Questions linger over what will happen to Russian assets frozen, blocked by Canada

·2 min read
Nataliia Prykhodko looks out from her burnt-out apartment in Irpin, Ukraine, on Thursday. The RCMP said that since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, more than $400 million in assets held by individuals on Canada's sanctions list have been frozen or blocked. (Marko Djurica/The Associated Press - image credit)
Nataliia Prykhodko looks out from her burnt-out apartment in Irpin, Ukraine, on Thursday. The RCMP said that since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, more than $400 million in assets held by individuals on Canada's sanctions list have been frozen or blocked. (Marko Djurica/The Associated Press - image credit)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the citizens of Ukraine will be at the heart of whatever is done with hundreds of millions of dollars in assets effectively frozen or blocked by the federal government since the outset of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The RCMP said on Thursday that since Russia moved into Ukraine on Feb. 24, $123 million in assets held by individuals on Canada's sanctions list have been frozen, while transactions worth a further $289 million have been blocked.

The government's budget implementation bill, C-19 — which passed final reading in the House of Commons on Thursday — would include executive powers allowing not only the freezing but the seizing and selling off of sanctioned assets. It would also allow for the proceeds to be used as compensation for victims of the war or for reconstruction projects in Ukraine.

Questions around bill persist 

But concerns have been raised around whether the bill, expected to sail through the Senate, may violate certain United Nations articles that outline that countermeasures must be reversible.

"We're still a ways from passing that legislation," the prime minister said on Friday. "Obviously, there are lots of conversations going on internationally about accountability and overseas assets of Russian oligarchs and others.

"We will continue to make sure we're following the law but also moving forward on ways to make sure that Russia is held responsible and even accountable for what would be tremendous costs and rebuilding Ukraine after Russia's illegal invasion," he continued.

When pressed about who would spend that money, the prime minister didn't give a clear answer, saying Canada is "a long way from that moment."

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press
Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

It's a decision that would ultimately fall to cabinet ministers, but questions also persist over what safeguards would ensure the money is spent responsibly and prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.

Trudeau also didn't directly answer whether Canada would deliver the full value of what's been frozen over to reconstruction funds. But whatever the decision, it would have to be made with some level of consultation with Ukrainians, he said.

"As with just so many things in regards to the conflict in Ukraine — nothing about Ukraine, without Ukraine," the prime minister said. "It is going to be important that Ukrainians themselves ... be at the heart of whatever rebuilding ends up happening."

Trudeau added: "They have to be in full consultation and even in control of the path for the future of Ukraine."

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