The Canadian government passed on Wednesday, October 18 a bill titled "An Act to provide for the taking of Restrictive Measures in Respect of Foreign Nationals Responsible for Gross Violation of Internationally Recognized Human Rights and Make Related Amendments to the Special Economic Measures Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act". The short form title is "Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act". This Bill, popularly known as the "Magnitsky Act" is named in honour of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who was tortured and ultimately killed in a Russian prison. However, this Act applies to all countries, not just to Russia.
A significant purpose of this Act is to add gross violations of internationally recognized human rights committed by foreign nationals as a ground on which sanctions may be imposed against foreign states and nationals. This is to show Canada’s support for human rights and advance its responsibility to protect activists who fight for human rights.
If the Governor in Council (Cabinet) is satisfied that a gross violation of internationally recognized human rights has been perpetrated by a foreign national, Cabinet may restrict certain prescribed activities and seize, freeze or sequester any of the foreign national’s property situated in Canada.
Similar Acts have been passed in the US, the UK and Estonia. The UK version, known as the Criminal Finances Bill, better outlines what constitutes ‘conduct connected to a gross human rights abuse’. The UK Act allows a court application to be brought against a human rights violator by the UK Secretary of State, an individual or an entity including a non-governmental organization.The Canadian Act leaves it up to the Governor in Council to decide whether to act or not.
Note: This is a short summary of a complex legal area. Lawyers at Nava Wilson LLP will be glad to assist you if you have further questions.
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