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Politics Liberal MPs to urge Trudeau to push Magnitsky-style laws at G7 summit

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, on March 19, 2018.

CHRIS WATTIE/Reuters

Liberal MPs are preparing to send a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urging him to prioritize the adoption of Magnitsky-style laws among the world’s richest and most industrialized countries at the G7 leaders’ summit in Quebec this June.

News of the draft letter, which is currently being circulated among Liberal MPs, comes after lawmakers in the United States, Britain and Canada’s official opposition launched a co-ordinated effort demanding their leaders push all G7 countries to adopt laws targeting the assets of human-rights violators and banning travel by them. Three of the G7 countries – Canada, the U.S. and Britain – already have Magnitsky-style laws in place; France, Germany, Italy and Japan do not.

The call for action comes after former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a deadly nerve agent this month in Salisbury, Britain. The Canadian House of Commons unanimously adopted a motion Monday condemning and blaming Russia for the attack.

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Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s office said the government engages with other countries on Magnitsky-style laws, but did not commit to making the matter a priority when Canada hosts the G7 leaders’ summit this June.

“On Magnitsky, we were proud to pass legislation that ensures that Canada’s foreign policy tool box is effective and fit for purpose in today’s international environment,” said Ms. Freeland’s spokesperson Adam Austen in a statement.

“We continuously engage our allies and other countries on this and other issues related to safeguarding human rights.”

The Canadian and U.S. laws allow the governments to impose asset freezes and travel bans on human-rights abusers around the world. The British law only permits the government to seize assets; lawmakers in that country are working to introduce visa bans for human-rights violators as well.

Liberal MP John McKay is organizing the letter from Liberal MPs, which will ask Mr. Trudeau to put Magnitsky-style laws on the G7 summit agenda. He said a co-ordinated response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression is critical.

“The other G7 leaders simply cannot tolerate the notion that Russia or any other nation would go around poisoning its citizens,” Mr. McKay said.

Conservative MP James Bezan also wrote to Mr. Trudeau last week, saying the G7 could set a global example by embracing the Magnitsky penalties as a policy instrument.

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“Judging by the harsh reaction of Vladimir Putin to the passage of the Magnitsky law, we are certain that we have hit the Achilles’ heel of kleptocrats and dictators around the world,” Mr. Bezan wrote.

An all-party group of MPs also hopes to send a similar letter to Mr. Trudeau and Ms. Freeland this week. Former Liberal cabinet minister Irwin Cotler said the group – known as the Raoul Wallenberg parliamentary caucus on human rights – will ask the government to put the Magnitsky penalties on the G7 agenda.

Bill Browder, a U.S.-born financier and anti-Putin campaigner who has led the global Magnitsky campaign, said the need for action is more urgent than ever, especially after the Salisbury attack.

“The fact that some members of the G7 have Magnitsky acts and others don’t means that … there’s a perverse incentive for Russians to keep all their dirty money in non-Magnitsky countries,” Mr. Browder said.

Mr. Browder speared the global sanctions campaign in memory of the late Sergei Magnitsky. In 2005, he hired Mr. Magnitsky as the lawyer for his Moscow-based Hermitage Capital Management hedge fund. Mr. Magnitsky was beaten to death by Moscow prison staff in 2009 after accusing Russian officials of theft.

The Russian embassy in Ottawa did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he told Theresa May she has Canada’s support, after the British Prime Minister expelled 23 Russian diplomats over a chemical attack on a former Russian spy and his daughter in the U.K. The Canadian Press
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