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Canadian Parliament Moves Closer To Approving Version Of Magnitsky Act

Pins bearing portraits of Sergei Magnitsky (file photo)
Pins bearing portraits of Sergei Magnitsky (file photo)

The Canadian Parliament has stepped closer to final approval of its version of the U.S. Magnitsky Act, which sanctions Russians for alleged human rights abuses, a move that has brought threats of retaliation from Moscow.

The Canadian lower house on October 4 unanimously passed the bill that calls for the freezing of assets and visa bans on officials from Russia and other nations considered to be guilty of human rights violations.

The "Law on Victims of Corrupt Foreign Government" would also prevent Canadian firms from dealing with foreign nationals who are “responsible for, or complicit in, extrajudicial killings, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”

The legislation will now go to the Senate for final approval and then on to Governor General Julie Payette for royal assent.

"Should [the bill] be passed by the Senate and receive royal assent, it will enable Canada to sanction, impose travel bans on, and hold accountable those responsible for gross human rights violations and significant corruption," Canada's minister of foreign affairs," Chrystia Freeland, said after the vote.

The United States passed the Magnitsky Act in 2012 with similar sanctions for Russians alleged to be involved human rights violations.

The law was inspired by Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who helped uncover a massive tax-fraud scheme in Russia but was arrested by authorities and died in a Moscow jail in 2009.

His friends and family say he was tortured while incarcerated, and a Council of Europe investigation concluded the conditions leading up to his death amounted to torture.

The U.S. Senate in 2016 passed an annual defense-policy bill that included the Global Magnitsky Act, which built on the original Magnitsky Act. It aimed to target human rights abusers worldwide with sanctions.

Britain has also passed legislation inspired by Magnitsky's death with similar sanctions.

In anticipation of the Canadian Parliament’s actions, Russia on October 4 said it would retaliate tit-for-tat over the law.

After the vote, the Russian Embassy in Ottawa said the parliament's decision “was a deplorably confrontational act blatantly interfering into Russia’s domestic affairs.”

The statement added that “it runs against common sense and Canadian national interests isolating Canada from one of the key world powers.”

It said the “hostile move” will be met with “reciprocal countermeasures,” although it was not specific.

After the United States adopted the law in 2012, Moscow in retaliation blocked Americans from adopting Russian children.

Based on reporting by Reuters, Interfax, CBC, and The Ottawa Citizen
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