Canadian sanctions legislation

The imposition of economic sanctions against foreign states and non-state actors is a key tool for the international community to support peace and security and enforce international norms and laws. The Parliament of Canada has enacted legislation authorizing the imposition of trade and economic sanctions through the United Nations Act, the Special Economic Measures Act and some provisions of the Export and Import Permits Act.

United Nations Act

Canada's United Nations Act (UNA) enables the Canadian government to give effect to decisions passed by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). If the UNSC determines that an act of aggression or a breach of peace has occurred, it may decide what measures member states shall take to restore or maintain international peace and security. These measures are generally economic and trade sanctions. Such a decision imposes a legal obligation on Canada as a UN member to introduce the required measures into domestic law. This is done by enacting regulations under the United Nations Act.

Special Economic Measures Act

In order to maximize the effectiveness of a sanctions regime, Canadian policy seeks to ensure, whenever possible, that sanctions are applied multilaterally. Absent a UNSC resolution, the Special Economic Measures Act (SEMA) allows Canada to impose sanctions in either of the following situations:

  1. where an international organization to which Canada belongs calls on its members to take economic measures against a foreign state, or
  2. where a grave breach of international peace and security has occurred and is likely to result in a serious international crisis.

Non-UN sanctions are imposed by enacting regulations under SEMA.

Regulations enacted under SEMA apply to the following countries:

Disclosure and Reporting Requirements

The United Nations Act and Special Economic Measures Act require Canadians to disclose and report certain holdings and activities, specifically in relation to provisions that freeze the financial assets of targeted individuals and entities. Send the information by fax to RCMP Federal Policing Criminal Operations: 613-825-7030.


The obligations of persons in Canada (individuals and entities), and Canadians abroad, are set out in the various regulations of the UNA and SEMA. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canada Border Services Agency enforce these statutes and regulations.

Related Canadian Legislation

Criminal Code: The listing of terrorist entities under the Criminal Code enables Canada to apply appropriate criminal measures to entities, including those not necessarily listed by the United Nations Al-Qaida and Taliban Regulations or the United Nations Resolutions on the Suppression of Terrorism.

Export and Import Permits Act: Regulations enacted under the Export and Import Permits Act provide Canada an additional mechanism for restricting trade with a sanctioned country. Notably, exports to any country added to the act’s Area Control List are banned.

Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act: Under the Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act (FACFOA), Canada may acquiesce to a demand by a country in turmoil to freeze the assets or restrain the property of certain of its government officials or politicians. Unlike sanctions, which are generally punitive, FACFOA restrictions are a form of assistance that Canada provides to the requesting country.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act: Travel bans are authorized under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

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