Senate Adopts Magnitsky Law. Legislation’s Fate in House of Commons Remains Undecided

Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who uncovered evidence of corruption by Russian officials and died in jail at age 37 in 2009.

New Pathway.

On April 11, Canada’s Senate adopted the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law), introduced by Senator Raynell Andreychuk.

The Sergei Magnitsky Law (Bill S-226) provides “for the taking of restrictive measures in respect of foreign nationals responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.” It also proposes related amendments to the Special Economic Measures Act and to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

According to the Ukrainian Canadian Congress (UCC), Senator Andreychuk stated, “Through amendments to the Special Economic Measures Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, Bill S-226 would allow for the Canadian assets and property of foreign nationals to be seized, frozen or sequestered, if those foreign nationals are deemed responsible for, or complicit in, gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”

After the adoption of the Sergei Magnitsky Law in the Senate, the UCC called on the House of Commons to swiftly adopt concurrent legislation. In his interview for the New Pathway, MP Borys Wrzesnewskyj (Etobicoke Centre) explained that the Law will now travel to the House of Commons, “where, unfortunately, legislative agenda is currently stuck in the procedural mud. There are a lot of procedural games that are being played out and a whole score of different pieces of legislation is not moving or moving at a snail’s speed.” Therefore, it is impossible to predict at this point when this legislation will be voted upon in the House of Commons, it may take many months, said Borys Wrzesnewskyj.

At the same time, chances that a Magnitsky-type law will be passed by the House of Commons sooner remain quite high given that, on April 6, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee recommended the adoption of Magnitsky legislation. “That’s a huge development with tremendous amount of importance,” said Borys Wrzesnewskyj. “The House of Commons had hearings that lasted about nine months, that report was unanimously adopted and its recommendation was for the government to enact Magnitsky-style sanctions regime against gross human rights abusers. That was tabled in the House of Commons last week by the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, on behalf of all the MPs. Now the government will have to respond to a Committee of the House. That carries a lot more weight than a private member’s Bill. Very few reports are unanimously adopted, especially of parliamentary committees, especially a report that deals with an issue of such importance. The executive branch can any day of the week, when the House is sitting, introduce legislation, that’s their prerogative. They don’t have to wait for the lottery to come up, like a private member’s Bill. My first chance, for example, will be this fall.”

James Bezan (MP, Selkirk-Interlake-Eastman) introduced the concurrent bill, C-267, in the House of Commons in May 2016. The two bills are similar in nature. On April 13, 2017, James Bezan tabled Bill S-226 in the House of Commons. He said: “I am proud to table my colleague, Senator Raynell Andreychuk’s Bill S-226, Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law) in the House of Commons… I believe Canada must do more when it comes to human rights, concrete action must be taken. Corrupt officials who continually abuse human rights and disregard international law have been using Canada as a safe haven. This must stop.”

In his comment, Paul Grod, National President of the UCC, stated: “Through its invasion of Ukraine, illegal imprisonment of Ukrainian citizens, and widespread and systematic abuse of human rights, the Russian regime continues to demonstrate its contempt for international law and democratic values. The adoption by Canada of Magnitsky legislation, and the sanctioning of Russian officials responsible for human rights violations would be a strong signal that their actions are unacceptable to Canada. We call on Canada’s Members of Parliament to swiftly adopt Magnitsky legislation, and the Government of Canada to enhance sanctions on the Russian Federation, and ensure appropriate enforcement of the sanctions.”

Currently, there are at least 20 Ukrainian citizens illegally imprisoned in Russia, including Oleg Sentsov, Oleksander Kolchenko, Stanislav Klykh, Mykola Karpyuk and Akhtem Chiygoz.