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 has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.


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.


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

June 22nd, 2017 / 8:50 a.m.
See context


Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

I propose that Bill S-226 in clause 2 be amended by deleting lines 6 and 7 on page 4.

(Amendment agreed to)

June 22nd, 2017 / 8:45 a.m.
See context


Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

I move that Bill S-226 in clause 2 be amended by adding after line 17 on page 3 the following:

foreign public official has the same meaning as in section 2 of the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. (agent public étranger)

June 22nd, 2017 / 8:45 a.m.
See context


Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Before I read the amendment, I simply want to say, since I hope this is the last meeting the committee will have before the fall—Tom, we can come back, if you like, although I might not be here—that this bill has been, in all honesty, a real collaborative effort. We do disagree in this committee. We certainly disagree in the House of Commons. That is just part of politics, but any time you can work collaboratively with colleagues and find a common path, as we've done here, I think it's something to be celebrated.

Mr. Chair, you mentioned Senator Andreychuk. I too want to acknowledge Senator Andreychuk, who may or may not be in the room. Regardless, it's important for me to do that. This is a real testament to her interest in human rights.

Of course, I also want to acknowledge the efforts of Irwin Cotler, responsible for putting forward the bill to begin with a number of years ago.

That said, I will read the first Liberal amendment. I propose that Bill S-226 in clause 2 be amended by replacing line 6 on page 3 with the following:


2 The following definitions apply in this Act.

June 22nd, 2017 / 8:45 a.m.
See context


The Chair (Hon. Robert Nault (Kenora, Lib.)) Liberal Bob Nault

Colleagues, I want to bring this meeting to order.

This is meeting 69 of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development. Pursuant to the order of reference of Tuesday, June 13, 2017, we are considering 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.

This morning, colleagues, I first want to acknowledge Senator Andreychuk, the sponsor of this bill in the Senate, and Mr. James Bezan, the sponsor in the House of Commons. Later on in the process, Mr. Bezan will get an opportunity to speak to his bill as we go through the process of clause-by-clause.

Many of you have been through this process before. If not, unfortunately the chair does more talking than he normally does just to go through the clauses. There are some amendments that I understand the government will be putting forward. They are listed for you, and we'll go through those as well.

The process of clause-by-clause is that we will go through the clauses, and they will be carried either as amended or as intended, until we get to the end of the bill. I will be able to sign this to go back to the House, through special order, for tomorrow. Later on today, if we get this done, I will be able to send it to the House. That's the objective of this exercise, as per the motion passed yesterday, I think, by the House leader.

We will now begin our clause-by-clause consideration.

Pursuant to Standing Order 75(1), the consideration of clause 1, which is the short title, and the preamble is postponed until the end.

(On clause 2)

Clause 2 has five amendments.

I will turn to floor over to Mr. Fragiskatos for those amendments to clause 2.

Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials ActPrivate Members' Business

June 13th, 2017 / 6:20 p.m.
See context


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank all members for their interventions over the two hours of debate on Bill S-226. There are so many people to thank. First of all, I want to thank Senator Raynell Andreychuk, who brought this bill forward.

As I said in my opening comments, the last paragraph in the preamble best sums up what this bill accomplishes. It reads:

And whereas all violators of internationally recognized human rights should be treated and sanctioned equally throughout the world,

We spent a lot of time, and a lot of speakers here mentioned the abuses in Russia. As someone who has been banned from Russia, along with a number of colleagues, I know it is of grave concern to most members in the House to ensure that we take the right actions against Russia's aggressions in Ukraine; and against Russia's human rights violations within Russia and its neighbouring countries as it continues to crack down on the freedom of the press, the LGBTQ community, and political dissidents.

We have witnessed it again this week, just yesterday. Alexei Navalny is the leader of the official opposition in Russia. He is a Russian Opposition Coordination Council member and the leader of the Progress Party. He has been described by The Wall Street Journal as “The Man Vladimir Putin Fears Most”.

Yesterday, which was kind of like Russian Independence Day, Alexei Navalny organized a number of large-scale demonstrations promoting democracy and human rights and attacking the political corruption of Putin and the kleptocrats at the Kremlin. He has been arrested before, in 2011 and 2017, and he was arrested yesterday morning before he even got out of his house. Before he even got onto the streets to participate in a peaceful protest, he was pulled from his house. All communications were cut off in his house and office. Along with thousands of other people, he was arrested yesterday in Russia and imprisoned for 30 days for holding an unsanctioned rally.

This is 30 days in prison, and we know that prison time in Russia is hard time. It is where Sergei Magnitsky was detained, beaten, tortured, and ultimately murdered, because he was a whistleblower on Russian corruption, on calling out the kleptocrats who were enriching themselves at the cost of individuals who had been committing a large tax fraud and blaming Bill Browder.

I would like to thank Bill Browder for the hard work he has done, not only in coming to Canada to have us bring forward Sergei Magnitsky-style legislation, but also to the United States, Britain, the European Parliament, Estonia, and other countries that are adopting this type of legislation, so that we as western nations, as democracies that love human rights and freedoms, can go out there and start to change the channel on these human rights abusers, these corrupt foreign officials who continue to enrich themselves and think that they can hide their wealth and their families in our countries. Bill S-226 provides the tools and mechanisms for the government to go out there and sanction them so that they cannot benefit from their crimes.

We also have to remember Boris Nemtsov, who was assassinated on the bridge outside of the Kremlin just two years ago. The last time he was in Canada speaking to the foreign affairs committee, he said that Magnitsky-style legislation is pro-Russian legislation. It is about making sure that the people of Russia enjoy the freedoms of democracy and the rule of law that we take for granted here in Canada, in the United States, and in western Europe. This is about trying to modernize that.

A couple of weeks ago, opposition leader Vladimir Kara-Murza was here, and he too, after being twice poisoned—two assassination attempts on him—still had the power and strength to come and speak to us as parliamentarians and again say that we should pass this legislation.

I am glad that the government, the NDP, and all members of Parliament are supporting this legislation. I know the government has brought forward amendments. I have met with government officials from foreign affairs, and I can tell the House that the Conservatives are okay with these amendments. There are a few on which we are still working on some wording, but let us get the bill to the foreign affairs committee, which has already done some great work on studying the Magnitsky-style legislation. The committee has the ability to quickly analyze the amendments, implement those amendments, and get them back here to the House so that we can pass them before we break for summer, and then the Senate can deal with those amendments.

Again, I thank everyone who has participated in this debate.

Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials ActPrivate Members' Business

June 13th, 2017 / 6:15 p.m.
See context


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.

Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials ActPrivate Members' Business

June 13th, 2017 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

Parkdale—High Park Ontario


Arif Virani LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage (Multiculturalism)

Madam Speaker, today I rise proudly to speak in favour of Bill S-226, the Sergei Magnitsky legislation.

Our government supports this bill. Our support comes with amendments that will strengthen its implementation and its effectiveness and better align it with current Canadian sanctions and immigration policy and practice. These amendments will also align with the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development recommendations that were issued on April 6, 2017.

My support for this bill comes for a few reasons that I will expand upon this evening. The first is my riding of Parkdale—High Park and the constituents within it. Second is my own background in practising constitutional and human rights law and prosecuting internationally with the UN. The third is that it resonates with the foreign policy objectives recently outlined by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

On the first point, as a prefatory comment, I want to talk about what Bill S-226 seeks to accomplish. It will create a legal mechanism to allow for the imposition of sanctions in response to gross violations of internationally recognized human rights as well as in response to acts of significant corruption. There is currently no Canadian law that authorizes the imposition of sanctions specifically for violations of international human rights obligations in a foreign state or for acts of corruption, including those in Russia, as highlighted in the case of Sergei Magnitsky. Bill S-226 will address this gap.

Furthermore, our government also supports expanding the scope under which sanctions measures can be enacted under the Special Economic Measures Act to include cases of gross violations of human rights and foreign corruption.

Let me turn now to the category that I talked about at the outset, my constituents, the people I represent. As the member of Parliament for Parkdale—High Park, during my tenure and during the campaign two years ago, I have had literally hundreds of one-on-one conversations with constituents of both Polish and Ukrainian descent who live in my riding. The diaspora is very vibrant in my community. We are home to two pre-eminent festivals for both Polish Canadians and Ukrainian Canadians. Those representatives come with deep, passionate, interest in the affairs of Ukraine and of Poland.

This is communicated to me regularly by such stakeholders as the Ukrainian Canadian Congress and the Canadian Polish Congress, as well as by individuals like Marcus Kolga of the Estonian Central Council in Canada. What they tell me is the same thing, over and over again: that eastern Europe is embattled because of Russian aggression. They talk to me about the illegal annexation of Crimea, which our government rejects. They talk to me about the ongoing aggression and military activity in the Donbass and the threat of an ever-expansionist Russia moving across eastern Europe. They also talk to me about the violation of human rights of those who dare to speak out in Russia itself.

It is in the effort to combat such human rights violations that this legislation was developed. By promoting respect for human rights, this legislation captures the sentiments expressed to me time and time again by my Ukrainian-Canadian and Polish-Canadian constituents, who desire respect for basic civil liberties in Russia and who want to curb Russian aggression and expansion in Europe.

The second aspect that I want to discuss this evening is the category of human rights violations. I come to this chamber as a lawyer who practised for 15 years, defending charter rights here in Canada and prosecuting international human rights violations abroad with the United Nations. We are lucky in this country to have many rights, freedoms, and privileges when others around the world face real and constant danger for simply opposing their government or daring to speak out.

I would like to take some time to outline the specific type of international human rights violations this bill will seek to curb or stop outright.

We have heard discussion about this, but the most important component is the case of Sergei Magnitsky himself. He was a Russian lawyer. He was tortured, beaten, and killed in a Moscow prison after uncovering a $230-million tax fraud and testifying against the Russian government officials involved. Despite overwhelming evidence incriminating these prison officials, the Russian government exonerated everyone involved.

As most people know, the people who killed Mr. Magnitsky did so for money. We know that criminals of this kind do not keep their ill-gotten gains in their country of origin. They do not keep it in places like Russia. They know all too well how easily it can be taken away from them. They keep their money in the west.

What will this legislation do to address the situation? For this, I turn to none other than Bill Browder, a well-known advocate for defending gross human rights violations abroad and an advocate for his own employee, Sergei Magnitsky, who died in this context.

Mr. Browder has said:

We realized that by preventing these people from storing and spending their money in the West, we could bring an end to the impunity they enjoyed in Russia. By freezing their assets and banning their visas, we could create direct, personal consequences for human-rights abusers, hitting them where it hurts the most — in their wallets. This was the genesis of Magnitsky sanctions — targeted visa bans and asset freezes imposed on individual human-rights abusers.

The Sergei Magnitsky case is not the only case. That is the most troubling aspect. There is the case of Alexander Perepilichny, who suddenly dropped dead in Britain after providing key evidence in the Magnitsky case. There is the case of Vladimir Kara-Murza, who campaigned for a Canadian version of the Magnitsky Law and was poisoned. There is the case of Boris Nemtsov, another Russian opposition politician who campaigned in this very capital for a Canadian Magnitsky piece of legislation in 2012 and was shot dead three years later. In March 21 of this very year, Nikolai Gorokhov, a lawyer for the Magnitsky family, fell four stories from his apartment in Moscow, the fall occurring the night before he was due to give new evidence in court concerning the government cover-up in the Magnitsky case.

What I want to emphasize is that the genius of this legislation is that it is global in reach, and it needs to be, because the problem it targets is indeed global in scope. We are talking about other nations. We are talking about examples such as Buzurgmehr Yorov, a fearless human rights lawyer and whistle-blower in Tajikistan. He was recently sentenced to 23 years of imprisonment simply for doing his job, when he took on the cases of several leaders of the opposition in Tajikistan, the very type of work that I have done here and that many people do around the planet.

Internationally, the global community has responded to these kinds of violations. In 2012 the United States was the first country to adopt such sanctions vis-à-vis Russia itself, passing global Magnitsky legislation and expanding the reach in 2016 with a global act that sanctions human rights abusers from around the planet. Forty-four people from around the world have been banned from the United States under that legislation.

The European Parliament followed suit in 2014. Last year, Estonia passed the first Magnitsky sanctions law in Europe. In Canada, a former Liberal MP, the Hon. Irwin Cotler, a man who was previously our colleague here, introduced in this chamber a Canadian version of the Magnitsky Act in 2011. As members can see, it is important in terms of our international obligations to our partners to enact this legislation and to take action on the underlying issues it seeks to address.

Let me turn to Canada's foreign policy objectives, which were recently announced by the minister. On June 6, the Minister of Foreign Affairs noted that there are:

...clear strategic threats to the liberal democratic world, including Canada. Our ability to act against such threats alone is limited. It requires co-operation with like-minded countries.

When human rights violations occur around the world, they are a threat to democratic values around the world. That is why we must implement legislation such as Bill S-226 in solidarity with other allies and members of the international community. It is only by acting in unison that we can hope to globally curb gross human rights violations and corruption.

In her speech, the Minister of Foreign Affairs also noted that one of the key tenets of our foreign policy has been the basic promotion of human rights at home and abroad. She said:

It is a Canadian, John Humphrey, who is generally credited as the principal author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948. That was the first of what became a series of declarations to set international standards in this vital area.

I wholeheartedly concur with this sentiment. As a former war crimes prosecutor with the United Nations who tried cases on the Rwanda genocide tribunal, I can personally testify to the heavy involvement of Canadians at the UN and at that particular tribunal. Canadian involvement in the promotion and protection of human rights abroad is a long-standing tradition, and it is a key priority for our government and for our citizens.

The minister also noted:

These institutions may seem commonplace today. We may take them for granted. We should not. Seventy years ago, they were revolutionary....

Finally, the minister made a simple yet essential statement when she stated:

...our values include an unshakeable commitment to pluralism, human rights, and the rule of law.

That simple statement captures the essence of our democracy and, in my view, why it is only natural for us to pass this much-needed legislation.

To conclude, I support this legislation because it aligns with the beliefs and the convictions of my constituents, because it seeks to curb gross human-rights violations from being perpetrated on individuals around the world, and because it strongly aligns with our new foreign policy framework. I encourage all members of this House to support it as well.

Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials ActPrivate Members' Business

June 13th, 2017 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country B.C.


Pam Goldsmith-Jones LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Madam Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I speak today to 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.

The bill is also referred to as the justice for victims of corrupt foreign officials act, or the Sergei Magnitsky law.

I would like to thank Senator Andreychuk for her commitment to this important question, and for the opportunity to debate this in the House of Commons.

Having served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs when our government came to power, I know the proposed Magnitsky law was front and centre in question period and was an important area of study by the foreign affairs and international development committee. The issue first arose in the House in the last Parliament, and received unanimous support.

Clearly, the detention, torture, death in prison, and posthumous conviction of Sergei Magnitsky for exposing fraud and corruption in the Russian government constitute gross violations of internationally recognized human rights. There is a clear desire on the part of two consecutive Parliaments to pursue some form of a Magnitsky law similar to U.S. legislation.

Our exploration of a Magnitsky-type law includes many leaders. First, I would like to commend the courage of former Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Stéphane Dion, for creating room for us to properly understand the tools at our disposal and for his tremendous respect for the work of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development as it undertook a comprehensive review of Canada's autonomous sanctions legislation.

The Special Economic Measures Act, or SEMA, and the Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act were the subject of close study, the outcomes of which both entertain the idea of a Magnitsky act and go much beyond that to bring our legislation up to date.

It is important for Canadians to understand how the parliamentary process can work and does work in the best interests of our safety and security and in defence of human rights around the world. For months the former minister and I encouraged parliamentarians to continue their deliberations, and also to wait for the work of the committee to be complete.

We had some lively exchanges during question period thanks to my colleague across the way, as many among us would rather drive toward a prescribed solution than take the time to investigate thoroughly, respect the work of the committee, understand the complementarity of the Senate bill before us, and come to a decision rooted in all that Parliament brings, commensurate with the decision we are being asked to make.

I attended every committee meeting. We learned that Canadians believe that sanctions are an important tool and that there is currently no mechanism that includes a way to impose sanctions in response to gross violations of human rights. We learned that the Government of Canada underfunds its ability to enforce sanctions and that there is room for improvement if we are to be truly effective.

Third, we have an enhanced regard for the seriousness of a Magnitsky-type list. Who is on a list? How does one get on a list? How does one get off this list? The foreign affairs committee report discusses the need for improved transparency and protection of procedural rights of individuals listed under Canada's sanctions regime.

This legislation has been inspired by a particular case in a particular country. The case of Sergei Magnitsky is but one example of systemic violations of human rights and impunity for perpetrators. All victims of gross human rights violations and abuses deserve justice.

However, the Senate and the House of Commons are deeply concerned about the Magnitsky case and the state of human rights and the rule of law in Russia today, as are highly credible human rights organizations globally. Human Rights Watch reports that:

Today, Russia is more repressive than it has ever been in the post-Soviet era. Using a wide range of tools, the state has tightened control over free expression, assembly, and speech, aiming to silence independent critics, including online.

Amnesty International reports that:

Restrictions on rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly increased...Human rights defenders faced fines or criminal prosecution because of their activities...There were reports of torture and other ill-treatment in penitentiary institutions, and prisoners’ lives were at risk because of inadequate medical care in prisons.

In the course of our deliberations on Bill S-226, we heard powerful testimony from a number of individuals close to Mr. Magnitsky, and knowledgeable about the human rights situation in Russia more broadly. As I mentioned earlier, many leaders have fought to bring international attention to Russia's human rights abuses and the tragic case of Sergei Magnitsky.

Mr. Bill Browder, CEO and co-founder of Hermitage Capital Management and the author off Red Notice, has travelled to Ottawa frequently to shed light on the circumstances surrounding Sergei Magnitsky's imprisonment and death, and to implore Canada to take action against human rights violations.

Vladimir Kara-Murza, coordinator of open Russia and deputy leader of the people's freedom party, gave us a first-hand account of the serious human rights challenges Russia faces, given the absence of political pluralism or free and fair elections, the lack of independent media, and the fact that many of the regime's opponents today are in prison.

Ms. Zhanna Nemtsova spoke to the committee. She is a Russian journalist and activist. Her father, Russian opposition politician and statesman, Boris Nemtsov, was assassinated in the heart of Moscow in 2015, just hours after appealing to the public to support a march against Russia's war in Ukraine. Ms. Nemtsova's testimony for all of us was courageous and heartbreaking.

Canadian parliamentarians have not remained silent over Russia's behaviour. Boris Nemtsov, Russia's illegal annexation of Ukraine, prosecution of Crimean Tatars, and gay and bisexual men in Chechnya, Canada has repeatedly condemned Russia's human rights violations and illegal acts. The Government of Canada will not solely use sanctions to solve all human rights abuses and violations. We will pursue a comprehensive approach, from multilateral and bilateral engagement, to development assistance, to trade policy, to find the best and most effective response. My final recognition and deep appreciation on behalf of all Canadians is to the hon. Irwin Cotler, who has stuck with this, of course.

Victims of gross human rights violations and abuses deserve justice. That is why this government is proud to support Bill S-226, with some amendments, to enable Canada to take restrictive measures against foreign nationals responsible for gross violations of human rights and corruption. This is not just the Senate, nor the House, nor the government, Canada is speaking with one voice. It truly does take all of us.

Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials ActPrivate Members' Business

June 13th, 2017 / 5:40 p.m.
See context


Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a true honour to speak in support of Bill S-226. I thank Senator Andreychuk for her initiative in another place and I thank the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman for bringing it to the House.

The legislation will effectively add a long overdue dimension to Canada's official sanctions regime by targeting corrupt foreign officials responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights. This act will be forever associated with Sergei Magnitsky, a heroic victim of Vladimir Putin's brutally corrupt regime. He was an auditor who discovered and exposed details of a massive corruption racket involving many mid and high-level Russian government officials, oligarchs, best described collectively as “kleptocrats”.

I will not revisit the tragic details of Mr. Magnitsky's cruel detention, his torture and his death or of the Putin regime's posthumous conviction of Mr. Magnitsky on outrageously confected charges of tax evasion. However, I would recommend, for those unaware of the Magnitsky story, the international best seller, Red Notice, written by his employer, the crusading champion of Magnitsky-style legislation in democracies around the world, Bill Browder, CEO and founder of Hermitage Capital Management.

Bill C-226 lays out very clearly the circumstances under which corrupt foreign individuals, not just in Russia but anywhere in the world, would be listed. Listing would apply to individuals responsible for, or complicit in, extrajudicial killings, torture or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, and foreign government officials exposed of illegal activity.

The law would prohibit those individuals from travelling to Canada, investing in Canada or for any funds or properties of these individuals discovered in Canada to be subject to seizure. The law would also provide for penalties against Canadians found to be engaged in activities that would assist the identified corrupt foreign officials.

The Liberal government has come to accept and support the legislation very late in the day, even though in the final days of our previous Parliament, the Liberals joined all parties in unanimously supporting a motion for Magnitsky-style legislation.

The first Magnitsky legislation was passed in the United States in 2012. Other countries have followed such as the United Kingdom and Estonia. The European Parliament has called on member countries to consider imposing entry bans on listed individuals and for co-operation in freezing the assets of listed Russians.

Despite acceptance and implementation of these Magnitsky laws, the former Liberal foreign minister, Stéphane Dion, flatly opposed such legislation last year, saying, more than a little disingenuously, that it was unnecessary. Fortunately, over the past year, encouraged by the official opposition and NDP members of the foreign affairs committee, the Liberal members of the committee came to agree that in fact Canada did need Magnitsky-style sanctions legislation.

Our committee heard testimony from a broad spectrum of witnesses.

Former Liberal justice minister, Irwin Cotler, the sponsor of the House's original Magnitsky motion, said that the main objective “is to combat the persistent and pervasive culture of corruption, criminality and impunity”, and most importantly, to assure victims and defenders of human rights in such foreign countries “that Canada will not relent in our pursuit of justice for them”.

Garry Kasparov, an eloquent advocate of democratic reform in Russia and, of course, former world chess champio, put it this way in his testimony before the committee. He said, “Money is always looking for safe harbour. We are talking about hundreds of billions of dollars, if not more, of this money that will definitely be looking for a place to be invested.” He warned against Canada being considered by corrupt individuals as a “safe haven”.

Zhanna Nemtsova, daughter of the Russian pro-democracy crusader, Boris Nemtsov, murdered on a Moscow bridge in 2015, made clear the importance of targeted sanctions against named individuals. She said, “These are not sanctions against a country or even a government. These are sanctions against specific individuals responsible for corruption and for abusing human rights.”

Equally powerful testimony came from Russian human rights activist, Vladimir Kara-Murza who, after recovering from one sinister attempt to poison him in Russia in 2015, told our committee:

I have no doubt that this was deliberate poisoning intended to kill, and it was motivated by my political activities in the Russian democratic opposition, likely including my involvement in the global campaign in support of the Magnitsky Act.

Mr. Kara-Murza was in Canada a few weeks ago still recovering from a second poisoning attempt on his life. He encouraged Canadian parliamentarians to ensure the legislation was quickly voted into law and then, as importantly, effectively enforced.

That is an important point because, as the foreign affairs committee discovered during our hearings this past year, enforcement of Canada's existing sanction regime is pathetically dysfunctional and ineffective.

The Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act was created in 2011, to respond to events of the Arab Spring, where governments fell and state assets were vulnerable to corrupt officials suspected of moving ill-gotten wealth to locations abroad.

The Special Economic Measures Act has been used in the creation of a number of regulations that would impose restrictive measures and prohibitions on illegitimate activities, to freeze bank accounts, to block financial dealings and seize property.

Sanctions against Iran for its nuclear adventurism and sponsorship of terrorism are within SEMA, as are sanctions against Russia for the invasion and occupation of Crimea and sponsorship of the deadly rebellion in Eastern Ukraine.

However, testimony revealed that Canadian departments and agencies that were mandated to monitor and to enforce such sanctions, operated in counterproductive silos, that the complexities of sanctions enforcement exceeded the capacity of departments and agencies. Most important, we heard from the RCMP and other agencies that there was a lack of capacity to monitor and investigate compliance and that sanctions enforcement was a much lower priority than say, anti-terror responsibilities.

While we in the official opposition are pleased that the Liberals have accepted our unanimous foreign affairs committee recommendations to add this Magnitsky bill, Bill C-226 to Canada's sanction regimes, there is still much more to be done.

There are 12 other recommendations in the committee report aimed at fixing Canada's dysfunctional sanctions enforcement to increase capacity, coordination, and commitment between departments and agencies. The need for just such action was made clear last month. Where bureaucrats, security agency officials, and financial institution specialists tended to scoff that Russian kleptocrats would want to move illegal funds to Canada or to enjoy those ill-gotten gains in Canada, information provided by Mr. Browder to the RCMP last year and to Canadian journalists more recently proved exactly the opposite.

The CBC confirmed that after following up on Mr. Browder's documents, a powerful Russian crime syndicate, accused of laundering hundreds of millions of dollars around the world, appears to have also flowed millions through nearly 30 Canadian bank accounts, without sanctions enforcers noticing. Some of those accounts belonged to individuals. Others were shell companies created to receive incoming funds and to send laundered money abroad.

Lincoln Caylor, a Toronto lawyer who specializes in complex fraud, was quoted as saying that there was so much documentation proving that millions from a sophisticated Russian tax fraud had moved in and out of Canada, that it was groundbreaking.

We in the official opposition are pleased the government has finally decided to support Conservative legislation, which will target the world's worst human rights offenders, as well as from Russia, to Iran, China, Congo, Venezuela, South Sudan, anywhere perpetrators of gross violations of human rights can be identified. We are pleased with the combination of Bill C-226 and the foreign affairs committee's unanimous recommendations to apply Magnitsky sanctions legislation and to enforce them.

The challenge now is for the often foot-dragging Liberal government to actually act.

Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials ActPrivate Members' Business

June 13th, 2017 / 5:30 p.m.
See context


Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today in strong support of Bill S-226, which is entitled “Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act”. The bill would enable targeted sanctions against foreign nationals involved in human rights abuses. It would amend two existing Canadian laws, the Special Economic Measures Act, and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. In doing so, it would allow the government to declare individual human rights abusers inadmissible to the country and would freeze their assets in Canada.

Before I address the substance of the bill, I want to say a few words about where it comes from. Most of us in the House are by now familiar with the sad if not tragic story of Sergei Magnitsky, the man honoured by name in the bill. Mr. Magnitsky was a lawyer in Moscow acting on behalf of Bill Browder, an American businessman managing an investment fund there. Mr. Magnitsky uncovered a $230-million corruption scheme involving officials in Russia's interior ministry. He was arrested, jailed, and held without trial for almost a full year. He was denied medical attention as well. He was tortured and eventually killed. He died in November 2009 at the age of 37, after being beaten by prison guards. He was posthumously tried and convicted of the very fraud he had uncovered. That is Russian justice.

Since then, Bill Browder has been fighting for justice and action from the international community. My colleagues and I have had the privilege of meeting with Mr. Browder on several occasions throughout our work on the bill. The progress we have seen so far, with legislation passed in the United States and the United Kingdom, is due in no small measure to the tireless work of Mr. Browder and his colleagues. Indeed, Mr. Browder has devoted his life to this cause: justice for his former lawyer, Mr. Magnitsky. We in the House owe them a debt of gratitude for championing this cause and for presenting us now with an opportunity to establish Canada as another leader in holding human rights abusers accountable.

Of course, Mr. Browder and the others fighting for justice for Mr. Magnitsky are not alone, just as Mr. Magnitsky's case was, sadly, not unique. Testimony from activists and academics before both the House and Senate foreign affairs committees has reinforced the prevalence of such abuses around the globe and the culture of impunity that too often accompanies them, especially at the international level.

That is why it is so important that the bill be global in scope. Though it is inspired by the memory of Sergei Magnitsky and the fight for justice by those who knew him, its effects will reach far beyond Russia.

As Garry Kasparov told the House foreign affairs committee last year, “Money is always looking for safe harbour”. Bill S-226 would deny safe harbour in Canada to those who deny and destroy the rights of their own citizens, wherever such acts were committed. It would also put wind in the sails of those fighting that corruption and that injustice in their own countries.

The NDP has consistently called for targeted sanctions against those responsible for human rights violations and for greater coordination of Canada's regime with the European Union and the United States. However, what is remarkable today is the degree of agreement across all parties and both chambers. I note that the bill echoes recommendations of both the House and Senate foreign affairs committees, as well as motions passed by both chambers in 2015. Not only that, every recognized party in the House committed to the adoption of this type of targeted sanctions legislation in the last federal election. Therefore, I hope this long overdue bill will now be passed swiftly.

As I said earlier, the bill would amend two laws, the Special Economic Measures Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, to allow for targeted sanctions against individuals.

How would that work? It would apply to those responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, and other gross human rights violations, as well as those who would use their public office to expropriate public wealth, including through corrupt contracting, bribery, and the extraction of natural resources.

It is therefore broader in scope than the Freezing Assets of Foreign Corrupt Officials Act, which applies primarily to the misappropriation of public property and is triggered at the request of a foreign government.

The bill would allow for sanctions to be imposed on individuals in cases that did not meet the high and government-focused threshold currently required by the existing Special Economic Measures Act. Every sanctions regime currently authorized under that act uses the “grave breach provision” , as it is called, which refers to violations of international peace and security that are “likely to result in a serious international crisis.” In other words, the threshold is very high before action can occur. The murder of an opposition leader or the misappropriation of natural resource wealth may not spark that international crisis, but it ought to bring consequences from the international community. The bill would allow Canada, finally, to do just that.

Bill S-226 would also tighten the linkage between the Special Economic Measures Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. As it stands, listing under the former does not automatically lead to a declaration of inadmissibility under the latter, the immigration legislation.

As the report of House foreign affairs committee correctly noted, the complexity and layering of Canada's sanctions regime, which includes several distinct legislative authorities, can offer flexibility but can also breed, frankly, confusion and overlap. This disconnect between imposing economic sanctions under one act while declaring inadmissibility under another has to be fixed. This bill would fix it.

As Professor Meredith Lilly noted in testimony before the committee, “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 foreign affairs committee appears to have endorsed that conclusion in its recommendations to us.

It is also important to note that Bill S-226 would require the appropriate parliamentary committees to conduct annual reviews of the individuals and entities targeted for freezing of assets and travel bans. This is an appropriate and useful role for Parliament to play. It strikes me as particularly important in light of another recommendation in our foreign affairs committee's most recent report. That report noted a concern, based on the experience of other jurisdictions, that existing mechanisms for ministerial review of sanctions decisions may be insufficient with respect to their procedural fairness and their transparency.

In light of that, the committee recommended the enactment of an independent administrative review mechanism for individuals and entities that felt that they had been wrongly targeted.

In the context of that broader recommendation, the bill's provisions for parliamentary committees to regularly review the government's sanctions targets is important and timely.

I am proud of the spirit of collaboration that has guided the bill through both chambers and their committees. The bill responds to a call for justice by those who know first-hand the corrosive effects of corruption and violence on a political system. Indeed, one of its proponents, Boris Nemstov, a democratic leader in Russia who spoke in support of this legislation in Ottawa in 2012, was later assassinated.

The bill would make Canada a leader in holding those responsible and complicit in such crimes and human rights violations accountable, through targeted economic sanctions and travel bans. Passing the bill would send a powerful signal to those fighting for justice for Sergei Magnitsky that Canada would not be a safe haven for those responsible and complicit in such crimes to enjoy the fruits of their crimes.

Foreign AffairsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

June 12th, 2017 / 3:45 p.m.
See context


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today to present two petitions. They are both from the Vietnamese community. They call upon the Government of Canada to accept the two bills that are in the House right now. We will be debating one tomorrow, my private member's bill, Bill S-226, the justice for victims of corrupt foreign officials act, the Sergei Magnitsky law, which I am sponsoring on behalf of Senator Raynell Andreychuk. Petitioners are asking the Government of Canada and Parliament to accept the legislation as a way to sanction those individuals who are committing gross human rights violations, as well as those enriching themselves through corruption.

One petition has over 400 signatures on it, and the other has 1,262 signatures. The second one is slightly different in that the petitioners ask that we particularly target Vietnam, which is still suppressing political dissidents. Over the last number of years, over 420 political prisoners have been executed, and that has to come to an end.

JusticePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

May 29th, 2017 / 3:20 p.m.
See context


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 / 2:20 p.m.
See context


Bob Nault Liberal Kenora, ON

Madam Speaker, I will not reiterate everything that has been said today, but I am very encouraged that on a Friday afternoon, we are debating something that is extremely important to Canadians and our relationship with the rest of the world.

I want to thank Senator Andreychuk and the other place for their fine work on this legislation, as well as my colleague from Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman for presenting this to the House.

As members may know, I am the chair of the foreign affairs committee and I am very pleased to speak on behalf of the committee and talk about, to some extent, the unanimous report from the committee. It has helped stimulate the conversation, both within the government and through Parliament as a whole. The report entitled “A Coherent and Effective Approach to Canada's Sanction Regimes: Sergei Magnitsky and Beyond” is a very good read for those who may not have followed this initiative of members of Parliament in the past and want to catch up on the history of the work and some of the issues surrounding what we call the sanctions regime, even though it is not the formal name the United Nations and others call this process.

It is my honour to speak to Bill S-226, the justice for victims of corrupt foreign officials act and the Sergei Magnitsky law.

First, I would like to pay tribute to Mr. Magnitsky, who lost his life in a very brave campaign to expose corruption in Russia. The circumstances surrounding Mr. Magnitsky's death have made it abundantly clear why we should not look away when we see human rights violations and abuses, wherever they occur. Like Mr. Magnitsky, countless people across the world have suffered repeated violations of human rights. Like Mr. Magnitsky, many have been victimized by the same institutions and individuals who are entrusted with protecting them. Like Mr. Magnitsky, many have not seen the perpetrators brought to justice.

Today, as part of the human and integral rights of Canada's international engagement, we stand up for our values and we are not afraid to speak up against human rights violations and abuses in Russia or anywhere else. That is the key to this legislation. Yes, it is in honour of Mr. Magnitsky, but it is really in honour of Canada's values and beliefs about the fact that human rights violations should not go unnoticed and that there should be a way of reacting legally to this process.

In the short time that I have, I want to say a few words about the work of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development on the issue of Canada's sanctions regime.

As has been mentioned, in April, the committee adopted a unanimous report entitled, “A Coherent and Effective Approach to Canada's Sanction Regimes: Sergei Magnitsky and Beyond”. In this report, the committee made 13 recommendations to the government, aimed at strengthening Canada's sanctions regime as a critical tool of our foreign policy.

There was a very large debate in committee, with many professional witnesses who were experts in the field. As part of that study, the committee heard compelling testimony from human rights advocates, including the Hon. Irwin Cotler, to whom everyone talked, Garry Kasparov, Bill Browder, Zhanna Nemtsova, and Vladimir Kara-Murza, regarding the powerful impact that sanctions targeting human rights violators and corrupt officials could have in advancing respect for human rights and good governance.

We know the legislation is going back to committee, and we are very interested in it going back as soon as possible, only because the committee would like to conclude the work that has been going on for what seems like a decade.

These witnesses highlighted the practical use of these sanctions, for example, how imposing real costs on human rights violators could help to end the culture of impunity that too often prevailed in some countries. They also underlined the important symbolic value of sanctions, namely, how passing a Magnitsky act would demonstrate Canada's resolve to stand up to human rights violators around the world and encourage other states to follow.

This testimony inspired our committee to dedicate its report to Mr. Magnitksy and his tragic death. Bill S-226 addresses one of the most important recommendations in our report, that the Special Economic Measures Act, known as SEMA, should be amended to allow for sanctions in cases of gross human rights violations. I believe the bill offers Canada the opportunity to join the efforts of our international partners.

The bill also touches on another of our report's recommendations. It calls for greater consistency between Canada's sanctions measures and our immigration policy, which is extremely important to the implementation and process of this legislation. I welcome the amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act included in the bill that make those targeted by human rights sanctions inadmissible to Canada. I also believe, as our report recommends, that this inadmissibility should be extended to all those targeted by sanctions under the Special Economic Measures Act.

I am happy to see from the minister's comments on Wednesday that the government shares our committee's concerns regarding the procedural rights of those targeted by sanctions. I agree with the minister that this bill can be improved by providing a right of appeal to those targeted. Sanctions inflict real costs on the persons they target, which is their purpose. Canada should therefore provide these individuals an opportunity to state their case as to why they do not deserve to be the target of such measures.

In addition, I would like to reiterate another of our committee's key findings regarding Canada's sanctions regime. The administration and the enforcement of sanctions measures is as important as the regulations and legislation that creates them. In order for Canadian sanctions to have their full effect, including the proposed sanctions against human rights violators, they must be fully enforced and effectively administered. We must also provide Canada's private sector with the information and services it needs to comply with sanctions measures.

Finally, let me reiterate what the hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs said in the House of Commons on Wednesday evening. Human rights are a non-partisan issue. I look forward to receiving the bill in the committee so we can do the fine work that Parliament expects of us.