Cagatay Kenarli DIA Images via Associated Press A Hong Kong-flagged cargo ship crossed the Bosphorus Strait, Turkey, on August 18 (illustrative photo) < h3> Fabien Deglise and Sandrine Vieira
Circumventions by Canadian companies of economic sanctions imposed on Russia since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, with the approval of Ottawa, “raises questions” about “the real political will” aimed at punishing Moscow, said Tuesday Amnesty International, the day after the revelations made by Le Devoir on their existence.
Since March 2022, dozens of products subject to a trade ban with Russia have continued to be exchanged between the two countries under special permits granted to Canadian companies. These authorizations, granted on a case-by-case basis by the federal government, were issued with the greatest discretion.
However, these transactions, valued at several million dollars, targeted, among other things, equipment considered “delicate” by Westerners because of their possible use in a military context.
So, seven months ago, Canada circumvented its own sanctions regime to allow the shipment of drilling equipment used in the oil and mining sector. It is hit by special economic measures, the aim of which is not to maintain an important source of income that could be used to finance the Russian invasion war in Ukraine.
“Ottawa has made strong diplomatic declarations when adopting its sanctions, France-Isabelle Langlois, director general of Amnesty International, noted in an interview with Devoir. But we also see that sometimes, economic interests seem to take precedence over the political will to defend democracy and the rule of law. »
“Ukraine’s allies are expected to be a little more consistent in their economic and trade relations with Russia. But sometimes, they speak out of both sides of their mouth,” added Ms. Langlois.
The exposure by Le Devoir of this evasion of sanctions caused the parties to react strongly opposition party Tuesday on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
At a press briefing, the Bloc Québécois foreign affairs spokesperson, Stéphane Bergeron, strongly criticized the Trudeau government for issuing special permits “on the sly”. “I’m not assuming we should never issue exemptions, but they should be the exception rather than the rule. I believe that this is becoming established as a rule, and it is worrying to say the least,” said the MP.
Mr. Bergeron indicated that certain exemptions may be justified in cases where the rules prove counterproductive for Canada. Last year, for example, Canadian farmers suffered the repercussions of Canadian sanctions when they had to pay a 35% tariff on Russian fertilizer imports. “We can talk about a counterproductive sanction in the long term. But is this the case for all products for which exemptions have been allowed? » launched the MP, who is demanding explanations and more transparency from the government.
“The government seems to have something to hide. If he has nothing to hide, let him explain. »
“We've been saying it from the start: with the Liberals, it's just showmanship,” said Alexandre Boulerice, the deputy leader of the New Democratic Party. On the one hand, they claim to stand up against Russia, but secretly they give exemptions without any transparency. »
Since March 2022, the economic sanctions imposed on Russia by Canada have disrupted trade between the two countries: the value of exports was reduced by 1,100% between 2021 and 2022, and that of imports was divided by five over the same period. period.
Supply lines were not entirely severed, however: Canada exported $8 million worth of hatching eggs, $6 million worth of vaccines and $4 million worth of seeders, planters and transplanters, and imported $2 million worth of dollars worth of rubber tires, $3 million worth of bamboo planks and $7 million worth of aircraft equipment — products not subject to its sanctions regime — since last January, the most recent federal international trade data show.
The federal government has also authorized Canadian companies to circumvent its own sanctions for the importation of so-called “luxury” products, despite having been subject to a trade ban since the start of the war. Analysis of Dutymade it possible to identify a total envelope of 17 million sent to Russia for the purchase of fresh fish, shellfish and other seafood products as well as vodka.
“The application of sanctions and the huge amount of military aid has not resulted in Ukraine's goal of regaining all of its Russian-occupied territory. On the contrary, the situation is becoming more and more difficult, and the possibility of getting out of the war seems impossible,” summarized Glenn Michalchuk, president of the Association of Ukrainian Canadians, in an interview in Winnipeg. “Politically, Canada could maintain sanctions, but also change course by at the same time supporting peace initiatives as a means to end the war. »
On September 22, Ottawa reiterated its “unwavering support” for Ukraine during the highly publicized visit of its president, Volodymyr Zelensky, to the capital. Nearly $9.5 billion in aid, including $1.8 billion in the military sector alone, has been paid or promised to kyiv in support of its resistance against the Russian invasion.