On June 8, 2016, Canada’s House of Commons Standing
Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development
announced that it would be undertaking a review of the Special
Economic Measures Act and the Freezing of Assets of
Corrupt Foreign Public Officials Act. The announcement
did not receive much press at the time. The announcement states:
“Committee to conduct comprehensive review of the Special
Economic Measures Act and the Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign
This study will be the first parliamentary review of the Special
Economic Measures Act since it was enacted in 1992.
In cases where the United Nations Security Council has not taken
action, the Special Economic Measures Act allows Canada to impose
sanctions against a foreign state in response to a decision by an
international organization of which Canada is a member, or where a
grave breach of international peace and security has occurred, and
has resulted in a serious international crisis.
When a country is experiencing internal turmoil or an uncertain
political situation, the Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign
Officials Act allows Canada to address the misappropriation or
inappropriate acquisition of property by a state’s government
officials or former officials.
As part of its review, the Committee will consider whether any
legislative changes to the Special Economic Measures Act may be
needed to address gross violations of internationally recognized
human rights. In that regard, the study will incorporate the
testimony the Committee received on 10 March 2016 from William
Browder, Vladimir Kara-Murza, and Zhanna Nemtsova.
Organizations and individuals who wish to provide their views
and comments to the Committee are invited to submit a written brief through the Clerk of the Committee. The deadline for
written submissions is 30 September 2016.”
As of September 30, 2016, which is today, no meetings have taken
place regarding this review. It is hoped that the deadline
for written submissions will be extended as there has been little
reported about the parliamentary review.
It is important to acknowledge that the Special Economic
Measures Act has not been substantially reviewed or amended
since it was enacted in 1992. A lot has changed in the world
since 1992 and Canada’s use of unilateral economic sanctions
has increased. The concept of unilateral economic sanctions and
trade restrictions has evolved substantially since 1992.
Canada’s unilateral economic sanctions under the
Special Economic Measures Act and regulations thereto
affect Canadian businesses. The Special Economic Measures
Act prohibits Canadian persons in Canada and abroad from
engaging in certain business activities that would otherwise be
permitted. As a result, the review of the Special Economic
Measures Act is very important to Canadian businesses that
export, especially in the aerospace and defence, petroleuem &
exploration, financial services and banking industries.
The Freezing of Assets of Corrupt Foreign Public Officials
Act is a more recent law in Canada and is not as widely
used. It does, however, impose burdens on Canadian businesses
and persons when a foreign official is identified in a regulation
made pursuant to the Act.
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.
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