Kirill Kudryavtsev Agence France-Presse Even if the volume of imports of Russian products in Canada has decreased considerably, a handful of special federal permits have maintained supplies for the benefit of a few Canadian companies.
With the greatest discretion, the Canadian government has issued more than a dozen special permits to allow Canadian companies to circumvent the economic sanctions that it itself imposed on Moscow following the outbreak of the Russian War. Russian invasion in Ukraine.
An analysis of federal data on international trade carried out by Le Devoirshows that these authorizations, given piecemeal by Ottawa, have thus favored the export of materials and equipment in areas nevertheless considered “delicate” for Ukraine's allies, since linked to the manufacture of weapons or oil and mineral exploration. These transactions have reached nearly $2.8 million since March 2022. Several of them took place in the first seven months of 2023, on the sidelines of the Ukrainian counter-offensive launched by Kiev to repel the Russian enemy from its territory.
In the same vein, the government has also let several Canadian companies circumvent its own sanctions against Russia for the importation of Russian products, some of which are used in the field of construction and prospecting and others are registered in the list of so-called “luxury” goods. The value of these imports has reached more than $47 million since March 2022.
Joined by Le Devoir, the Department of Foreign Affairs of Canada, responsible for issuing these temporary export and import certificates, recognized the existence of these special permits, but refused to specify the exact number as well as the reasons which governed to their issuance, or even the companies which benefited from them, invoking “reasons of commercial confidentiality”, indicated John Babcock, spokesperson for the ministry, in a laconic exchange.
According to our information, it These are companies mainly established in Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.
The government would benefit from being more transparent on the subject of Ukraine
— Jean-François Ratelle
“The government would benefit from being more transparent on the subject of Ukraine,” said associate researcher at the University of Ottawa Jean-François Ratelle, a specialist in conflicts in the post-Soviet space, in an interview. Sanctions play an important role, even if they are not enough, on their own, to end the war. Special permits are sometimes necessary, but a public debate on the issue would allow the population to better understand the issues that accompany them. »
This trade placed by the federal government outside its sanctions regime has in fact shown, since March 2022, exports apparently breaking with the spirit of the Special Economic Measures Act. Canada thus exported to Russia several thousand dollars worth of aluminum parts, but also static electrical converters and “X-ray machines and devices using alpha, beta, gamma or other ionizing radiation”, products whose trade with Moscow had been suspended since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. These parts and equipment were included in Annex 7 of the Regulations on Special Economic Measures targeting Russia, due to their possible use in the manufacture of weapons, estimates Ottawa.
These sanctions evasion also allowed the shipment to Russia of Canadian “drilling machines” and equipment for probing the soil, as well as parts for maintaining or repairing them, for an amount of nearly by $2 million since the war began. The most recent transaction was in February 2023.
Remember that these products were included in the sanctions train put in place at the start of the war by the West to avoid maintaining the Russian oil and mining sector, an important source of income for the Kremlin, which could be used to finance its war against its Ukrainian neighbor.
Exceptional permits for non-essential products
As for imports of Russian products into Canada, even if their volume has decreased considerably – five times fewer entered the country in 2022 compared to 2021 – a handful of special federal permits have maintained supplies for the benefit of a few companies Canadians. The targeted products are described as “luxury” in the text of the federal sanctions. We are talking about fresh fish, shellfish and other seafood products, as well as vodka, for a total amount exceeding 17 million dollars since the outbreak of the armed conflict. The value of these non-essential imports, however, has tended to decrease since the start of the current year.
Several other Canadian companies have also obtained the right to bypass Canadian sanctions to import from Russia iron, cast iron and steel products affected by the sanctions, for a value of 18 million, indicate data compiled by Le Devoir. This also includes the purchase of iron and steel tubes from Russia, which can be used in the mining and oil sector here.
Overall, the economic sanctions imposed on Moscow by Canada have significantly disrupted trade between the two countries, with exports reduced in value by 1,100% between 2021 and 2022.
« Western sanctions have had an impact on Russia's ability to acquire and maintain its technologies used in war, says Jean-François Ratelle. Technically, it has the possibility of circumventing these sanctions, but in volumes never sufficient to allow it to maintain its economy and its supplies at the pre-war level. »
Last July, Le Devoirhighlighted a report from the International Working Group on Russian Sanctions revealing that Western components were still found in the recent manufacturing of Russian weapons. The document referred to a clever evasion of sanctions through exports diverted to third countries and then ending their journey in Russia. Canada may have participated in this gray zone scheme, as revealed by an analysis of federal data at the time. It showed that after decreasing by 91% between Canada and Russia, Canadian exports of printed circuits had strangely exploded in 2022 by 4000% to Turkey, 2700% to the United Arab Emirates and 900% to Kazakhstan , countries known to serve as intermediaries for Moscow since the implementation of Western sanctions. Exports of Canadian lithium batteries have followed the same trajectory, although it is not possible to know with certainty their final destination. These two components can be used for both military and civilian purposes.
On September 22, Canada reiterated its “unwavering support” for Ukraine during the highly noted visit of its president, Volodymyr Zelensky , in Ottawa. 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.