Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Stephane Dion, this week, rejected an all-party Canadian effort to adopt legislation to target Russian human rights violators with Canadian asset freezes and visa bans.
Russian pro-democracy and human rights activists have long called on the Canadian government to adopt what they have universally characterized as “pro-Russian” legislation to help defend the rights of Russian activists. US and European governments have already adopted this human rights legislation, leaving Canada as an international laggard. The latest news follows closely behind the Trudeau government’s controversial decision to sell APC’s to Saudi Arabia, which have led to calls for Canada’s Foreign Minister to resign.
Despite campaign commitments from the governing Liberal Party to adopt Magnitksy human rights legislation and a unanimous all-party resolution calling on the Government of Canada to do the same, the Trudeau government has now publicly rejected their previous human rights positions.
In their efforts to “re-engage” with the Putin regime, the Trudeau government has decided to ignore the calls of leading Russian human rights activists, anti-corruption crusaders and pro-democracy opposition leaders by rejecting legislation that would help protect them. The move, lobbied for by Kremlin proxy organizations in Canada has been loudly applauded by Vladimir Putin’s propaganda channel “Sputnik”.
Some Canadian organizations, including Kremlin supported NGO’s like the Canada Eurasia Russia Business Association may be celebrating the government’s position.
There are just a handful of Canadian companies that risk operating inside Russia. One of those companies, is Bombardier, who, despite securing a significant order for it’s C-Series aircraft from Delta Airlines last week, is continuing to lobby the Canadian government for a $1 billion bailout.
The Canadian train and plane manufacturer was recently named in a Panama Papers report by Russia’s only independent newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, in connection with a number of transactions involving major Russian railroad projects involving billions of dollars.
While commercial dealings with national railroad companies are perfectly natural for Bombardier, Russia’s national railway company, doesn’t look or act like a normal, western government owned company.
In a country that is consistently ranked as one of the most corrupt in the world and where government officials and organised crime syndicate members are interchangeable, Russian Railways operates on the fringes of Russia’s legal boundaries.
A 2014 Reuters investigation exposed millions of dollars in project contracts that were awarded to bogus companies in Russia by Russian Railways.
The projects were run by the son of a close associate of Russian Railways Chairman, Vladimir Yakunin, Andrei Krapivin. The Reuters report identifies Krapivin in connection with the national railroad company, and includes bizarre links to a series of connected assassinations.
Yakunin has himself described his close relationship with Bombardier CEO, Pierre Beaudoin as being like “family” and someone he “likes very much and respects very much.”
The Novaya Gazeta investigation into Bombardier and the Panama Papers, claims that offshore companies controlled by Krapivin, were involved in transactions with Bombardier’s Russian subsidiary.
Bombardier partnered with Russian Railways in 1996 to form a joint venture named Bombardier Transportation and did so again in 2011 to purchase a 50% stake in a Russian signaling equipment producer Elteza.
The Novaya Gazeta report reveals that the primary buyer of the equipment produced by Bombardier Transport, in Russia has been Russian Railways via a complex routing via offshore companies owned by Krapivin.
As Bombardier continues to aggressively lobby for a Canadian bailout, the Trudeau government needs start to asking questions about Bombardier’s foreign connections and operations.
The company has been intensely lobbying the federal government over the past 24 months and according to some reports, has spent over a million dollars on those efforts in the past year.
Records from the The Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying, show that Bombardier CEO, Pierre Beaudoin has met with senior government staff, including the PMO and Minister Dion, over 40 times since the October election – mostly since January.
Former Russian Railways CEO Vladimir Yakunin, was among the first individuals inside Vladimir Putin’s inner circle of oligarchs and officials to be sanctioned by the United States and the European Union in 2014. Despite widespread corruption at Russian Railways, Yakunin never made it on to Canada’s otherwise extensive list of sanctioned officials.
Some reports have cited Yakunin’s close connections with Bombardier as the reason. Yakunin has himself described his close relationship with Bombardier CEO, Pierre Beaudoin as being like “family” and someone he “likes very much and respects very much.”
Respected Russian anti-corruption crusader, Alexei Navalny, said Yakunin’s family “has constructed a business empire, incorporating offshore companies around the world. The value of this empire is in the billions of dollars. … it is a mafia family of the purest kind.”
As a signatory to The UN Global Compact in 2007, which binds signatories to uphold human rights, and to “work against corruption in all its forms…”, Bombardier may do well to reconsider who its partners and friends are in Russia.
Before considering any recommendations about the terms of re-engagement with the Putin regime or on any potential bailout, the Prime Minister and Minister Dion need to investigate Bombardier’s reported links to the Panama Papers and their links with Russian Railways.
As a Canadian I’m appalled. I suspect the 1+ million of Canadians with Ukrainian ancestry will be too.