Executive Summary – Sanctions: The Canadian and International Architecture

(Disponible en français : Résumé – Sanctions : l’architecture canadienne et internationale)

Sanctions are measures implemented by governments to restrict or prohibit certain types of interactions with a foreign state, individual or entity. Governments impose sanctions in pursuit of foreign policy objectives, most often in response to breaches of international peace and security, but also in cases of gross violations of human rights and significant acts of corruption. Over the last 30 years, the use of sanctions by the United Nations (UN), Canada and allies such as the United States (U.S.) and the European Union (EU) has increased significantly.

Canada imposes UN-mandated sanctions through the United Nations Act, and autonomous sanctions through the Special Economic Measures Act and the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (Sergei Magnitsky Law). Regulations made under these Acts create a series of restrictions, prohibitions and obligations applicable to firms and people in Canada and to Canadians overseas in relation to foreign states, individuals and entities. The Acts include criminal penalties for contravening the regulations and provisions for parliamentary reporting and review. Canada currently has 20 sanctions regimes targeting specific countries and two transnational regimes related to counter-terrorism, as well as human rights and corruption sanctions targeting 70 individuals from five countries.

Canada often imposes sanctions in coordination with its allies, most notably the U.S. and the EU. That said, Canadian sanctions practice differs from that of the U.S. in a number of important respects. Unlike Canada, the U.S. imposes so-called “secondary sanctions,” which seek to impose restrictions on firms in third-party countries. The U.S. also regularly imposes large fines in response to the violation of sanctions, totalling more than US$1 billion in 2019.

Read the full text of the Background Paper: Sanctions: The Canadian and International Architecture

Author: Scott McTaggart, Library of Parliament