Skip to main content

Service members of pro-Russian troops ride an infantry fighting vehicle during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the town of Popasna in the Luhansk Region, Ukraine, on June 2.ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO/Reuters

Ottawa and Washington have struck an agreement to stop the export of technology that could help Moscow’s war in Ukraine, with the collaboration paying special attention to goods flowing to third countries or what Canada’s border agency calls “known Russian supporters.”

Canada Border Services Agency and the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) announced a commitment Tuesday that Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said is part of Canada “redoubling efforts stop critical goods and technologies from falling into Russian hands.”

This agreement means that CBSA’s Counter-Proliferation Operations section and CBSA regional intelligence offices will work directly with BIS agents to share information and targets of concern.

Judith Gadbois-St-Cyr, a spokesperson for CBSA, said frontline border officers will be given access to American information bulletins to help them better identify exports of “potential concern” before they leave Canada. The two agencies will jointly probe potential violations of export law and “reduce threats through coordinated enforcement actions and investigations,” she said.

Statistics Canada data shows that Canadian exports to Russia has dropped significantly – down to $5.5-million in March, compared to $44.8-million in the same month of last year – as export controls and sanctions took hold after Moscow’s Feb. 24 assault on Ukraine.

Lawyer John Boscariol, head of McCarthy Tétrault’s trade and investment group, said it’s no secret that the U.S. government has previously been dissatisfied with Canada’s performance in regulating the export of controlled goods, which could be one of the factors at play in this announcement.

“We are aware of instances in past years where the U.S. government has not been happy with the enforcement of export control laws in Canada and that could certainly be part of the motivation for this particular initiative,” Mr. Boscariol said.

Serious risk of genocide in Ukraine as Russia breaches international treaty, report says

Baltic minister seeks Canada’s support to free Odesa port, boost NATO presence

A 2008 U.S. diplomatic cable made public by Wikileaks demonstrated Washington’s unhappiness with Canadian enforcement, detailing how American immigrations and customs enforcement officials told Canada that “until the price to be paid for export control violations is the same in Canada as it is in the U.S. – prison – adversaries will persist in abusing Canada as a venue from which they can illegally procure and export U.S. defence technologies.”

Mr. Boscariol said the concern is likely not just over shipments of technology from Canada that violate export law, but also American-origin goods sent to Canadian customers that are then “shipped to a country or an end use that is problematic for the U.S.”

Asked whether American dissatisfaction with Canadian enforcement played any role in this announcement, Alexander Cohen, director of communications to Mr. Mendicino, said the announcement is merely “enhancing and deepening” a longstanding relationship between the CBSA and the Department of Commerce that “is already one of the strongest in the world.”

Alan Estevez, Undersecretary of Commerce for Industry and Security, who leads the BIS, said Tuesday’s announcement between Canada and the U.S. “sends a strong message to Putin’s government that we will stand together in our efforts to choke off its ability to sustain aggression, and in solidarity with Ukrainian people.”

Earlier this week, the U.S. took action against a Russian billionaire with business interests in both Canada and the United States over what they alleged is a violation of American export rules. A U.S. court issued warrants for the seizure of two luxury planes owned by Roman Abramovich under U.S. measures imposed after the invasion, court records showed.

The U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security had charged Mr. Abramovich with violating export controls by exporting American-made aircraft to Russia without the required licenses. The bureau alleged Mr. Abramovich’s planes flew to and from Russia in March, days after the agency announced new export controls on Russia-related aircraft.

Mr. Abramovich, who helped mediate talks between Moscow and Kyiv during the early days of the war, has not personally been sanctioned by the United States. He has been sanctioned by the European Union, Britain and Canada.

Mr. Abramovich is a significant shareholder in steelmaker Evraz PLC, which wholly owns the subsidiary Evraz North America. The sub unit operates steel production sites in the United States and Canada, including locations in Regina and the Alberta cities of Calgary, Camrose and Red Deer. It supplied 58 per cent of the steel being used to build the $21.4-billion Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

“Russian oligarchs such as Abramovich will not be permitted to violate U.S. export regulations without consequence,” U.S. Commerce Department official John Sonderman said in a statement Monday.

With reports from Reuters

For subscribers only: Get exclusive political news and analysis by signing up for the Politics Briefing.