a light on the darkness of a corrupt regime. He sacrificed himself and his future for the future of the Russian people.

[Member spoke in Russian]

Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials ActPrivate Members' Business

October 2nd, 2017 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

moved that the bill be read a third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to rise and speak to Bill S-226 at third reading.

I have to first thank Senator Raynell Andreychuk , who is the author of this bill in the Senate. She has been advocating for this legislation, along with a number of us, for a number of years. It goes back to Irwin Cotler, a former colleague of ours here in Parliament, who brought it forward in 2015 calling on the Government of Canada to institute Sergei Magnitsky-style legislation, similar to legislation that has been adopted around the world. Therefore, we are continuing in that vein. I made some amendments to the bill that was originally proposed, and Senator Andreychuk went even further to make sure that this bill first and foremost is focused on human rights violators as well as corrupt foreign officials who are taking advantage of their citizens and abusing their positions of power. We have to make sure that those individuals do not use Canada as a safe haven.

One of the main pushes, of course, behind this legislation is Bill Browder, who was put on red notice and wrote a book about his experience of dealing in Russia and whose lawyer was Sergei Magnitsky. Sergei Magnitsky had uncovered the biggest tax fraud in Russian history, and for that he was falsely arrested and accused, then was imprisoned, tortured, and beaten to death in a Russian prison outside of Moscow.

I also want to thank Marcus Kolga. Marcus has been an unwavering advocate for Sergei Magnitsky and this type of legislation in Canada. He has worked across party lines to ensure that we get as close to possible to unanimous consent in support of this bill.

I want to thank the Minister of Foreign Affairs for her support for Bill S-226 and for working with me and Senator Andreychuk and all parliamentarians to find a way that the government could also support this bill. The report stage amendments that we just concurred in really do strengthen the bill in a lot of ways and clarify the language so there is consistency between Bill S-226 and the Special Economic Measures Act.

I think all of us would be remiss if we did not thank the huge diaspora in Canada: the Ukrainian diaspora, the pro-democracy Russians in Canada, the Vietnamese community, the Iranian community, and the Falun Gong and Chinese community here. They believe that having this legislation in Canada, the Sergei Magnitsky law, would enable the Government of Canada to hold those human rights abusers in their countries to account and ensure that they do not hide their money or bring their families and protect them here in Canada, and that we do not allow Canada to be used as a safe haven. I thank all of them for their support, petitions, and advocacy and holding seminars and spreading the world about how important Bill S-226 is.

As I said, this legislation is about anti-corruption. It is about protecting human rights and protecting Canadian values. It is really not just about sanctions and travel bans; it is about ensuring that Canada cannot be used as a safe haven by those criminals. By all accounts, as corrupt government officials and human rights abusers, these individuals are criminals. Each and every one of them should be held to account in The Hague at the International Criminal Court. Until that happens and until the proper investigations take place, we have to ensure that Canada is doing its part in lock step with the rest of the international community to ensure that we are not used to educate these criminals' children, to hide their families and their extra-marital affairs here in Canada, to buy homes and properties over here, or to make use of our very strong banking system.

I know some of the research that has been done shows that we have already been able to uncover oligarchs from Russia who have hidden money here in Canada and essentially used a shell game to clean their money before taking it back to Russia. Russian oligarchs have abused their authority to enrich themselves, to commit tax fraud, and other devious schemes to acquire money from the citizens of Russia, or elsewhere for that matter.

We know they would love to put their money in trusted banks like we have here in Canada, rather than being in Russian banks that are often sanctioned because of the Russian aggression in Ukraine, Georgia, and elsewhere, due to their support for Vladimir Putin's expansionist adventurism.

As I said earlier, there are other countries that have already passed Magnitsky-style legislation. The United States did it in 2012. Last year, the United States made sure that the Sergei Magnitsky law became a global Magnitsky law. It was not just about Russia, but other countries that are human rights abusers, with the people getting rich by being human rights abusers, which is atrocious.

We also know that the European Parliament passed it in 2013, Estonia in 2016, the United Kingdom passed it earlier this year, and Canada needs to get this done so that it falls in line. All three main parties, as I have said in the House before, all supported Magnitsky-style legislation in the 2015 campaign. This is about the three main parties all coming together, supporting this legislation, and bringing it into reality.

People are probably asking why we need this. Are we not already sanctioning officials, Russian oligarchs and Ukrainian oligarchs, responsible for the violence in Donbass and the illegal annexation and occupation of Crimea? The current government and the previous Conservative government have already sanctioned what I think are over 250 individuals and entities, and travel bans have been put in place. However, that only applies to the situation in Donbass and Crimea. It does not speak to the broader context of all of the different abuses taking place in Russia, or any other country, for that matter. Right now the way that the Special Economic Measures Act works is that other international organizations have to direct Canada and member states to sanction because of a certain conflict or issue, saying that we are going to put in place travel bans and economic sanctions.

Bill S-226 would put another tool in the tool box for the Government of Canada, so that we can project our Canadian values and ensure that Canada is not being used as a safe haven by corrupt foreign officials and human rights abusers. This would enable Canada to go after other countries and entities that are human rights abusers. It is not just about Russian aggression and the war in Ukraine. It is not just about Crimea's illegal annexation. This is also about the torture of political prisoners in places like Iran, the human rights abuses that we have seen in Vietnam, and the current genocide that is taking place in Myanmar with the Rohingyas.

This would give the authority to the Government of Canada to act unilaterally in the interests of Canada to stop these types of human rights abuses, send the signal that corrupt officials will not get away with it, that Canada is taking notice, and that Canada and its partners will ensure that we shut down their ability to launder their money, hide their families, and enrich themselves by benefiting from Canada's strong financial institutions and assets, whether it is real estate, businesses, or investments. This is a great piece of legislation.

I talked about the changes that were brought forward by the government with a number of amendments, a lot of which dealt with the language, to ensure that the lines between the Special Economic Measures Act and Bill S-226 are reliable, appropriate, and evident. We want to make sure that there is also fairness. I accept the government's amendments that would enable individuals on the list who are sanctioned with travel bans to have the ability to say they have been confused with someone else and have a right to a just process to appeal it. That was not available before in the way that the legislation was drafted, so Senator Andreychuk and I accepted that amendment. It is also about making sure that there is a way to determine who is a foreign official, a public office holder, and other individuals, and that it is consistent in all torts in legislation. We want to make sure there is not just an open-ended list of indicators, but hard evidence of acts of significant corruption.

It still gives power to the Governor in Council to make the determination of who goes on the list, what sources of information are used, how we compel different agencies, financial institutions, and others to provide information, and also making sure that it is valid. The government proposed a lot of major changes that cleaned up the bill and provided more strength and more tools and mechanisms, which we support.

We talked about some of the examples of where we are seeing human rights abuses outside of Russia. I already mentioned what is happening in Myanmar, with the genocide being committed against the Rohingyas. There are individuals who are responsible for that. We should be going after the current military leadership in Myanmar: Sen. General Min Aung Hlaing; Lt.-Gen. Sein Win, who is the minister of defence; Vice Senior General Soe Winn. These are individuals who are carrying out genocide, ethnic cleansing, and they need to be held to account. Canada can act unilaterally and do that.

In Venezuela, with President Maduro and everything that is happening, they are clamping down on human rights and there is no freedom of the press. We are talking about a recession and skyrocketing costs and inflation impacting everything from food to medicine to medical supplies. He is capturing his political dissidents, and imprisoning and torturing them. The Venezuela regime needs to be sanctioned. This is all about making sure that all the political leaders, military leaders, and police agencies are being held to account. The United Nations Human Rights Council says that just since April, 5,000 people have been detained, and 1,000 of them are still in custody. Bill S-226 would be able to put proper economic sanctions in place, as well as travel bans, to send a message to Maduro and his regime that this is not warranted.

In Iran, President Rouhani continues to not just imprison his political dissidents, but to executive them. Under Rouhani, who everyone thinks has this charm offensive, political executions have increased by 55% under him versus under Ahmadinejad. This individual cannot be trusted, and the Iranian regime must be held to account. He is imprisoning not just political prisoners, but ethnic and religious minorities. He continues to push out their theocracy and impugn thousands of people all the time.

We cannot forget that under Ayatollah Khomeini back in 1988, 30,000 political prisoners were killed in one summer. Those who orchestrated and participated in that, who are responsible, still serve today in the current regime. They have never been sanctioned. We could do that now with Bill S-226.

We cannot forget about what is still happening in Ukraine, in Russia, and in Chechnya. We see the human rights violations. There were 200 men who were rounded up and put into detention centres, based upon their sexual orientation. Those individuals who belong to the LGBTQ community had their rights violated, and at least three of them were killed. Those Chechen leaders who are responsible for it, especially Ramzan Kadyrov, have to be held to account. These individuals are no different than any of the other ones we want to sanction.

I will leave my final comments to the end of the debate today, but I do want to thank all members of Parliament for their support. I am looking forward to seeing this go back to the Senate as quickly as possible.