Skip to main content

Sergeis Magnitsky's son Nikita Magnitsky and his mother, Natalia are seen during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Wednesday November 1, 2017.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

The federal government is encouraging other countries to consider legislation similar to Canada's new Magnitsky-style law that would give them the power to sanction human-rights abusers around the world.

Liberal MPs said they will continue to use meetings with their colleagues in other parliaments and multilateral forums, including possibly next year's G7 meeting in Charlevoix, Que., to emphasize the importance of holding human-rights abusers to account through sanctions. Their commitment to globally promote the law comes as the family of the Sergei Magnitsky, the late Russian tax lawyer the legislation is named after, visits Ottawa this week to celebrate the passage of the law.

"The importance of this in providing a tool to hold accountable those responsible for gross human-rights abuses, which unfortunately seem to be more and more occurring in this world, is really significant," said Michael Levitt, the Liberal chair of the House of Commons subcommittee on international human rights.

"I'm sure whether it's raising it potentially at the G7 or in other multilateral [forums] is something that absolutely is happening and will continue to happen from all of us at a grassroots, certainly MP level."

Mr. Levitt said the Magnitsky legislation came up repeatedly during a trip to Washington with the subcommittee earlier this year. Mr. Levitt's Liberal caucus colleague, John McKay, said next June's G7 meeting may serve as a good opportunity for Canada to raise the Magnitsky law and other human-rights legislation among like-minded democracies. Three of the G7 countries – Canada, the United States and Britain – already have Magnitsky laws in place.

"It may well be an opportunity in Charlevoix to put forward this collective statement of our values in a world that is, particularly among democracies, somewhat challenged," Mr. McKay said.

Last month, Canada became the fourth country to pass a Magnitsky law. The original Magnitsky Act was passed by the U.S. Congress in 2012, in response to the death of Mr. Magnitsky. Britain and Estonia have also passed legislation.

U.S.-born financier and anti-Putin campaigner Bill Browder has led the international effort to sanction human-rights abusers worldwide, in memory of Mr. Magnitsky. Mr. Browder is currently working to pass similar sanctions laws in a number of other countries, including Lithuania and South Africa.

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. Magnitsky's 16-year-old son, Nikita, and widow, Natasha, joined Mr. Browder on Parliament Hill on Wednesday, where they thanked MPs and senators who supported Bill S-226, the Sergei Magnitsky Law.

"We are very thankful for the fact that this law carries the name of Sergei Magnitsky and that he is not forgotten by the people," said Nikita, translating for his mother, who spoke in Russian.

Dozens of parliamentarians lined up for a photo with Mr. Browder and the Magnitskys during a reception recognizing the passage of the law on Wednesday. Conservative MP James Bezan also made a statement recognizing their presence in the House of Commons, prompting a standing ovation from all MPs.

Later in the afternoon, Nikita presented Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with a painting he created as a token of appreciation to the government for passing the sanctions law in memory of his father.

Last week, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale's office said the government will work on reforming Interpol after Russian President Vladimir Putin last month put Mr. Browder on the organization's most-wanted list for the fifth time. Mr. Browder says he was targeted in retaliation for Canada's passage of the Magnitsky law. Interpol later rejected the arrest notice.