Magnitsky human rights law, protections for journalists' sources get royal assent
Russia says passing of Magnitsky law causes 'irreparable damage' to Russia-Canada relations
Two private member's bills, one protecting journalists' sources and another that allows Canada to get tough on human rights abusers, received royal assent Wednesday.
One of those laws is the so-called Magnitsky Act, the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act or Bill S-226. It allows the Canadian government to impose sanctions and travel bans on foreign officials responsible for gross human rights violations.
"Canada has a strong reputation around the world as a country that holds clear and cherished democratic values and stands up for human rights," Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland said in a statement issued by Global Affairs Canada.
"This new law, which has received cross-partisan support in Parliament, is a clear demonstration that Canada takes any and all necessary measures to respond to gross violations of human rights and acts of significant foreign corruption," Freeland said in the statement.
The legislation was inspired by Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in 2009 in a Moscow prison after accusing Russian officials of a massive tax fraud scheme.
In a series of tweets Wednesday, the Russian Embassy in Canada called the bill's royal assent an "irrational act" causing "irreparable damage" to Canada-Russia relations.
In defiance of common sense S-226 is hastily signed into law. Irrational act sponsored by fugitive fraudster & tax evader and Russia-haters.—@RussianEmbassyC
Russophobes' rejoice: S-226 is now approved by Senate, causing irreparable damage to <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RussiaCanada?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RussiaCanada</a> relations. Testimonium paupertatis. 1/2—@RussianEmbassyC
When the bill unanimously passed in the House in early October, Russia threatened to retaliate.
Bill S-226 was introduced by Conservative Sen. Raynell Andreychuk in May 2016. The government of Canada announced its support in May 2017, but with added amendments.
Protection of journalistic sources
The Journalistic Sources Protection Act, Bill S-231, also received royal assent Wednesday. It amends Canadian law to better protect the confidentiality of journalistic sources.
Conservative Sen. Claude Carignan tabled the private member's bill in November 2016, following revelations that Quebec provincial police had spied on reporters in 2013.
"A great day for democracy," said Carignan in a tweet.
(1/2) 231 My bill on the protection of journalistic sources received Royal Assent today. A great day for democracy! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cdnpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#cdnpoli</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/senCA?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#senCA</a>—@senatcarignan
(3/3) S-231! Great victory for freedom of the press in our country. Journalistic sources are essential to the work of the media <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cdnpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#cdnpoli</a>—@senatcarignan
Bill S-231 allows journalists to refuse to disclose information or a document that identifies a journalistic source. However, a journalist may be compelled to disclose the information if it cannot be obtained by any other reasonable means and the public interest in the administration of justice outweighs the public interest of protecting the identity of the source.
The bill also amends the Criminal Code so that only a judge of a superior court may issue a search warrant against a journalist.
The House voted unanimously in favour of these protections on Oct. 4.