House of Commons Hansard #181 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was offence.


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12:55 p.m.


Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, one that comes to mind immediately is that some pubs in some communities now have invested in shuttle buses so that they can get their customers home safely at night. In fact, those kinds of programs attract a loyal customer base, because people know they can have an enjoyable evening at the establishment and get home safely. I would point that out as a complementary program set up by the private sector, which has worked really well in communities like mine.

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12:55 p.m.

Scarborough Southwest Ontario


Bill Blair LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to rise in the House to join in the second reading debate on Bill C-46, an act to amend the Criminal Code (offences relating to conveyances) and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

I am proud to speak in support of this proposed legislation. If passed, our government is convinced that Bill C-46 will reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by impaired drivers. Our roads and highways will be safer for our efforts.

The bill proposes to address both alcohol- and drug-impaired driving, but I intend to focus my remarks primarily on the elements that address drug-impaired driving.

Before I outline the proposals in Bill C-46, I would like to emphasize that driving while impaired by a drug is currently a criminal offence in Canada, and has been since 1925. Members should rest assured that if someone drives while impaired by drugs today, he or she will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Bill C-46 seeks to build on the existing offence by authorizing new tools and by creating new offences to make Canada one of the world's leaders in the fight against impaired driving.

To enforce the existing offence of driving while impaired by drugs, the Criminal Code currently authorizes the police to conduct standardized field sobriety tests at the roadside. These tests can include asking a driver to walk a straight line, balance on one leg, and a number of other tests of physical and motor skills. The Criminal Code also authorizes more sophisticated drug recognition evaluations at the police station, by highly trained drug recognition evaluators, once the police officer has reasonable grounds to believe, based on roadside tests or otherwise, that the driver is impaired.

The drug recognition evaluation consists of a 12-step protocol to determine whether the driver is impaired by a drug. It includes testing such things as balance, pupil size, and blood pressure. These tools have been effective since their legislative introduction in 2008 and have led to an increase in the detection of drug-impaired drivers across our country, yet despite these measures, drug-impaired driving on our roads continues to increase. Clearly, more needs to be done in advance of our proposed legislation and the strict regulation of cannabis.

My colleagues have also mentioned the need for training more drug recognition experts. Our government has, on many occasions, re-emphasized its commitment to ensuring that a drug recognition training program is available and acceptable to all Canadian police services so that we can make sure there are adequately trained experts to conduct these tests.

I am pleased to outline the proposals in Bill C-46 that aim to address drug-impaired driving by building on the existing legal framework and by proposing new tools and offences to create a strong impaired-driving regime.

Bill C-46 proposes to provide law enforcement with the authority to demand that a driver provide an oral fluid sample at the roadside to be analyzed by a roadside oral fluid drug screener if an officer has a reasonable suspicion that a driver has drugs in his or her body. Reasonable suspicion is a well-understood standard in criminal law and can be developed through a number of observations, including such things as red eyes, muscle termors, abnormal speech patterns, and of course, the smell of cannabis.

These oral fluid drug screeners would detect the presence of a drug in a driver's oral fluid, and they would provide the officers with information that could be used to develop reasonable and probable grounds to believe that an impaired-driving offence had occurred. Once officers had reasonable and probable grounds to believe that the offence had occurred, they would then have the authority to demand a sample of blood from the driver, and as well, to bring them before a drug recognition expert for evaluation.

The oral fluid drug screener would detect THC, cocaine, and methamphetamine. In the future, more drugs will be able to be detected by these oral fluid drug screeners as the technology evolves.

Madam Speaker, I forgot to mentioned earlier that I will be splitting my time with the member for Oakville North—Burlington.

In addition to authorizing these additional tools for police, the bill proposes three new criminal offences for being over the prescribed legal drug limit within two hours of driving. These offences would be proven through a blood sample and would relieve the crown of the burden of proving that the driver was impaired. It would be enough to prove that the driver had an illegal level of drugs in his or her blood.

The first offence would be a straight summary conviction offence. The second and third offences would be hybrid offences: the second one would apply to drugs alone, while the third would apply to drugs when used in combination with alcohol.

Members may have noticed that although the proposed offences are in the bill, the actual prohibited drug levels are not. This is because the drug levels are to be set by regulation, which comes into force at the same time, or close to the same time, as the proposed offences.

Setting the prohibited levels in the regulations is the responsibility of the Minister of Justice, who has the ability to revise the regulations more quickly and efficiently in response to scientific developments. This is the approach currently taken in setting prohibited drug levels in the United Kingdom, and I believe it is the wisest course of action.

Other impairing drugs would be included in the regulations, but I would like to focus on the proposed levels for tetrahydrocannabinol, the primary impairing component of cannabis. For the straight summary conviction offence, the proposed level for THC would be between two and five nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood. The proposed penalty for this offence is a maximum fine of $1,000 and a discretionary prohibition on driving for up to one year.

The proposed level of THC for the drug-alone hybrid offence would be over five nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood, and for the hybrid offence addressing drugs when used in combination with alcohol, the proposed levels would be 2.5 nanograms of THC per millilitre of blood in combination with 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.

The penalties for these two new hybrid offences would be the same as for alcohol-impaired driving, and they would include a mandatory minimum penalty of $1,000 on a first offence, 30 days' imprisonment on a second offence, and 120 days' imprisonment on a third or subsequent offence.

One final element of the proposed offences I would like to address concerns the time frame in which the proposed legal limit offence could be committed. Members may have noticed that the offence is worded to capture drivers with a prohibited level of drug in their blood within two hours of driving, and not at the time of driving.

This proposed formulation reflects a number of significant policy goals. First, unlike with alcohol, it is not possible to determine or back-calculate from a blood sample what a driver's blood drug concentration would have been at the time of driving. This is why the within-two-hours framework is necessary. It further addresses the concern of people trying to obstruct the testing process by consuming drugs after driving and then claiming that this post-driving consumption was responsible for the illegal drug level.

I would like to conclude my remarks by addressing a few of the more common questions I have heard over the past few weeks concerning this bill since its introduction.

People have been asking, “How much can I smoke before I can drive, and how long after I smoke do I need to wait before it is safe to drive?” I understand these questions, because for years, we have been able to provide general guidance to drivers with respect to alcohol consumption.

There is a significant scientific consensus that consuming cannabis impairs the ability to drive. The proposed prescribed THC levels are based on the advice of the Drugs and Driving Committee of the Canadian Society of Forensic Science. This committee provides scientific advice to the Minister of Justice on issues related to drug-impaired driving.

Let me be perfectly clear. The safest approach for people who choose to consume cannabis is to not mix their consumption with driving. Driving is a privilege, not a right. If Canadians choose to consume cannabis, they must do so in a socially responsible way by not risking the lives of their fellow Canadians, to say nothing of their own.

I would also take this opportunity to point out what was already referenced by the member in his speech regarding the remarks of eminently respected constitutional scholar Prof. Peter Hogg, in which he articulates his belief that the measures proposed in this legislation are constitutionally valid, constitutional validity being determined under section 1 of the charter as a reasonable suspicion and passing the elements of the Oakes test.

Finally, I wish to strongly support the proposals in Bill C-46. I would like to encourage all members to support this bill and work towards the common goal of reducing deaths and injuries on our roads and highways as quickly as possible.

I spent more than four decades of my adult life dealing with this critical issue. I have seen far too many people lose their lives, far too injuries, and far too much trauma and tragedy in our communities for this to continue to persist. We have a responsibility to act, and I believe that the provisions of Bill C-46 are the right steps forward.

I encourage all members of this House to support this bill.

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1:05 p.m.


John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for his speech today and for his years of service in policing our communities in Toronto.

I will give the hon. member credit. He did come to Barrie. I know he did a cross-Canada tour on this.

I subsequently met with the stakeholders the member met with in Barrie. There were significant concerns about this bill. Everyone I spoke to after that meeting felt that the parliamentary secretary was hearing but was not listening to those concerns. There were obviously social concerns with respect to the legalization of marijuana, but more specifically, there was a concern about the cost and the downloading of costs to municipalities with respect to policing, enforcement, zoning, etc. Those were some of the issues people were left confused by. Any time there is confusion, there is doubt.

I want to ask the parliamentary secretary about the downloading of costs and how his government plans to deal with them.

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1:10 p.m.


Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Madam Speaker, as the member for Barrie—Innisfil has suggested, I did travel across the country. I have had the opportunity to meet with municipal officials, public health officials, and police chiefs across the country. I have spoken very extensively to the drugs and driving committee, for example, of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police. I have heard their concerns with respect to the impact that supporting this important legislation will have on their resources.

I must also say that they overwhelmingly support the provisions and the clarification that Bill C-46 offers with respect to impaired driving, which is, as we all know, one of the most litigated pieces of law within the Criminal Code and in creating jurisprudence.

Many questions they asked were about the impact this will have on their resources. One of those impacts is that they will need to have sufficient training and have access to the technology that will now be required. My government has assured them, and I have assured them, from coast to coast, that we are committed to ensuring that all police services have the legislation, the training, the technology, and the resources that they will require to keep our roadways safe.

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1:10 p.m.


Tracey Ramsey NDP Essex, ON

Madam Speaker, the NDP has long stood for measures to stop impaired driving. We need to focus on smarter deterrents to actually prevent these tragedies. We need a robust public awareness campaign before this legislation comes into effect. I note that the bill does not have any clear limits on how much marijuana in saliva qualifies as impairment, and we need a science-backed initiative to stop impaired drivers in their tracks.

As the parliamentary secretary told us, he is a former law enforcement member, so he knows that the exercise of police authority can and does disproportionately affect visible minorities. The experience of carding or street-checking and the disproportionate arrests and charging of visible minorities for marijuana offences make that very clear.

What reason would an officer have to give under this legislation to ensure that racialized Canadians are not targeted for mandatory breath testing?

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1:10 p.m.


Bill Blair Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Madam Speaker, first of all, having been involved in the delivery of front-line policing services for over four decades, I can tell her that the disproportionality in contact that police across this country have with minority and racialized communities is a reality, but there are very many social, economic, and cultural reasons, including the possibility of institutional police misconduct, that can lead to that disproportionality.

I want to assure the member, as is contained in the response of the Minister of Justice in her constitutional opinion, that the provision of mandatory testing only applies if a person is otherwise lawfully stopped and provides a lawful authority to interfere with their privacy in a breath sample for the important objective of enhancing road safety. If that stop is determined by our courts to be unlawful—a stop that was based not on legitimate legal reasons but rather a stop based on anything inappropriate, such as the race or ethnicity of the driver—it would render the stop unlawful, and it therefore would not be acceptable and constitutional under this legislation.

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1:10 p.m.


Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-46, legislation that I know is important to the residents and law enforcement officers in Oakville North—Burlington and across Canada.

Impaired driving is a serious crime that kills and injures thousands of Canadians every year. In 2015, there were more than 72,000 impaired-driving incidents reported by the police, including almost 3,000 drug-impaired driving incidents. Impaired driving is the leading criminal cause of death and injury in Canada, and drug-impaired driving is increasing in frequency. Bill C-46 aims to address this serious issue and proposes to create new and stronger laws to punish more severely those who drive while impaired by drugs or alcohol. When I met with Halton police chief Stephen Tanner, we discussed the need for law enforcement to have more tools to better deal with impaired driving.

Today I would like to focus my remarks on the penalties proposed in Bill C-46. The bill would overhaul the penalty provisions to ensure there is coherence and rationality. The proposals include some higher maximum penalties, hybridization of bodily harm offences, and some new mandatory minimum fines. No new or higher mandatory minimum penalties of imprisonment are being proposed.

Bill C-46 would raise the maximum penalties for impaired driving where there is no death or injury. In cases in which the prosecution proceeds by the less serious summary conviction procedure, the maximum period of imprisonment would be increased from the current 18 months to two years less a day. When the prosecution chooses to proceed by the more serious indictable procedure, the maximum period of imprisonment would increase from the current five years to 10 years. This new 10-year maximum would permit the prosecution, in appropriate circumstances, to make a dangerous a offender application. These changes send a clear message concerning the seriousness of impaired driving.

The dangerous driving causing death offence currently has a 14-year maximum period of imprisonment. Bill C-46 would raise this to a maximum of life imprisonment, which is currently the maximum penalty for all other similar offences resulting in death. With the increase of the dangerous driving causing death maximum penalty, there would no longer be a need for the prosecution to pursue separate offences in order to allow for a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

Bill C-46 proposes changes that would merge the offence of impaired driving causing bodily harm with the offence of dangerous driving causing bodily harm.

Currently, the offence is a straight indictable offence, which means that the prosecution must treat all cases the same, even those involving less serious bodily harm, such as a broken arm.

Bill C-46 proposes a maximum penalty on a summary conviction procedure of two years less a day, and on indictment it would increase from 10 years of imprisonment to 14 years. This is important, given that the vast majority of alcohol-impaired driving sentences are in cases that involve no death or injury. This change would therefore give the prosecution greater flexibility, and this additional discretion may promote efficiencies in our criminal justice system by reducing the time to process cases involving minor or no injuries.

Under Bill C-46, the existing mandatory minimum fine of $1,000 for alcohol- and drug-impaired driving offences would apply to a number of hybrid offences, including driving while impaired by alcohol or a drug, driving while over a drug's legal limit, and driving with a drug-plus-alcohol blood concentration in excess of the legal limits.

Bill C-46 would also create a new mandatory minimum fine of $1,500 for a first offence of driving with a blood alcohol concentration over 120 milligrams. In addition, it would create a new mandatory minimum fine of $2,000 for driving with a blood alcohol concentration over 160 milligrams. The higher mandatory minimum fine penalties for a first offence will reflect the increased crash risk that is associated with higher blood alcohol concentrations.

Bill C-46 would also create a new mandatory minimum fine of $2,000 for a first offence of refusing a valid police demand for a breath sample, a blood sample, a urine sample, an oral fluid sample, a standard field sobriety test, or testing in a drug evaluation. This is important to ensure compliance with demands. Otherwise, first-offence drivers with a higher blood alcohol concentration could simply refuse to give a sample in order to evade the higher mandatory minimum fines.

For repeat offenders, having a high blood alcohol concentration would be an aggravating factor to be considered upon sentencing. The mandatory minimum penalty for a second offence would remain as it currently stands in the Criminal Code at 30 days' imprisonment, and for each subsequent offence it would remain at 120 days' imprisonment.

Bill C-46 does not propose any new or higher mandatory minimum penalties of imprisonment for the Criminal Code's transportation offences, including drug-impaired driving and alcohol-impaired driving. With respect to impaired driving causing death cases, I understand that provincial courts already typically impose or uphold penalties that are well above the existing mandatory minimum penalties and are in the range of at least three to four years, if not higher.

Bill C-46 does not propose a mandatory minimum penalty that exceeds the current sentencing range, because this is not necessary to ensure appropriate sentences and does not work as a deterrent. Indeed, the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada, which is based in my community of Oakville, is opposed to mandatory minimum penalties for these offences, citing charter concerns in certain circumstances, but also pointing out that mandatory minimums can have a downward pull on sentences. The organization explained that they become an inappropriate cap where longer sentences might be appropriate. The better route is to leave sentencing discretion to the trial and appellate courts.

I had the pleasure of meeting with MADD Canada's CEO, Andrew Murie, recently in my riding. In addition to his comments on mandatory minimums, he expressed his organization's confidence in our justice department and commented that he was pleased with the consultations that had taken place with his organization on this subject. He also expressed his thanks to our government, noting that we have such a deep understanding of the issue and are prepared to take a comprehensive approach to addressing it.

I will now turn to the subject of prohibitions and ignition interlock devices. Currently, where there is no injury or death on a first offence, the sentencing court must impose a mandatory minimum prohibition against driving anywhere in Canada for a period of one year. On a second offence, the penalty is a period of two years, and for a subsequent offence, the minimum driving prohibition is for a period of three years.

Bill C-46 also reduces the current waiting period before which the offender may drive when using an ignition interlock device. On a first offence, the waiting period to use an ignition interlock device would be reduced from the current three months to no waiting time. On a second offence, the waiting period to use an ignition interlock device would be reduced from the current six months to three months, and on a subsequent offence, the waiting period to use an ignition interlock device would be reduced from the current 12 months to six months. These amendments would reflect the fact that ignition interlock device programs help to prevent recidivism.

Currently, the Criminal Code has a provision by which an impaired driving offender may be given a conditional discharge on the condition that he or she attend a program of curative treatment. This curative treatment discharge provision has not yet been proclaimed into force in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Bill C-46 would replace this provision with one that allows the defence to apply, with the consent of the prosecution, for a delay of the sentencing hearing in order for the offender to attend a provincially approved treatment program. If the offender successfully completes the program, the sentencing court would not be obliged to impose the mandatory minimum penalty or the mandatory period of prohibition against driving anywhere in Canada.

I am pleased to support Bill C-46. I respectfully ask my colleagues on all sides of the House to support this important piece of legislation that would make our communities safer for everyone

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1:20 p.m.


Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Sadly, Madam Speaker, visible minorities are often targeted for arrest and subjected to accusations.

What measures will the government implement to ensure that Canadians who are victims of racial profiling will not be disproportionately targeted for mandatory alcohol screening?

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1:20 p.m.


Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, in drafting this new legislative power, the government did consider the potential for racial profiling. We strongly oppose such behaviour in any circumstance.

Mandatory alcohol screening is being proposed to keep all Canadians safe. It would not give police any additional powers that the police do not already have under common and provincial law to stop drivers at random to determine their sobriety. Mandatory screening would not alter the responsibility of local forces toward training and oversight of their own officers to ensure that they are appropriately applying Canadian law and upholding the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

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1:20 p.m.


Pat Kelly Conservative Calgary Rocky Ridge, AB

Madam Speaker, the implications of this bill include significant changes to policing at the local level. Municipalities have concerns about resources and about adapting to new requirements, particularly with the prospect of having to screen drivers for impairment due to cannabis. I would like the member to comment on the implications of the bill on both provinces and especially municipalities.

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1:25 p.m.


Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, as a former municipal councillor, I recognize there are limited costs within a municipality, especially when it comes to policing, fire, and EMS. With regard to the legislation, I know law enforcement agencies have been asking for additional tools and are looking for ways to better keep their communities safe. This legislation has been rolled out to give law enforcement services the tools they have asked for to keep communities safe when it comes to alcohol and drug-impaired driving.

Police forces already have options available to them to deal with drug-impaired driving. Mandatory breath screening gives them an additional tool they can use to keep our communities safer. I think we can all agree that we would like to see this.

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1:25 p.m.

Louis-Hébert Québec


Joël Lightbound LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her excellent speech.

Just as alcohol impaired driving is illegal, so is drug impaired driving. However, over the past few years, there has been greater awareness regarding drunk driving. When Canadians go out and plan to have a drink, they know they need to have a designated driver or take a taxi to get home. There is not the same level of awareness when it comes to drugs.

Bill C-46 gives police officers the tools to test drivers. It also sends a very clear message that we have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to drug impaired driving.

In the member's opinion, just how much would public awareness be raised as a result of giving police officers additional tools and setting penalties that would enable prosecutors to properly prosecute drug-impaired drivers?

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1:25 p.m.


Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, even having this discussion has allowed the public to become far more aware about the dangers, particularly with drug-impaired driving. A number of people knew there were dangers with alcohol-impaired driving, but they did not recognize they also should not drive a vehicle when they were under the influence of drugs.

Therefore, the legislation is helping to raise awareness already. In addition, I know the Department of Health, under the proposed legalization of cannabis, is also embarking on an education campaign.

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1:25 p.m.


Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer—Mountain View, AB

Madam Speaker, it is certainly a pleasure for me to rise today to contribute to this important debate on Bill C-46.

I think everyone recognizes this is companion legislation, with the attempt to give cover for the Liberals' legislation regarding government-sponsored cannabis distributions and sales.

I was proud of our previous government's record on reducing crime and standing up for the right of victims. So many of us have presented petitions on behalf of families whose lives have been devastated by the actions of those people who choose to drink and drive. Now we are adding people to that, those who feel we have normalized the use of marijuana. When I come back to my discussion, I will talk about that.

As someone who has taught school for 34 years, I have seen the carnage and the issues young people have to deal with when it comes to drugs and alcohol. I feel like we should be able to contribute to that and talk about it.

As we move forward with the legislation at committee, we will try to ensure that there is some clarity for law enforcement officers and municipal and provincial governments and that the legal system has the manpower and the resources to deal with it.

There have been talks about whether there is clarity when it comes to charter compliance. Sometimes governments depend a lot on departments to say that something is charter compliant, only to find out later that maybe they did not quite have right. We can think about yesterday when the Alberta Court of Appeal struck down a portion of its provincial impaired driving laws, which deal with the immediate suspension of a driver's licence. It ruled in favour of a constitutional challenge to strike down the law.

These are the sorts of things taking place and we have to consider the,.

I want to thank our fantastic interim leader, the member Sturgeon River—Parkland, since it is my last opportunity to say this.

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1:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The hon. member will have 17 and a half minutes remaining when this issue is before the House again.

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

1:30 p.m.


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1:45 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, Irwin Cotler, someone we all know, has one of the most able minds in Canada in dealing with issues of human rights. I have had the opportunity to work with him in a different capacity while we were in opposition, and one of the things he was fantastic at doing was ensuring that the Liberal caucus captured the essence of why it was important to do what the Senate has provided us the opportunity to do.

This crosses all party lines. Whether it is Liberals, Conservatives, New Democrats, or Greens, we want to see some tangible action on this issue, so it is with great pride that we are here today having this debate. It has been a long time in coming, and I am wondering if my colleague could provide a perspective of how long we have been waiting to make sure that we get it right.

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

1:45 p.m.


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his praise for Irwin Cotler. Irwin has been a human rights activist from before he entered politics and today is still fighting against human rights abusers around the world. He someone I consider a mentor, as I think all of us here do, for the incredible work he has done over his career.

This is an issue that should be beyond partisanship. I am glad that the government is moving on this issue with the NDP and the Conservatives. We need to make sure that we overcome some of the hurdles that our government and departmental officials have concerns about, but I am confident in the ability of the Minister of Foreign Affairs to lead the charge in putting together the amendments that they want without watering down this legislation, so that the spirit of what we want to do here, which was started by Bill Browder in memorializing Sergei Magnitsky and was championed by people like Irwin Cotler and Senator Raynell Andreychuk, comes to fruition once and for all.

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

May 19th, 2017 / 1:45 p.m.


Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman for bringing this extremely important legislation to the House. I know that the impetus for this legislation came out of Russia, but I have worked in parts of Africa, such as the Democratic Republic of Congo. I did an anti-corruption campaign in Bosnia and I worked in parts of Asia where these kinds of human rights abuses are perpetrated by people who are in power.

I was wondering if the hon. member could explain to the House how this piece of legislation would give our country the tools to be able to prevent and stop some of these terrible human rights abuses all over the world.

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

1:50 p.m.


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Madam Speaker, this is something I think all of us are very passionate about.

Venezuela right now is in a civil war, but under the leadership of President Nicolás Maduro, they are using food as a weapon, and we have been there before. We have seen this happen in Ukraine on three different occasions. That is why we have the Holodomor Memorial Day, which was a bill I sponsored in the House in 2008 that had all-party support.

Those types of atrocities, such as denying food to their people so that they can win a civil war, are beyond the pale, and the individuals who are creating those atrocities need to be held to account.

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

1:50 p.m.


David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, the Russian government has reacted to the news that our government will be supporting this legislation. I would like to have my colleague comment on that. I think they refer to it as an unfriendly act and suggest it might impact our diplomatic relations. I am wondering if he thinks it is worth doing the right thing here, rather than listening to their advice to us.

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

1:50 p.m.


James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Madam Speaker, I believe we need to take a principled position, and with this legislation, we are. Russians need to realize that this is beyond just them. This is going to have global application. Are some oligarchs and some people in the Kremlin going to be caught up in the sanction list? Probably. All we have to do is look at all the human rights abuses that we have already documented and how many oligarchs are using shell companies to move money through Canada. Bill Browder was able to uncover 30 Russian shell companies that moved $20 million through banks here in Canada, and we cannot allow Canada to be used as a safe haven to launder money.

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

1:50 p.m.

Fredericton New Brunswick


Matt DeCourcey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

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.

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

2 p.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Madam Speaker, I am going to start by tipping my hat both to Fridays and the Senate today.

For those who think that nothing important ever happens here on Fridays, this bill will show that in fact we do important work here on Fridays, things that might otherwise get swept aside in the daily business of the House of Commons. People know that I am sometimes a very strong critic of the Senate, but I have always said that there are some senators who work very hard and some senators who bring forward important measures, for example, Senator Andreychuk and this bill. I am, again, saluting both Fridays and, for once, the Senate.

I talked earlier with people about how, if I actually read the full title of the bill, the 42-word title, twice, I would not have any time to actually speak to the bill, so I am glad to refer to it either as Bill S-226 or the justice for victims of corrupt foreign officials act, which is the short version of the title.

New Democrats are very proud to be supporting this bill. We have been calling for this legislation for a very long time. It gives Canada a chance to join world leaders in the defence of human rights. We are coming a bit late to the table, but better slow than not arriving.

Since I have been in the House, I think the first time we talked about this was in 2013. In fact, in the last Parliament, we unanimously approved a motion that called for adopting legislation like Bill S-226. All parties supported that. That was more than two years ago. Now I am going to praise a Liberal. It was through the hard work of the former Liberal member of Parliament Irwin Cotler, who was the Liberal human rights critic at that time. I believe he made a very persuasive case that this is what we really need to do in response to the proliferation of the use of torture around the world; that is, when sanctions against governments do not work, and they often do not, we apply these sanctions to the individuals responsible for these acts and who profit personally from these acts. That is really what we are talking about in this bill.

It is something that came about in response to a very specific case. We are calling it the Sergei Magnitsky act. Why? He was the lawyer for a man who was investigating corruption in Russia, a Russian lawyer who ended up imprisoned and tortured for nearly a year, who was denied medical treatment, and eventually died in prison in 2009. Why was he in prison? He was in prison because he was the lawyer for a man who had uncovered massive fraud in Russia. This attempt to fight corruption resulted in his imprisonment.

Mr. Cotler had served as the chair of a group called Justice for Sergei Magnitsky, an interparliamentary group which had 21 parliamentarians from 13 countries. Each of them committed to try to get their countries to take some effective action. So far, I believe we would be only the third country, if we do adopt this bill, to take the action that those 21 parliamentarians were working toward.

The United States did in fact pass a narrow version of the Magnitsky act in 2012, which provided financial and travel sanctions specifically on those Russians involved in the Magnitsky case. This was the first version of the act. However, that U.S. legislation was broadened in 2016 to apply to any foreign nationals involved in gross human rights abuses and profiting from those abuses.

The 2015 motion that we passed in this House called for that broader version of legislation, and that is what we see in Bill S-226 today. However, we are still calling it the Magnitsky act to honour Sergei Magnitsky and the sacrifice he made in the fight against corruption and human rights abuses in Russia.

On April 6, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development issued a unanimous report, which was entitled, “A Coherent and Effective Approach to Canada's Sanctions Regimes: Sergei Magnitsky and Beyond”. It had the specific recommendations, again, that are included in Bill S-226, to amend the Special Economic Measures Act to add situations where sanctions can be enacted to include individuals involved in cases of gross violations of human rights.

What does that mean in practical terms? It means that Canada would be able to freeze and perhaps seize assets of those corrupt foreign officials who are bringing the benefits of that corruption and the benefits of those human rights violations here to Canada by stashing assets here or by sending members of their family to live here on what one might call the avails of crime, the avails of human rights violations. They seek out safe countries like Canada as places to take advantage of the gains they have made through human rights violations.

It would also allow us to attack money laundering here in Canada and to deny entrance to Canada of those individuals who have been involved in gross human rights violations.

This is important for Russia, because what we all recognize now is that Russia is well on its way to becoming the greatest kleptocracy in modern history. Those around President Putin have enriched themselves to unbelievable levels through the corruption in the Russian system and through violating the rights of any who dare to oppose the system and oppose that corruption.

Those listening might ask what this has to do with Canada. We can go back to the original investigations by Bill Browder, the person who did the investigations for which Sergei Magnitsky has paid the price. He found more than $20 million being laundered by Russian banks in Canada.

We can point to others close to Putin, such as Oleg Deripaska, one of the closest associates of Putin. He formerly owned a controlling interest in Magna International, a car parts firm here in Canada, and recently tried to purchase a controlling interest in a major Quebec aluminum smelter. We could look at another Putin-friendly oligarch, Roman Abramovich, whose steel company, Evraz, owns several subsidiary steel companies here in Canada. We could look to companies like Uranium One, one of Canada's largest uranium mining firms, which is owned by Russian interests associated with Putin.

This is a real thing. It is not just a theory that they are trying to use Canada as a way of benefiting from their corruption and their human rights violations. This is taking place now, so it is important for us to advance this legislation, even if, as I said, we are a bit late to the table.

It is not just the lawyer Magnitsky who has suffered human rights violations. We could talk about others. Opposition leader Boris Nemtsov appeared here before the foreign affairs committee in 2012, asking us to adopt legislation like this. He did this just a little over two years before he was murdered in the streets of Russia.

We could talk about other Russian opposition leaders who have testified here, such as opposition leader Vladimir Kara-Murza. I forget the year he appeared here, but I think it was also in 2012, a bit after Mr. Nemtsov. He was mysteriously poisoned in 2015. While one could accept maybe one mysterious poisoning, a year later he was poisoned again. He survived two attempts on his life through poisoning after speaking here at this institution in favour of legislation like this. The importance of our proceeding is easy to see.

There are other areas in which we could use legislation like this. I have one that I would like to talk about briefly, and that is Chechnya. The President of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, has been in office since the assassination of his father under various titles because he was too young to assume the presidency at the beginning. He has been in power in Chechnya since 2006. Earlier this year he began a campaign against gay men in Chechnya. Human rights organizations have now documented that this campaign has resulted in the arrests of over 200 gay men in Chechnya, with three confirmed deaths as a result. As I have said before in the House, probably the most pernicious aspect is that the leader of Chechnya has called on families in Chechnya to murder the gay members of their families to protect their honour.

We would be able to use legislation like this to place sanctions on him and those around him so they could not freely travel around the world, so they could not come to Canada, so he could not invest the profits he has made out of the corruption in Chechnya here in Canada.

Right now there are more than 40 Chechen gay men in hiding. They are seeking emergency visas to get out of Russia, which is also not friendly to gay men, and the United States has just refused those visas.

Canada could act very urgently in this case, but once we pass this legislation, we will have an important tool to act against human rights violators like this one.

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

2:10 p.m.


David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity today to speak on this important issue. It is one, as my friend from Manitoba pointed out, that some of us have been involved in for quite some time. Those of us who were here in the last Parliament who were interested in human rights and religious freedom issues worked on this previously, and, as was mentioned, Mr. Cotler took the lead on that. Many of us feel that this legislation could have been passed, and maybe should have been passed, prior to this point. I am glad to see that the Senate and the House are treating this seriously and are moving it forward.

I would like to talk a bit about what the bill would do, as the senator who introduced it in the Senate said. She talked about the purpose of the bill being to provide for taking restrictive measures in respect of foreign nationals responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights. It would enable the Governor General to make orders or regulations allowing the assets and property of foreign nationals to be seized, frozen, or sequestered if those foreign nationals were deemed responsible or complicit in gross violations of internationally recognized human rights. This would apply not only to business transactions and corrupt activity but also to violations of human rights. We have heard some discussion this afternoon about what those might be extended to.

The bill also proposes related amendments to the Special Economic Measures Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. It would amend section 4 of SEMA to include responsibility for complicity in extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights committed against any individual in any foreign country.

I guess the surprising thing is that legislatures around the world have been so slow to apply measures like this, but I think the time has come for us to recognize that this is an important development in international relations and that we can begin to hold people responsible who are violating human rights around the world.

This bill would make these amendments. It would impose stricter regulations on all foreign violators of human rights and give national governments, and our government, an opportunity to hold people responsible for their activities.

We need these sanctions. We cannot continue to allow our banks, our financial institutions, to be used as safe havens, in any manner, for corrupt foreign officials and human rights abusers. This legislation would enable the Government of Canada to much more quickly sanction individuals. We have seen sanctions against nations, but we have been very slow to sanction individuals. This would make it easier to do that and allow it to happen much more quickly, and it could be applied around the world.

We see so many human rights violations. We see so much corruption. We see officials moving money offshore to protect their own accounts and their families' accounts. We see torture of political activists, journalists, and human rights activists around the world. We need some tools to hold officials and leaders accountable for that kind of activity.

Unfortunately, illegal detention, torture, and death are used far too often to silence dissidents around the globe. It was just about 10 days ago that we had hearings at the Subcommittee on Human Rights on Iran, and actually, Mr. Cotler was part of the discussion that day and was one of our witnesses. I talked about the threat posed by the Iranian government, not only outside Iran but also toward its own people. It has the highest rate of execution of any nation in the world. There is a recognized, constant violation of domestic and international law. The president himself has nine departments under his strict control, and each of those departments has been recognized as violating Iranian domestic law. They continue to torture, they continue to export terror around the world, and they seem to be doing this with impunity.

We would love to see this bill in place so we can begin to hold people like that accountable for their treatment of their own citizens and for the impact of the expanded terror network they seem to be putting in place around the globe.

An example would be, within Iran, the Baha'i community. It is a minority religious community that has been basically slated for complete destruction by the Iranian government. Human rights defenders around the world have been trying to protect them and get some of their leaders released from prison. We now see some of that same activity taking place in Yemen, in the very small Baha'i community in Yemen. Interestingly, Iran's revolutionary guard seems to be involved in exporting the attitude and activity from Iran to Yemen, so another small minority community in another part of the globe is paying the price simply for what they believe in, not for what they are doing.

They want to contribute to their society, and they have been a good part of that society. However, we see a regime that is bound and determined to export its human rights violations around the world. A bill like this would go a long way to holding them to account. We believe that this would build on Canada's strong record of standing up for victims of human rights abuses.

Specific to Magnitsky and Russia, this legislation is strongly supported in the Ukrainian community in particular, and it is supported among pro-democracy Russian activists and human rights advocates. They believe that we desperately need this.

I should talk a bit about the genesis of this bill. Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian lawyer who uncovered a tax fraud, the largest tax fraud in Russian history, and was subsequently arrested and detained. He was tortured and killed in custody in a Moscow prison. Too many of these deaths go unnoticed and unrecorded, but in this case there was attention given to it. Since then, there has been an international focus on trying to bring legislation into place to remember the sacrifice he made, and to make sure that the people who were responsible, not only for his death but for the fraud and corruption that took place around it, could be held responsible.

In 2012, the Russian opposition leader, Boris Nemtsov, travelled to Canada to call on us to adopt sanctions to try to protect human rights activists and pro-democracy standards. Here we are, almost five years later, and we are finally working on this. In 2012, the United States adopted a form of Magnitsky legislation. The European Parliament has moved on this legislation, as has Estonia in 2016, and the United Kingdom in 2017.

Our history, as I mentioned, starts in the last Parliament. There was a resolution brought before the House of Commons, and it was passed unanimously. It was going to go ahead, but we had an election campaign that interfered with getting that bill through. Interesting, all three major parties committed to this legislation during that time, so we look forward to it coming into play.

I mentioned earlier about the Russian reaction to this. I guess we are disappointed by it, though we are maybe not surprised. It is unfortunate that again the Russian government seems to be unwilling to accept that it needs to make some changes if the rest of us are going to accept the way they do business in their country. When they call establishing an act that would hold human rights abusers to account an unfriendly act, and seem to be threatening that it is going to affect relations between our two countries, that is going over the top. It might be better if the Russians took a look at their system and said they could improve some things, and perhaps moved into a situation where other countries are not concerned about the way they do business. For them to try to threaten us is a waste of their time.

There are some other countries, as well, that we might be able to impact on an issue like this. My colleague mentioned the Falun Gong in China and the organ harvesting that takes place there, and the fact that officials are not being held responsible for that. We had a young lady on the Hill for the 6th Parliamentary Forum on Religious Freedom, Anastasia Lin, who was Miss World Canada. Her father is a Falun Gong practitioner and he has been under pressure in China. She won a competition to go to the Miss World competition, and they would not let her into China because of her activism on the issue. Again, it would help them if they thought we took violations of human rights seriously.

It is important that the Canadian government, for our own sake and for the sake of people around the world, adopt this legislation and put it in place as quickly as possible. I am glad to hear that the government is going to be working with us on this. If they are going to make amendments, I would encourage the Liberals to make amendments that strengthen the legislation, so that it can be even more effective than it is right now. It is good to see that the House seems to be of one mind in getting this legislation passed as quickly as possible.