Canada considering powers to seize sanctioned assets

The federal government is seeking new powers to seize and sell previously sanctioned assets of foreign entities, and use the proceeds to help rebuild affected countries and compensate victims.

It’s a policy change the Liberals have already indicated they want to use once it passes against the Russians sanctioned for their ongoing attacks in Ukraine.

Under the proposed measures, the Special Economic Measures Act, which outlines Canada’s sanctions, would be updated to, among other things, allow the federal government to “take economic measures” in situations where breaches of the peace and international security have occurred, where there are acts of “significant corruption”, or where systematic human rights violations have been committed in a foreign State or acts of significant corruption.

With changes to the Act, Canada could be empowered to order the forfeiture of applicable assets, and the funds raised could then be used to help rebuild a war-torn country, compensate victims of human rights abuses or corruption, or generally assist in restoring peace and security.

“Today, we are looking for the ability not only to seize but to allow for the confiscation of the assets of sanctioned individuals and entities and to allow us to compensate victims with the proceeds,” Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said. in a statement, adding that Canada would be the first G7 country to have a sanctions regime allowing for such actions.

From high-level politicians to influential oligarchs and industry giants, Canada has imposed sanctions on more than 1,000 individuals and entities it considers complicit in the current Russian attacks on Ukraine. So far, the sanctions have only allowed the freezing of Canadian assets alongside other prohibitions.

It remains unclear how many Canadian-sanctioned entities or individuals have assets that would be available to Canadian authorities through these powers.

The move appears to reflect a proposal gaining traction in the Senate, from Senator Ratna Omidvar, which seeks to see Canada confiscate and reallocate frozen assets.


These new powers are set out in anticipation of an upcoming sweeping budget implementation act that will bring hundreds of pages of legislative changes stemming from commitments made in the 2022 federal budget.

Called a “ways and means” motion, the wording tabled in the House of Commons on Tuesday essentially acts as a warning to parliamentarians about what the budget bill will include when it is tabled, a decision expected in the coming days. This is a process specific to budgets, and the language presented in the motion will still have to be introduced through legislation and go through the legislative processes of the House and Senate.

The motion also includes plans to update the Criminal Code, Copyright Act, Customs Act, Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, Corrections Act and release and the Parliament of Canada Act, among many other legislative changes that were underway. signaled in some way in the April 7 budget document.

Although vaguely worded, the government indicated in the budget its intention to continue to work with allies and to clarify the powers of foreign ministers with respect to the ability to “target the assets and ill-gotten gains of Russian elites and those who act on their behalf.

“This includes using resources to identify, freeze and seize assets to ensure that sanctioned individuals and entities are no longer able to access their overseas resources and wealth,” reads the statement. the budget.

Despite the expected omnibus nature of the upcoming bill, there is not much doubt as to whether it will pass or not, given that the NDP has struck a deal with the Liberals to support their budgets and other issues of confidence until 2025.

It remains to be seen how long the huge bill will take to pass. The most recent and considerably shorter bill passing through the budget measures in the December 2021 Budget Update is still pending in Parliament.

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