It’s totally accepted in this country, even expected, that opinions radically contrary to the views of the majority, even views espoused by foreign countries that are considered to be antagonistic, get unrestricted reach to any audience. That’s guaranteed by Canada’s Bill of Rights and protected by the highest judicial institution here.
This what the Russian Congress of Canada (RCC) insist they abide by. They reject any suggestion that their positions on some issues that the Canadian and Parliament have adopted have not been, at the very least, approved by the Government of the Russian Federation. The RCC claims to advocate positions which they have developed independent of any foreign influence. The RCC states: “All allegations of our presumed acting as a front of the Russian Embassy in Canada or a proxy tool for the Kremlin are false and should be qualified as a slander.”
“The Russian Congress of Canada has on numerous occasions explained that the organization has been created by the Canadian citizens and permanent residents of Canada without any official or unofficial sponsorship from any third party. ... We resolutely object to all insinuations representing the Russian Congress of Canada as an organization taking orders from the Russian government to disrupt and discredit Canadian legislation and democracy.” This was part of a statement made by Igor Babalich, president of the Russian Congress of Canada on October 7, 2017.
On October 4, 2017, the House of Commons passed the “Sergei Magnitsky Law”, officially, Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, Bill C-267, with 277 M.P.s voting for the passage, none against. The Act is “to provide for the taking of restrictive measures in respect of foreign nationals responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights and to make related amendments to the Special Economic Measures Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.”
As of April, The U.S.A., the United Kingdom and Estonia had adopted similar legislation. By the beginning of October 44 people had been sanctioned under the U.S. Magnitsky Act.
Refreshing our memories: Sergei Magnitsky was a Russian lawyer (The RCC insists he was an accountant. Ed.) and fraud investigator who uncovered evidence of a major theft of tax money by Russian government officials – but was then arrested by Russian authorities, imprisoned. He was tortured and left to anguish for 358 days before he died in jail at age 37. A Russian investigation had turned up evidence that Magnisky had been tortured during detention, and his death followed a severe beating by prison guards while he suffered other illnesses for which he was denied treatment.
Posthumously Magnitsky underwent a bizarre trial and was convicted of the crime he himself had exposed.
As the House of Commons started debating the bill in May, the Russian embassy stated: “We deplore this unfriendly move by the Canadian government which will surely damage our bilateral relations and will not be left unanswered. Equally unfortunate is yet another repetition of failed confrontational policies toward Russia.” In a similar threatening tone, the Russian foreign ministry said: “To a large extent (the bill) simply copies the odious American ‘Magnitsky Act’ and is set to further undermine Russian-Canadian relations. … We warn again that in the case the pressure of the sanctions put on us increases … we will widen likewise the list of Canadian officials banned from entering Russia.”
In anticipation of the passage of the Magnitsky bill by the House of Commons the RCC said the following in June: “… we believe that the Magnitsky Act mirrored after the U.S. law, will not serve Canada’s national interests. … This copycat adoption of the U.S. legislation in Canada … will set a dangerous precedent of the Canadian government … and will further close the space for a dialogue with Russia at a time when Canada-Russia relations are already at a historic low.”
Both the Russian Congress and the Russian embassy make a point of deteriorating bilateral relations and Canadian M.P.s mimicking U.S. lawmakers. It’s feasible that groups would be quite capable of offering the same arguments independently without collusion. However, community organizations, that have certain political understandings usually advocate ideas, oppose decisions etc. Rarely do community groups such as the RCC actually attack individuals like it has done with Sergei Magnitsky, Bill Browder, an American businessman and former colleague of Magnitsky, Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s foreign minister etc.
Is the RCC a well-intentioned organization, promoting independently developed lofty ideals or a group that fulfills the program of Russia’s “Compatriots Program”, a Kremlin-led foreign policy strategy of utilizing ex-patriot Russian groups to promote Moscow’s aims?
The Kremlin’s views in Canada are supported by local group Estonian Life