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Canadian sanctions legislation

The imposition of 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 sanctions through the United Nations Act, the Special Economic Measures Act, and the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act.

For information on current sanctions imposed by Canada under these pieces of legislation, please see Current sanctions.

United Nations Act

Canada's United Nations Act 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, which can include 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.

Absent a UNSC resolution, Canada is also able to impose sanctions autonomously, under the Special Economic Measures Act and the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act.

Special Economic Measures Act

The Special Economic Measures Act allows Canada to impose sanctions in response to any of the following circumstances:

  1. where an international organization to which Canada belongs calls on its members to take economic measures against a foreign state;
  2. where a grave breach of international peace and security has occurred that has resulted in or is likely to result in a serious international crisis;
  3. where gross and systematic human rights violations have been committed in a foreign state; or
  4. where a national of a foreign state, who is either a foreign public official or an associate of such an official, is responsible for or complicit in acts of significant corruption.

Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act

The Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act allows Canada to impose targeted measures against foreign nationals, independent of state-related sanctions, who are believed to be responsible for or complicit in gross violations of internationally-recognized human rights or are foreign public officials, or their associates, who are responsible for or complicit in acts of significant corruption.

Disclosure and reporting requirements

The United Nations ActSpecial Economic Measures Act and the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act require persons in Canada and Canadians outside Canada 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 outside Canada, are set out in the various regulations made under the United Nations ActSpecial Economic Measures Act, and Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act. 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 under Canadian sanctions.

Export and Import Permits Act

Regulations enacted under the Export and Import Permits Act provide Canada with an additional mechanism for controlling trade. Notably, export or transfer of any goods or technology to countries named in the Area Control List is controlled, and must be authorized by an export permit issued by the Minister of Foreign Affairs under the authority of the Export and Import Permits Act. For more information, please see Export and Import Controls.

Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act

Under the Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act, Canada may freeze the assets or restrain the property of certain politically exposed foreign persons (such as government officials or politicians), at the request of a country undergoing internal turmoil or political uncertainty. Restrictions under the Act are a form of assistance that Canada provides to the requesting country as an initial step toward possible mutual legal assistance, consistent with Canada’s Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act

The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act provides the authority to deny entry into Canada to foreign nationals who are inadmissible pursuant to sanctions.

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