The Canadian federal government is rushing a bill through the House of Commons that would allow Ottawa to freeze millions of dollars in foreign assets. This move would freeze assets belonging to the dictators in northern Africa and the Middle East.
On Thursday, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced that the government of Canada has introduced The Freezing Assets of Corrupt Regimes Act legislation in the House of Commons that will give it the power to freeze assets of foreign heads of state, according to the Globe and Mail.
The legislation was introduced as it is suspected that family members of former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi have millions of dollars in assets.
“This would allow the government of Canada to order the freezing of assets or the restraint of property of foreign, politically exposed persons ... so that assets of foreign nationals can be rapidly frozen under certain circumstances,” said the Justice Minister, reports CBC News.
Due to a recent United Nations resolution, the Canadian government was able to apply a hold onto assets held by Gaddafi and his close associates and prevented them from accessing any of their assets. More than $2.3 billion in Libyan assets were frozen, according to Agence-France Presse.
The Tunisian case was different, though. The new Tunisian government asked Canada to freeze accounts of Ali’s family, including brother-in-law Belhassen Trabesi, who flew on a private plane to Montreal. Although European nations have complied, Ottawa asked for more proof to prove that funds were illegally obtained.
“As a country that defends the principle of democracy, human rights and right of law, Canada wants to support all countries that try to get away from tyranny and implement a democracy,” said Cannon, reports CTV News. “Our government is submitting to Parliament a bill that seeks to help us fight corruption and money laundering from repressive state leaders.”
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke in Toronto Thursday regarding the bill and said the government is attempting “every way possible to freeze the assets of former dictators.”