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U.S.-born financier and anti-Putin campaigner Bill Browder warned the delay will give the Russian government an opportunity to intensify its campaign against the bill.Luke Tchalenko/The Globe and Mail

Supporters of a Canadian bill that sanctions human-rights abusers in Russia and around the world are worried that Russian President Vladimir Putin's regime could derail the legislation, which failed to receive final parliamentary approval before the summer break.

On Thursday, the House of Commons foreign-affairs committee passed Bill S-226, which would establish Magnitsky-style sanctions, but the legislation will have to wait until Parliament resumes in September to become law. U.S.-born financier and anti-Putin campaigner Bill Browder warned the delay will give the Russian government an opportunity to intensify its campaign against the bill.

"This is one of Putin's highest priority projects – to stop Magnitsky Acts from happening around the world," he said. "They will roll out the big guns in terms of active measures and political interference in Canadian politics to try to stop this."

Mr. Browder has led the international effort to sanction human-rights abusers worldwide in memory of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. Mr. Browder hired Mr. Magnitsky as the lawyer for his Moscow-based Hermitage Capital Management hedge fund in 2005. Mr. Magnitsky was arrested in 2008 and died in prison in 2009 after accusing Russian officials of theft. Investigations by Russia's human-rights council eventually concluded he was beaten to death by prison staff.

Mr. Browder says the Putin regime has already started targeting Canada. He accused the Russian government of leading a smear campaign against Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, disseminating details about her grandfather's role as chief editor of a Nazi newspaper during the Second World War; he is convinced the effort is tied to Russia's dissatisfaction with Bill S-226.

Conservative MP James Bezan, who sponsored the bill in the House, echoed Mr. Browder's concerns.

"We know that the Russians are famous for fake news and they will take this opportunity to lobby, to disseminate propaganda, to say that this would hurt Canada-Russia relations," Mr. Bezan said.

The Russian embassy in Ottawa has repeatedly threatened to retaliate against Canada if it establishes Magnitsky-style sanctions.

"This unfriendly move by the Canadian side would have negative impact on bilateral relations and will not be left unanswered. Once again, Canada is being drawn into counterproductive confrontation with Russia," the embassy said in a statement.

Russia retaliated against the U.S. Magnitsky Act by banning Americans from adopting Russian children.

When Bill S-226 passed second reading in the House last Tuesday, supporters were hopeful it would sail through the final parliamentary review stages with all-party support and become law before the summer. But Liberal committee chair Bob Nault said the government needed time to review amendments. The opposition saw it differently.

Conservative committee member Tom Kmiec accused the government of trying to stall the bill on Wednesday, a month after Ms. Freeland said the Liberals would support it.

NDP committee co-chair Helene Laverdiere also said the government has been "dragging its feet."

"The government had two months to draft their amendments and there is no reason why it took so long. We could have passed this last week, and it could already be law," Ms. Laverdiere said.

The committee was planning to hear from the International Development Minister Thursday morning, but after calls from the opposition Wednesday, Mr. Nault agreed to change the agenda to consider the Magnitsky bill. He and Conservative committee member Peter Kent flew back early from Cancun, Mexico, where they were attending an Organization of American States meeting.

"The pressure started to mount. People really wanted to get this out of the way," Mr. Nault said. "We said maybe we can just change this around for Thursday and get it going and get it out of the way before summer."

The committee approved all of the government's amendments and sent the bill to third reading Thursday morning, but since the House rose Wednesday night, Parliament won't be able to address it until the fall.

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