Clarity in Canada’s sanctions regime and humanitarian aid in terrorist-controlled regions

  • August 16, 2023

The importance of Canada’s economic sanctions as a tool for foreign policy is such that the government needs to strike the right balance in its legislative tools such as the Special Economic Measures Act and the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law) (Magnistky Act) in the Budget Implementation Act 2023. The International Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association has some concerns and suggestions, expressed in a letter to the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade as well as to the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Finance on how to achieve this balance while prioritizing predictability for businesses in their compliance efforts and minimizing enforcement challenges.

The first point is to insist on clarity, which is “essential to ensure that individuals are aware of their obligations and that any breaches of the sanctions are prosecutable, as any ambiguities will be construed in favour of the accused.” The current legislation could be improved, particularly when it comes to defining deemed ownership rules. In addition, the Section recommends ensuring those rules are aligned with those of our allies, in order to promote business continuity and Canadian competitiveness.

Facilitating humanitarian aid in areas where it is most needed

In a separate letter the Charities and Not-for-Profit Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association expresses support for Bill C-41, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, which received royal assent in June 2023.

This bill amends the Criminal Code’s anti-terrorist financing offences to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid in areas controlled by terrorist groups, such as Afghanistan. Notwithstanding certain elements of the legislation that could have been made stronger through greater clarity, the CBA Sections are pleased to see the amendments become law.

“We commend the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness for responding to the humanitarian crises in Afghanistan and the calls from charitable and nongovernmental sectors (NGOs) for legislation that offers humanitarian aid and essential services without contravening antiterrorism financing provisions,” the letter says.