Hon. Percy E. Downe: I apologize, colleagues. I was at another meeting with the Credit Union so I got here late. I hope I don’t repeat Senator Andreychuk’s comments, but I will be very brief.
I heard her thanking people as I was coming in, and I wanted to add my comments to those. Many people made this possible, of course, including Senator Andreychuk, who led the charge on the bill, but I just reviewed those who spoke at second reading — Senators Wells, Moore and Frum — in this chamber, and those who spoke at third reading — in addition to Senator Andreychuk, of course — Senators Woo, Duffy, Saint-Germain and Gold, all of whom made passionate interventions over and above all those who spoke at the Foreign Affairs Committee. It is a long list — you know who you are — and I won’t repeat them.
It’s important to emphasize what one of our main witnesses, Irwin Cotler, indicated when he came before the committee, that this is not an attack on Russia, although the Russians perceive it that way because of the name of the bill. This is really an attack on people who are committing offences overseas, human rights abuses, stealing money from others, and then using the goodness of Canadians to launder that money.
We have all seen the media reports that indicate millions of dollars from the Magnitsky file are already in Canada, either in housing or banks, and that’s what this bill will prevent. These people who do these offences in other countries should not get away with it by using Canadian banks and financial institutions to launder their money.
I am very pleased with the tremendous cooperation. I heard Senator Andreychuk covering it off, saying it was unanimous in the House of Commons. We all know the history. Many have worked on this for years. It was a commitment of all the political parties in the last election to do it. For a host of reasons, it was delayed.
I want to, as I’m sure Senator Andreychuk did, highlight the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, who was cooperative and helpful in moving the legislation along, along with a host of others.
It’s a significant bill, and I’m delighted that it’s going to be passed, hopefully. I will caution people that if you want to go to Russia, you may want to abstain from the vote because Senator Andreychuk, myself and others are barred from going there. Russia took it very personally that we were advocating for this bill. I have been to Russia before, and I am sure we will get there again when they lift the visa restrictions on us.
It’s unfortunate that the Russians are taking it so personally, but they are one of the main offenders, and the Magnitsky bill proves that, and I hope we will be able to pass it in the near future. Thank you, honourable senators.