Both the volume of economic sanctions and the reasons for their imposition have increased tremendously around the globe. In this context, several countries, including the United States and Canada, have introduced Magnitsky acts to enable their governments to act unilaterally to impose sanctions against foreign actors for gross violations of human rights and significant acts of corruption. This paper evaluates the legislative changes made to Canada’s sanction regime in 2016–2017 and explores how the new authorities have been applied following implementation (2017–2019). We find that, despite granting the Canadian government new authorities to undertake autonomous sanctions, the country has continued to cooperate with other states as it had done prior to the changes. We conclude that lawmakers never intended for Canada to use the new autonomous capabilities to “go it alone.” Instead, the symbolism represented by Canada taking a strong stance against human rights abuses globally was the driving force behind the Magnitsky Law’s passage.

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International Journal
Norman Paterson School of International Affairs

Lilly, M, & Arabi, D. (Delaram). (2020). Symbolic act, real consequences: Passing Canada’s Magnitsky Law to combat human rights violations and corruption. International Journal. doi:10.1177/0020702020934504