Madam Speaker, I am very proud to rise today to speak to Bill S-226, Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, or the Sergei Magnitsky Law.
I want to thank Senator Andreychuk for her work on this file. Over the course of its work, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development heard witnesses on a wide range of issues related to Canadian sanctions, including the circumstances surrounding the detention and death of Mr. Magnitsky. The report presented to the House in April is informing our current review of policies and programs, including those related to our Canadian sanctions regime and promoting our human rights priorities.
As we look at the merits of Bill S-226, we must spare a thought for its namesake, Sergei Magnitsky. Mr. Magnitsky was a Russian lawyer and accountant who fought against the rampant fraud and corruption within the Russian government. Held without trial in 2008, he was denied medical treatment and tortured. He died in prison in 2009. After his death, the Russian authorities found him guilty of the tax fraud he himself had uncovered.
As an ardent defender of human rights around the world, Canada has firmly and repeatedly spoken out against human right violations and abuses in Russia, including in the Magnitski case. We will continue to insist that those involved be held accountable for their actions.
The government supports Bill S-226 because it is committed to doing more to promote and protect human rights and to fight corruption on a global scale. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to all of these issues. That is why Canada's comprehensive approach includes a broad range of tools and involves multilateral and bilateral action.
If Bill S-226 passes, it will create a legal mechanism that will allow Canada to impose sanctions for gross violations of human rights and acts of significant corruption in foreign states. The bill proposes to amend and reshape our legislative tools for imposing sanctions in order to improve the wide range of instruments Canada has for determining the most effective measures to be taken in such cases.
The United Nations Act and the Special Economic Measures Act are the main laws under which Canada imposes sanctions on other countries. These laws give the Government of Canada the legal authority to impose measures and bans in order to limit activities that would otherwise be legitimate. Right now, 18 countries are subject to sanctions under these two laws. The individuals and entities targeted by these sanctions are generally determined in coordination with like-minded countries.
Canada has the authority to impose other types of restrictions under other laws. For example, restrictions can be imposed on travel under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and on trade under the Export and Import Permits Act, and criminal penalties can be imposed on terrorist entities under the Criminal Code.
Canada is currently able to freeze the assets of specific individuals and entities, among other sanctions measures, where one of two situations exists under the Special Economic Measures Act, or SEMA. The first is when Canada is called upon to implement a decision or recommendation of an international organization or association of states of which it is a member. The other is where the Governor in Council determines that a grave breach of international peace and security has occurred that has resulted or is likely to result in a serious international crisis.
Canada typically imposes sanctions under SEMA to complement existing UN-mandated sanctions, or when the UN Security Council is unable to reach a consensus, such as in the case of sanctions against Russia for its violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. While Canada has previously used SEMA to address human rights situations rising to the threshold of grave breaches of international peace and international crises, the current legislation has limitations. Canada also works closely with its international partners through multilateral anti-corruption treaties, and informs to combat corruption and money laundering.
The government's framework is based on our international legal obligations as set out in the United Nations Convention against Corruption, the OECD anti-bribery convention, and other multilateral treaties to which Canada is a party.
The government also fights corruption through criminal provisions in Canada's Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act and the Criminal Code. Additionally, the Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act allows Canada to freeze assets of foreign government officials or politicians when requested by a country in turmoil. This complements the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act.
It is also worth noting the existence of the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act, which assists law enforcement and national security agencies in combatting money laundering, terrorist financing, and threats to the security of Canada.
Bill S-226 will complement the reach of current legislation by creating an additional mechanism that Canada could use to respond to gross human rights violations and abuses or significant corruption in a foreign state. It will also modify the inadmissibility framework of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act to create a legal mechanism for those sanctioned under SEMA, or the Sergei Magnitsky law, to be refused entry into Canada.
This legislation is similar to what has been enacted by some of our international partners. It follows on the steps taken by the U.S. to expand the reach of the 2012 Magnitsky act into a broader approach in the recently passed global Magnitsky act. This new act enables the U.S. to withhold visas and freeze financial assets of those individuals thought to have been involved in human rights violations or acts of corruption. Last April, the U.K. Parliament passed the Criminal Finances Act, which expands the powers of the government and courts to freeze the assets of human rights violators.
The government applauds the hard work of Senator Andreychuk in raising important questions on how best to respond to acts of foreign corruption, and human rights violations and abuses.
We will work with parliamentarians to seek amendments that are necessary to ensure that Bill S-226 will be an effective addition to our foreign policy tool kit.
Let me reiterate that our government is a strong defender of human rights in Canada and around the world. We know that the issue of human rights sanctions and the Sergei Magnitsky case have drawn strong interest, and rightly so. As we said, 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 Magnitsky. Bill S-226, currently before the House of Commons, which we are debating today, aims to address this gap. Our government is pleased to announce its support for this important legislation.
Let me also say that the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development did tremendous work in its review of SEMA. We applaud the work that was led by the chair of that committee, the hon. member for Kenora, as well as the unanimous recommendations that provide us with some grounding with which to enter this debate.
It is a pleasure to rise today. I look forward to continued debate and the strengthening of this legislation.