Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act: Canada Seeks to Hold Foreign Officials Accountable for Human Rights Abuses.

Author:McKay-Panos, Linda

On October 4, 2017, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, announced that the House of Commons passed a Bill that originated in the Senate: the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law) (as the "Magnitsky Act"). The Bill must be approved again by the Senate before it becomes law. It is said to be similar to legislation and other motions passed in other countries and jurisdictions: United States, European Parliament, the Netherlands, the UK, Italy, Poland and Estonia. The Magnitsky Act is named in memory of Russian whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky, who accused Russian officials of tax fraud and was later beaten to death in 2009 in a Moscow prison. When debating the Bill at its second reading, Senator A. Raynell Andreychuk spoke at length about Canada's international human rights obligations and efforts to ensure that human rights laws are adhered to around the world (see online).

Canada's Magnitsky Act amends the Special Economic Measures Act, SC 1992, c 17 (SEMA) and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, SC 2001 c 27. The purpose of the Bill is "to provide for measures that can be taken against foreign nationals who have committed gross violations of internationally protected human rights" (Karine Azoulay and Robin MacKay, online). If a foreign national (an individual who is not a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada) is responsible for, or complicit in extrajudicial killings, torture or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights against human rights advocates or other whistle-blowers, the Governor in Council of Canada can issue a number of orders relating to the foreign national's property. The Governor in Council can also issue orders that relate to a foreign national's property if that person is responsible for or complicit in directing "acts of significant corruption" (e.g., expropriation of private or public assets for gain, corruption of government contracts or the extraction of natural resources).

Further, the Governor in Council can prohibit individuals and entities in Canada, or any Canadian citizen or corporation outside of Canada, from entering into or assisting in financial transactions that relate to property held by a foreign national. Orders made under the Bill are in effect for five years and can be extended more than once.

Both federally and provincially regulated businesses (e.g., banks, credit unions, insurance companies, trust and loan...

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