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e-2630 (Foreign affairs)

Initiated by Henry Evans-Tenbrinke from Hamilton, Ontario

Original language of petition: French

Petition to the Government of Canada

  • In his March 23 letter to the leaders of the G20, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres declared, “I am encouraging the waiving of sanctions imposed on countries to ensure access to food, essential health supplies, and COVID-19 medical support. This is the time for solidarity not exclusion… Let us remember that we are only as strong as the weakest health system in our interconnected world”;
  • In his Easter message, Pope Francis also called for the lifting of all economic sanctions to better serve the global effort against the pandemic;
  • The Trudeau government maintains a regime of unilateral economic sanctions against 20 countries around the world, nine of which are in Africa; and
  • These sanctions prevent the targeted countries from responding more effectively to the pandemic, thereby undermining global security as well as our own efforts against the coronavirus.
We, the undersigned, citizens and residents of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to lift all its coercive economic sanctions during this pandemic.

Response by the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Rob Oliphant

Sanctions are an important component of Canada’s principled and pragmatic approach to foreign policy, which also includes dialogue, capacity building, advocacy, multilateral engagement, and other diplomatic actions. The decision to impose sanctions is not one that Canada takes lightly. They are a coercive measure of last resort designed to foster change and end impunity; a tool to be applied judiciously. When Canada chooses to impose sanctions, it does so to send a strong and clear message that it will not stand by in the face of gross human rights violations, significant corruption, or behaviour that flouts the rule of law and threatens global peace and security, and will hold those who commit such actions to account. 

In designing and implementing sanctions, the Government of Canada applies a targeted approach and rigorous analysis to minimize adverse consequences for the civilian population, including vulnerable groups, or for legitimate business, humanitarian, or other activities. Therefore, the vast majority of Canada’s autonomous sanctions measures apply to specific individuals or entities deemed culpable for human rights violations or acts of significant corruption, and would not impede a sanctioned country’s ability to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. These types of sanctions often include measures such as embargoes on arms and related material, as well as dealings bans (effective asset freezes) on specific individuals or entities. In many cases, listed individuals are also being deemed inadmissible to Canada.

This approach is consistent with the current global reality where the priority is to ensure sanctions regimes do not present an unintended barrier that would hinder the humanitarian response to the pandemic. In addition, the Government of Canada also conducts regular reviews of its existing sanctions regimes to ensure that any measures taken remain relevant and serve the purpose for which they were originally implemented. Canada continues to implement legislated exceptions for certain activities such as the delivery of food, medicine and medical supplies, to limit the potentially adverse effects on vulnerable populations, such as women and girls.

In an effort to respond to the needs of organizations operating in countries targeted by Canada’s sanctions regime during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada has taken steps to accelerate the review of any application for permits and certificates where applicants have identified a link to the global health crisis.

With respect to UN sanctions, Canada has an international legal obligation to implement decisions to impose sanctions taken by the UN Security Council under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations. Canada implements these decisions through regulations under the United Nations Act and could likewise implement Security Council decisions taken under Chapter VII adopted to address impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Open for signature
June 1, 2020, at 10:07 a.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
August 30, 2020, at 10:07 a.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Scott Duvall (Hamilton Mountain)
October 29, 2020 (Petition No. 432-00178)
Government response tabled
January 25, 2021
Photo - Scott Duvall
Hamilton Mountain
New Democratic Party Caucus
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