Liberal Justice Minister David Lametti was asked about the apparent unlawful seizure of assets and property owned by Russians and said that people don’t have an “absolute right to own private property” in Canada.
One reporter questioned the Justice Minister saying “I’d just like to ask you about Bill C-19. Any idea of seizing and selling off Russian assets. There are some who say that’s on shaky ground. How do you respond to that,” a reporter asked the Justice Minister.
“Well, look. We’ll obviously tailor the provisions so that it can withstand a court challenge. You don’t have an absolute right to own private property in Canada,” Lametti said.
The Bill reporters are referring to is Bill C-19. If the Bill is passed it would give the government authority to “seize and cause the forfeiture and disposal of assets held by sanctioned people and entities, to support Canada’s participation in the Russian Elites, Proxies, and Oligarchs Task force in light of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine.”
According to to the United Nations Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts document, freezing assets countries committing “wrongful acts,” is allowed, the act doesn’t appear to grant governments authority to sell said frozen assets. The countermeasures need to be “taken in such a way as to permit the resumption of performance of the obligations in question.”. it would appear the assets need to be returned when the conflict has ended.
This suggests that Trudeau could be breaking international law by selling Russians’ legally acquired assets in Canada and redistributing them to Ukraine. Not to mention, it’s likely to throw up red flags and deter foreign investors from coming to Canada.
As international law adviser David Kleimann explains, “Once those proceeds, and notably Russian assets, have been handed over to, say, the Ukrainian government, they’re lost. They cannot be returned.”
“Therefore, there’s no way of inducing the resumption of performance of international obligations,” he continues.
“I believe that the legal question is relatively clear here, that such an action or such procedures would violate international law.”