Passage of Magnitsky Act is Welcome News

Bill Browder with Sergei Magnitsky's photo on the background Source:

Marco Levytsky, New Pathway – Ukrainian News.

The unanimous support for Bill S-226, the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law) in the House of Commons, October 4, is welcome news for Canada’s Ukrainian community.

The law allows Canada to target foreign officials who are responsible for human rights abuses and corruption by implementing asset freezes and travel bans against them. It is an important signal to the world that Canada will not tolerate the violation of internationally recognized human rights, and that officials who violate those rights are not welcome in Canada.

Even though this act was originally passed by the Senate, it now has to go back to the upper chamber because amendments were added to it that now must be approved. Nevertheless, this is expected to be a formality, although no date has been set for that vote to take place.

The Ukrainian Canadian Congress has long been advocating for the enactment of such a law. During the statutory review of Canada’s sanctions legislation by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, the UCC presented a brief to the Committee, which recommended the “swift adoption of an amendment to the Special Economic Measures Act and the Freezing Assets of Foreign Corrupt Officials Act that would allow the Government of Canada to implement sanctions against foreign officials who violate internationally accepted norms of human rights.”

Magnitsky legislation is named after the late Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer and fraud investigator who uncovered evidence of a major theft of tax money by Russian government officials – but was then arrested for it by Russian authorities, imprisoned, tortured and left to languish for 358 days before he died in jail at age 37.

Needless to say, Moscow is furious over such legislation because this puts the foreign assets of the ruling oligarchs – chief among them Vladimir Putin himself, at risk. His personal wealth is estimated at 200 billion USD. But as Bill Browder, anti-Putin activist and a financier who once hired Magnitsky to investigate his investment fund and has fought for justice ever since his death in 2009, so aptly put it: “This is one of our biggest pieces of leverage in the West… We don’t have to go to war with Russia with tanks. We can use banks.”

We must single out several individuals who have contributed to the passage of this act. First of all, Senator Raynell Andreychuk who authored this bill and steered its initial passage through the Senate. Next, Selkirk-Interlake Eastman MP James Bezan, who sponsored Andreychuk’s bill in the House of Commons. Then, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland who ensured her government’s support for this legislation – something her predecessor at that portfolio, Stephane Dion, was reluctant to do. And last, but not least, Etobicoke-Centre MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj, who has doggedly pursued this issue. Wrzesnewskyj is an MP who consistently places principle ahead of partisanship and ferociously defends our community’s interests in Parliament.

While applauding the passage of this bill, the UCC has also called upon the Government of Canada to:

1. Move swiftly to implement sanctions against Russian judges, prosecutors, investigators and other officials responsible for the illegal imprisonment and maltreatment of Ukrainian citizens;

2. Establish specialized sanctions units at the Departments of Global Affairs and Finance in order to ensure that sanctions are implemented effectively and comprehensively.

We fully support the UCC’s call to action and urge our readers to let their MPs know that they too support this call to action.