Senator, former UN envoy to table bill allowing Canada to spend assets seized from foreign dictators

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

The following is an excerpt from an article published in The Globe & Mail.

An independent Canadian senator has proposed a bill that would allow the government to take the frozen assets of dictators and their cronies to help refugees forced to flee their tyranny.

Senator Ratna Omidvar tabled the Frozen Assets Repurposing Act on Thursday with the support of Allan Rock, the former Liberal attorney general and justice minister who also served as a United Nations ambassador.

The bill builds on the recommendation and research of the World Refugee Council, an initiative of the Ontario-based Centre for International Governance Innovation, to put to constructive use the estimated $20 billion to $40 billion seized annually from corrupt officials around the world.

The council, formed in May 2017, is chaired by former Canadian foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy, and its two dozen members include former world leaders, ministers, peace activists, as well as leading business, civil society and human-rights figures.

“This will increase accountability in two ways – A, by eliminating the impunity by which corrupt kleptocrats hide their money in safe havens and B, by redirecting their purloined wealth back to those harmed by their misrule,” Omidvar told a news conference on Parliament Hill.

The bill would give Canadian courts the authority to confiscate the frozen assets and repurpose them for the benefit of victims. The bill proposes doing this through an application by the attorney general of Canada, the cabinet post Rock held in the former Liberal government of Jean Chretien.

“The bill she is tabling, if passed, would make Canada a global leader in holding bad leaders accountable for their crimes against the forcibly displaced,” said Fen Hampson, the executive director of the refugee council.