Canada wants to use seized Russian assets to help Ukraine victims

Canada says change to sanctions regime would allow it to use profits of seized assets to compensate Ukraine victims.

Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly speaks to reporters at a microphone
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly says 'Canada will not stand idly by' as Russia attempts to 'redraw the borders of Ukraine with impunity' [File: Patrick Doyle/Reuters]

Canada is moving forward with efforts to pass legislation that would allow it to redistribute seized Russian assets to compensate victims of the war in Ukraine, Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly has said.

Speaking to reporters in the capital Ottawa on Wednesday, Joly said Canada would become the first G7 industrialised nation to allow such asset forfeitures and is proposing allies follow suit.

“There was a weak link in [our] sanctions package, which was the ability for the government to be able to sell the assets that were seized and afterwards to use the profits to compensate the victims of this war against Ukraine,” she said.

Joly added that the proposed changes to Canada’s sanctions regime, which were first outlined in a budget implementation bill unveiled on Tuesday, “will go a long way” to addressing that issue.

Her comments came as Canada also announced that it imposed fresh sanctions on 203 people accused of being complicit in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to annex areas in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

Russian forces launched a new offensive in that part of the country this month, prompting Ukraine to call on its allies to send heavy weapons to help it defend against Moscow’s push. Canada, the United States and other countries have promised to send more arms.

“Canada will not stand idly by and watch President Putin and his accomplices attempt to redraw the borders of Ukraine with impunity,” Joly said in a statement on Wednesday about the new sanctions.

Meanwhile, the Canadian parliament has started debating the seized assets measure and voting on proposed amendments.

They are expected to pass as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s minority Liberal government has the support of the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP), with which it entered into a “supply-and-confidence” agreement last month.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh told reporters on Wednesday that he backed the assets seizure plan.

“We agree with this approach,” Singh said in French, adding though that the Trudeau government had not moved quickly enough. “But yes, we support this approach, it’s what we asked for, and we want to do the work to implement this bill as quickly as possible.”

The changes that Canada aims to bring to its sanctions law will mean that funds or property seized from Russia could be paid out to help rebuild Ukraine or to those affected by Russia’s invasion.

Local media have said the value of the assets seized from wealthy Russians could top tens of millions of dollars in Canada, but officials have declined to confirm an exact figure.

Last week, Putin said the barrage of Western sanctions levied against Moscow since it launched its all-out invasion of Ukraine had failed.

The Russian president said Western nations “expected to quickly upset the financial-economic situation, provoke panic in the markets, the collapse of the banking system and shortages in stores”, but instead their policies have led to a “deterioration of the economy in the West”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies