NP-UN Western Bureau.
When it comes to human rights, Canada has been a leader on the international stage for many years, but there arose a need to coordinate Canada’s internal legislation with what was needed internationally, said former Senator Raynell Andreychuk during the 54th Annual Shevchenko Lecture co-sponsored by the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Alberta and the Ukrainian Canadian Professional and Business Association of Edmonton.
The lecture had initially been scheduled for March, but was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It was broadcast on YouTube last month and is available for viewing at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5F_Iqm5uqAM
To find a way to address the need to find the right legislation, the Senate created a human rights commission that looked at the strengths and weaknesses of Canada’s approach and came out with recommendations as to how Canada could strengthen it own internal laws.
“Therefore, that led me to the Magnitsky Bill, which was certainly one bill that showed that we have to be sure that we are doing the best we can within Canada to ensure that justice, the rule of law and human rights is adhered to. What we found was that while we talk about strengthening human rights abroad and while we note the shortcomings of states abroad and with individuals, we did not take action when the world changed. So, legislation cannot be static. Our policies cannot be static. We must continue to update, in a democracy, to meet the expectations of our own citizens to meet the expectations of a changing world. And, as we sit in Covid, we know how it changes us and uniquely we have to learn and how quickly to adapt,” she stated.
Andreychuk introduced Bill S-226, An Act to provide for the taking of restrictive measures in respect of foreign nationals responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights in the Senate in 2016. It passed both chambers unanimously the following year.
One of the key objectives of the legislation is to address the issue of money laundering by corrupt politicians.
“What we wanted to do is to ensure that we are not enablers. That we are not aiders and abetters for those who have abused grossly the human rights of others in other countries or are going to avail themselves upon coming on our soil,” she explained.
Asked during the question and answer period what kind of levers citizens have to prod the government to action, Sen. Andreychuk replied:
“I see it through editorials, I see it through direct engagement, I see the Opposition playing its role in parliament,” adding all avenues should be explored.
Asked about the most significant aspects of the bill, she identified how corrupt activities misuse government systems to exploit resources and to examine how money from such activities is transferred.
Asked how the bill could be used to combat sex trafficking, Sen. Andreychuk said it could be effective if the perpetrators could be identified and their money traced.
She added that she agrees sex trafficking it is one of the worst forms of human rights abuse “often targeting children and certainly targeting women but not exclusively.”
Asked by moderator Jars Balan to respond to charges that businesses may consider the legislation to be meddling in their affairs, Sen. Andreychuk said businesses have to be educated that it is in their interests to respect human rights because regimes change.
“It’s not meddling. It’s a responsibility. It’s a responsibility that each and every individual has to others. Not just our own citizens,” she explained.