Ottawa has yet to liquidate any Russian assets | War in Ukraine

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Ottawa has yet to liquidate any Russian assets | War in Ukraine

Despite the powers it has given itself, the Trudeau government has not ;has still not sold Russian assets.

Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly speaks during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, October 3, 2022.

The announcement had been widely noticed last April: Canada would soon give itself the power to sell Russian assets under sanctions to fund aid to Ukraine. Five months later, no assets have yet been liquidated and this promise could still take months to materialize.

At the end of June, the Canadian government officially gave itself new powers to liquidate seized Russian assets. Since then, the results have been pending, even though tens of millions of dollars in assets have been frozen in Canada. I am working very, very hard to implement this legislation, assured the Minister of Foreign Affairs last Monday.

However, in Ottawa, the wishes of Minister Mélanie Joly come up against realities legal. According to our information, officials are still looking for a way to properly enforce this policy from a legal perspective. This assessment could take months.

Value of Russian assets targeted by Canadian authorities

Assets frozen

$123.3M

Transactions blocked

290, $7M

As of February 24 to August 9, 2022

Source: Royal Canadian Mounted Police

How to resell Russian assets while avoiding legal challenges? Does Canada risk being ordered to pay compensation to the same people or organizations it wishes to sanction? We have no room for error. We must act diligently, says a government source.

The idea sounds good on paper, but implementing it is another matter. It should be understood that this is an unusual measure. No G7 country has done this so far, says Frédéric Mégret, a professor at McGill University's Faculty of Law.

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Professor Mégret explains that Canada runs the risk of placing itself in contravention of international law. Freezing assets is one thing, but liquidating them without a criminal conviction is another, even though this power is provided for in Canadian law. Sanctions have a suspensive effect on a property right. Liquidation is a much more drastic measure, he argues.

Canada could face legal challenges.

“The state could be required to pay compensation to people who have been expropriated in this way. That's the problem. »

— Frédéric Mégret, professor at the Faculty of Law at McGill University

According to our information, the Trudeau government is desperately looking for a first asset that could be seized and liquidated in order to mark the spirits.

Of particular interest to Ottawa was a Russian-registered Antonov-type aircraft grounded at Toronto's Pearson airport due to Canada's punitive transportation measures.

A Russian-registered Antonov AN-124 has been grounded at Toronto Pearson Airport since Monday, February 28, 2022. Canada's airspace is closed to Russian-registered aircraft.

Bad luck, though: the company that owns the device is not subject to Canada's economic sanctions regime. It is therefore impossible to seize it and resell it.

The dragnet was aborted.

Meanwhile, the opposition , in favor of this idea at first, became impatient.

Again, this is window dressing. We claim to be the best in the world to support Ukraine and we do nothing, thunders Conservative MP Pierre Paul-Hus.

Bloquiste MP Christine Normandin has the impression that the Trudeau government has put the cart before the horse once again.

In the eyes of New Democrat Alexandre Boulerice, it is the Ukrainians who, in the end, pay the price price.

“It's extremely disappointing: we puff out our chests, we make announcements, and then after that, we don't put anything in place to actually carry them out.

—Alexandre Boulerice, Deputy Leader of the New Democratic Party

Government officials say efforts are underway to implement the liquidation process. In particular, consultations have taken place with the provinces to move things forward.

Within the Trudeau government, this idea is seen as innovative and capable of inspiring similar initiatives abroad. . Our allies are watching us, this is an opportunity to launch an international movement, adds the same government source.

Will Canada be a model to follow or to avoid? The allied countries will have the answer sooner or later.

With the collaboration of Marie Chabot-Johnson

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