Canada: Canada Expands Its Economic Sanctions Against Syria

Last Updated: June 12 2012
Article by James M. Wishart and Olivia Wright

Effective May 22, 2012, Canada imposed new sanctions against Syrian individuals and government entities in response to the ongoing violence perpetrated by the regime of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. In exercising its power under the Special Economic Measures Act ("SEMA"), the Canadian government amended the Special Economic Measures (Syria) Regulations (the "Regulations"). This amendment furthered standing sanctions on trade with Syria.

This alert provides an overview of the new sanctions. These additional measures should be reviewed carefully and incorporated into the export compliance and screening protocols of Canadian companies who do business not just in and around Syria, but in international trade more generally. Anyone contemplating any form of business transaction or undertaking which even indirectly involves Syria would be well advised to seek legal advice prior to proceeding.

Existing Sanctions

On May 24, 2011, Canada first imposed economic sanctions against Syria with legislation authorized under SEMA. The Canadian legislation was written consistently with sanctions imposed by the United States and European Union.

The Canadian regulations, which have already been amended seven times since their inception, apply to any individual, body corporate, trust, partnership, fund, unincorporated association or organization in Canada and any Canadian citizen or Canadian corporation outside Canada. The Regulations impose significant restrictions on transactions with designated Syrian individuals and entities including the following:

  1. An asset freeze that prohibits any dealings, direct or indirect, with the property of designated individuals and entities;1
  2. Prohibitions against the importation of goods from Syria to Canada; 3. Prohibitions against new investments in Syria;
  3. Prohibitions against the provision or acquisition of all financial related services to or from Syria;
  4. Prohibitions against selling, exporting or shipping any goods used in the monitoring of telecommunications, including the provision of related technical data; and
  5. Prohibitions against selling, exporting or shipping luxury goods to Syria.2

Overview of New Sanctions

The May 22, 2012 amendments are aimed to strengthen and expand the suite of sanctions already imposed by the Canadian government, by:

  1. Prohibiting the export, sale, supply and shipping to Syria of luxury goods such as: jewellery, gems, precious metals, watches, cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, perfume, designer clothing and accessories, furs, sporting goods, private aircraft, gourmet foods and ingredients, lobster, computers, televisions and other electronic devices;3
  2. Imposing asset freezes and prohibitions on dealings with three new individuals: Salim Altoun, Youssef Klizli and Adbig Mayleh; and
  3. Imposing asset freezes and prohibitions on dealings with three further entities associated with the Assad regime: the General Organization of Radio and TV (also known as GORT), the Altoun Group, and the General Organization of Tobacco.

While the sanctions dealing with prohibited individuals and entities are substantially clear, the prohibition against dealing luxury goods, which offers an imprecise definition of the term 'luxury goods,' is not.

Exporters may encounter difficulty in interpreting the scope of goods listed in the definition, as certain examples are classified with vague terminology. For instance, it may be difficult for an apparel company to determine whether its goods are 'designer clothing' or for a footwear company to determine whether its product is, in fact, a 'sporting good.' The list featured in the 'luxury goods' definition is also non-exhaustive, which means that it is possible for an unlisted good to be considered a 'luxury good' despite its absence from the definition.

As a practical matter, where such uncertainty arises in the legislation it is common for the regulator (the Export Controls Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade) to decline to offer conclusive interpretations but rather to advise exporters to simply apply for an export permit. Particularly for exporters who have not previously undertaken this process, it is recommended that permit applications be prepared with the aid of expert legal advice.

New Designated Entities and Individuals

The General Organization of Radio and TV is a state-run media entity which has, according to the US Treasury, "served as an arm of the Syrian regime as it mounts increasingly barbaric attacks on its own population and seeks both to mask and legitimize its violence."4

The General Organization of Tobacco is likewise owned by the Syrian state. The organization funds the Assad regime through profits from its monopoly on the sale of foreign brands of tobacco, and taxing import foreign brands to Syria.5

The Altoun Group is a large state-connected conglomerate involved in the export of Syrian oil and in international trade more generally, including trade in food, machinery and vehicles. Under its chairman Salim (Saleem) Altoun and his assistant Youseef Klizli, it uses the listed company 'Sytrol' to provide revenue to the Assad regime.6

Salim Altoun, Youseef Klizli and Adib Mayaleh,the Governor of the Central Bank of Syria, now appear on Canada's list of individuals subject to an assets freeze and a prohibition on economic dealings.

Furthermore, given that the Altoun Group in particular has extensive and diverse interests in the Syrian economy and international trade, Canadian exporters should carefully scrutinize any existing or proposed deals with Syrian companies and individuals to ensure they are compliant with the new sanctions. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), which enforces sanctions, will undoubtedly have a close eye on exporters of all types of goods to this area of the world.

Achieving Compliance

Canada increasingly uses trade controls and economic sanctions against failed or failing regimes as part of diplomatic efforts to change the conduct of those regimes. As demonstrated by the history of the Syria Regulations, the frequency with which these regulations are amended mean that an activity that was legal one day may become illegal or prohibited the next. As a result, it is critical to have well-designed internal controls that are continuously monitored to ensure an ability to react effectively to such changes in the law.

Apart from reducing the risk of liability and penalties imposed by legislation, an effective internal compliance regime can minimize business interruptions, inform transactional due diligence, and uphold contractual representations and warranties.

Depending upon the nature of your business and clientele, as well as the comprehensiveness of your existing internal compliance protocols, the following steps may be appropriate:

  • Development or revision of export and other internal compliance strategies to ensure proper identification and screening of sanctioned individuals and entities among existing and future customers;
  • Assigning sanction compliance responsibility to senior corporate executive(s) to ensure strong, explicit and visible support from senior management;
  • Awareness training for employees, officers and directors who are responsible for business development, sales, and regulatory compliance in general;
  • Review and possible revision of licences, standard sales agreements, supplier or service contracts, real estate leases and financial services and payment arrangements;
  • Review of in-process or contemplated M&A transactions, including asset purchases;
  • Screening of property, including intellectual property, in the company's possession or control which may be owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by a sanctioned person or entity;
  • Due diligence and compliance requirements for the retention and oversight of agents and business partners, including the documentation of such due diligence, ensuring they are aware of the company's commitment to trade sanction compliance, and seeking reciprocal commitments;
  • Standard provisions in agreements with agents and business partners to prevent trade sanction violations and provide termination rights in the event of any breach of any trade sanction;
  • Regular review and testing of trade sanctions compliance systems; and
  • For financial institutions, deployment and continuous updating of systems for ongoing searching, monitoring and disclosure of suspect transactions so as to comply with the "duty to determine" imposed by sanctions legislation. Canadian companies are also reminded that Canada's imposition of new sanctions and controls on trade will generally supersede, or place new limits on, any import or export permits which may have been granted prior to the sanctions taking effect. Certain exceptions or special permits may be available, but access to these should not be taken for granted.


1 A full list of the designated individual and entities may be found in a Schedule to the Regulations.

2 The luxury goods sanction is new, and a major focus of this client alert.

3 This list is non-exhaustive. Goods left unlisted may nevertheless be considered as 'luxury goods' subject to sanction.




About Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP (FMC)

FMC is one of Canada's leading business and litigation law firms with more than 500 lawyers in six full-service offices located in the country's key business centres. We focus on providing outstanding service and value to our clients, and we strive to excel as a workplace of choice for our people. Regardless of where you choose to do business in Canada, our strong team of professionals possess knowledge and expertise on regional, national and cross-border matters. FMC's well-earned reputation for consistently delivering the highest quality legal services and counsel to our clients is complemented by an ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion to broaden our insight and perspective on our clients' needs. Visit:

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Events from this Firm
25 Nov 2016, Seminar, Toronto, Canada

On Thursday, September 22, 2016, Dentons hosted a panel discussion about the management of liabilities and risks associated with environmental crises, including potential liabilities for directors and officers and provided insight into risk and liability techniques associated with environmental crisis management.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.