Canada: Anti-Bribery Compliance In Canada: An Interview With Kristine Robidoux

Last Updated: February 25 2015
Article by Kristine Robidoux

Today we welcome Kristine Robidoux, Partner, Gowlings, for a view of anti-bribery and compliance issues from Canada.

RB:  Hello Kristine, thank you for joining me in today's interview, as we try to share some of the issues confronting individual's and corporations who are subject to Canadian anti-corruption laws. But first, perhaps you share some of your background:

KR:  Richard, thank you so much for this opportunity to discuss the latest developments in Canada in respect of the ongoing fight against domestic and foreign corruption "up north". There is certainly a lot going on in Canada on this front, from policy, legislative and enforcement perspectives, and in terms of the approach to compliance being taken by our clients.

I am a partner with the Gowlings firm in Calgary, where I practice in the area of white collar defence, investigations and compliance. I came to the "Big Firm" practice of law through a bit of a bizarre career trajectory: I started as a criminal defence lawyer in a small firm, then became a General Counsel and then a Director of Ethics and Compliance before I started my own corporate ethics and compliance consulting firm. I joined Gowlings in 2008, and since then, have specialized in the prevention, detection and defence of white collar and ethics cases, both domestic and transnational in nature.

RB: So, what is the current enforcement environment in Canada, and has that changed in recent years?

KR:  The enforcement climate in Canada certainly has changed in recent times. Significantly, Canada was one of only 2 countries to improve its ranking (from "Limited Enforcement" to "Moderate Enforcement") in Transparency International's 2014 progress report. This probably has much to do with the fact that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police ("RCMP") has made a concerted effort to increase and better align its resources so that more Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act ("CFPOA") cases can be pursued more efficiently, and due to the fact that a couple of major prosecutions have now taken place. For example, Niko Resources was prosecuted in 2011 for bribes paid in Bangladesh (fine: $9.5 million) and Griffiths Energy International was prosecuted in 2013 for bribes paid to the Chadian Ambassador to the US and Canada in 2013 (fine: $10.35 million). As far as Canadian corporate criminal penalties go, fines at these levels are considered significant. Those cases served as a wake-up call for Canadian businesses operating overseas, and they also seemed to give the RCMP a boost of confidence and some recognition by the international community that Canada was starting to take its enforcement responsibilities more seriously. Then, in 2014 we saw another watershed case, where the first individual to be convicted under the CFPOA after a trial (for conspiracy to bribe foreign officials in connection with the Cryptometrics case) was sentenced to a term of 3 years of federal incarceration. Again, a jail sentence of this length would certainly not go unnoticed, and served to reinforce the message that Canada's enforcement agencies are treating offences of foreign bribery very seriously.

RB:  Do you see a focus on individuals, corporations, or both?

KR:  The RCMP seems to have stopped its earlier practice of publicly announcing the number of open foreign bribery cases, so it's hard to say whether the pendulum might swing back, but at this moment, I would say that there seems to be a focus on the prosecution of individuals. As mentioned earlier, the first individual charged under the CFPOA was found guilty after trial and has been sentenced to jail. But there are others. In connection with the lengthy and wide-ranging investigation of Canadian engineering and construction giant SNC-Lavalin, the RCMP has brought charges against five individuals to date in connection with the Padma Bridge project in Bangladesh (although one of those individuals, the former Bangladeshi government official allegedly involved in exerting influence over the bridge project, saw his charges stayed by a Canadian court last year due to lack of jurisdiction over him). The four others are awaiting trial. And in connection with the Cryptometrics case referred to earlier, in addition to the one individual presently serving out his sentence, there are charges pending against three others (the Cryptometrics former CEO, the former CFO, and the former agent... interestingly, they are all foreign nationals). We are continuing to watch with great interest, because notwithstanding the existence of charges against individuals connected with these cases, there have not yet been any corporate charges. I would be surprised if there weren't charges brought against the companies eventually, but to date there has been no public indication as to whether or when that might occur. Another corporation that may face charges this year is TSX-listed mining company MAG Industries, who just issued a press release on January 29 that the RCMP had conducted a search and seizure at its corporate offices in connection with alleged corrupt payments in the Republic of Congo.

RB: What do you see as Canada's role in engaging in international law-enforcement and prosecutorial cooperation?

KR: I believe Canada has an obligation to assist in international investigations, and in my experience, Canada appears to work very effectively with its international counterparts. I observed first-hand the interaction and cooperation between Canadian and US investigators and prosecutors on a number of my cases and the relationship appears to be healthy. There appears to be a great deal of communication between the two countries.

RB: Kristine, what about companies? Here is the US, there is much debate about the "rogue employee" script, which the OECD Bribery Report clearly addresses when it demonstrates that in many cases upper level management knew of the bribes. Where is that debate in Canada?

KR: It's hard to say where that debate is at, frankly. There simply haven't been enough enforcement cases to be able draw any kind of patterns or conclusions about the attitudes of the enforcement agencies in that regard. But while I do believe that truly "rogue" employees can and do exist, my sense is that companies are not using the "invisibility cloak" to avoid the hard discussion about whether a rogue employee might be out there and what the board needs to do to ensure he or she is not out there. Our law provides that if the offence is carried out by a company's "senior representative" (which, given its definition in our Criminal Code, may include a company's foreign country manager – whether "rogue" or not), then the company becomes a party to the offence. As a result, I am seeing Canadian boards of directors and management teams increasingly rolling up their sleeves to effectively and properly discharge their obligations to ensure the business is being run ethically overseas. In the past, there may have been more of a willingness to rely on the in-country management's verbal reassurances that "everything was OK", and to stop short of asking the tough questions or verifying compliance externally, but that is not happening anymore.

RB: What are some of the greater challenges facing Canadian companies and their international teams who operate in high risk (low integrity) regions?

KR: One of the greatest risks may be simply that Canada hasn't had foreign bribery squarely on the enforcement radar as long as the US and so perhaps education levels are still catching up to where they need to be. We are an entrepreneurial culture, and our resource companies (in particular) courageously enter some of the most daunting foreign markets around the world. We are also believed by many to be a very polite, deferential and culturally sensitive people. This can actually be a bit of a dangerous recipe, when you think about it.

If Canadians enter a high risk market and, in an effort to be deferential and polite, simply accept the local jurisdiction's assertions that "this is the way we do business here", and they don't have sufficient education about foreign bribery risks and how to mitigate them, the results can be disastrous. The answer is to continuously promote and communicate the message of compliance and ethics, and for companies to ensure their on-the-ground personnel are well equipped to handle the inevitable requests for cash, gifts and favours.

RB: Any other thoughts?

KR:  There are three more Canadian developments which may be of interest to your readers, Richard, particularly to those who may be involved in the oil and gas or mining sectors. First, Canada recently passed the Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act (which is expected to come into force in early 2015) to require resource companies to report on payments it makes to governments, both domestically and internationally, as well as government agencies and similar bodies carrying out governmental functions. The list of payments to be reported is broad. Importantly, after a two-year transition period, the reporting requirement will also extend to payments made to Aboriginal governments in Canada. The Act provides for significant penalties for companies and their officers and directors in cases of non-compliance, so your readers should ensure that they are well informed about the specifics of the reporting obligations.

Second, Canada recently (November 2014) announced its enhanced Corporate Social Responsibility strategy. The strategy reiterates Canada's commitment to international best practices in CSR, including those related to foreign bribery and corruption, and provides that resource companies that do not comply may lose diplomatic support and financing or other support from Export Development Canada.

And third, of interest to all companies interested in bidding on Canadian federal government projects and procurement, will be the implementation of Public Works and Government Services Canada's Integrity Framework. ("PWGSC", the Government of Canada department responsible for coordinating all of the federal government's managed contracts and real property transactions, including construction contracts, goods and services contracts, etc., wields a very big stick indeed!)The Integrity Framework will essentially debar any supplier from doing business with PWGSC if it or an affiliate is convicted or pleads guilty to an offence, even if the conviction or guilty plea results in a conditional or absolute discharge at sentencing.

These offences apply to acts committed in Canada as well as to convictions received abroad, and "affiliates" include parent companies, subsidiaries and directors, as long as they have control of one another, or if they are under the common control of a 3rd party. In this way, it is anticipated that Hewlett-Packard Canada, one of the leading technology suppliers to the Government of Canada, will find itself debarred as a result of the guilty plea in the US of Hewlett Packard's Russian and Mexican subsidiaries, notwithstanding the lack of any complicity by the Canadian subsidiary. The debarment period is 10 years from the date of conviction and further, the application of the policy is retroactive: a company can be debarred as a result of a conviction dating back up to 10 years.

Germany-based Siemens has already received official confirmation of debarment by PWGSC. At present, the debarment process does not include discretionary provisions: there is no ranking system of offence and no opportunity to demonstrate that the corporation has undergone restructuring or implemented risk-mitigation strategies, such as a compliance program, to reduce the length of the debarment period. The Framework's wide reach and severe penalties have not gone unnoticed and have been the subject of lobbying efforts by members the business community. In response, the Government of Canada has recently re-engaged with various stakeholders to address the provisions and application of the Framework. So stay tuned, there may be further changes!

Thank you for this opportunity to connect with you and your readers, Richard. Feel free to reach out anytime for further insights into the ethics and compliance environment north of the 49th!

This article first appeared in the Richard Bistrong FCPA Blog and is republished with the permission of Richard Bistrong.

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
8 Nov 2016, Seminar, Ottawa, Canada

The prospect of an internal investigation raises many thorny issues. This presentation will canvass some of the potential triggering events, and discuss how to structure an investigation, retain forensic assistance and manage the inevitable ethical issues that will arise.

22 Nov 2016, Seminar, Ottawa, Canada

From the boardroom to the shop floor, effective organizations recognize the value of having a diverse workplace. This presentation will explore effective strategies to promote diversity, defeat bias and encourage a broader community outlook.

7 Dec 2016, Seminar, Ottawa, Canada

Staying local but going global presents its challenges. Gowling WLG lawyers offer an international roundtable on doing business in the U.K., France, Germany, China and Russia. This three-hour session will videoconference in lawyers from around the world to discuss business and intellectual property hurdles.

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.