Canada and the corruption court

| January 20, 2021 | 0 Comments

2020 was like no other in living memory. No one envisioned starting the decade with a pandemic.
Well before the virus washed over us like a poison tsunami, sweeping unpredictability and uncertainty already existed in many aspects of our lives. In addition to responding to COVID-19, I suggest we use this moment to shape our futures to meet the ever important challenges in the area of anti-corruption as well. People deserve leadership and attention to justice in addition to the obvious focus on human health and the critical response to the pandemic.
Global bad actors representing hyper-aggressive nations and their leadership in countries such as China, Russia, Iran and Venezuela, who menace their neighbours and democratic countries, or the mega-crooks and syndicates who perpetrate violence, theft and deal in contraband, have expanded their reach partly due to the explosion of the internet and its reach into homes of citizens around the world. How do law-abiding victims achieve justice?
The time for an International Anti-Corruption Court has come. The world needs an institution tasked to hold corrupt officials to account, uphold the rule of law and enforce order against the rise of those who abuse public office. Many have called for more accountability and tracking of illegal activities that flow across jurisdictions and flout national and international laws. An anti-corruption court would accomplish that.
There are numerous unchecked criminal acts by those in office — from money laundering, human trafficking, extortion to interference with the administration of justice. The flagrant acts have become more sophisticated and enabled by the internet and cyber-criminality that knows no bounds and respects no jurisdiction.
Efforts to bring international criminals to justice are not new. We have Interpol, the International Criminal Court and numerous binational treaties on extradition and prosecution. Yet there is a pressing need for a higher standard of co-operation to address the expansion of corruption, which impacts national economies in the range of hundreds of billions of dollars, takes a toll on human life and leads to suffering and impoverishment.
An International Anti-Corruption Court with a mandate to take a comprehensive approach to sharing evidence, setting standards for enhancing enforcement, establishing restitution efforts, seizing assets, exercising warrants and accelerated extraditions and a rules-based approach to justice, would help create a global standard for addressing this scourge.
Canada can and should play a unique and historic role in this effort. As Canadians, we have always tried to utilize multilateralism as a means to elevate solutions and home in on sore spots with innovative initiatives. Canada has been a founding nation and participant in numerous international bodies — from NATO and the United Nations to the International Criminal Court (ICC). From peacekeeping to sponsorship of initiatives such as the Ottawa Treaty on landmines and helping to urge the end of apartheid in South Africa, and raising issues such as child soldiers, Canada has been at the forefront of combatting threats to peace and justice globally. In our understated way, Canadians have helped develop concrete solutions to some of the most complex and protracted challenges in the last century.
Severe breaches of law have directly impacted Canadians’ lives. There was the shooting down of a plane after takeoff, on orders of the Islamic Regime. It was carrying many Canadians and all lives were lost. We also continue to hope for the safe return of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig from their unlawful incarceration in China. Canada is not without its own failings, including corruption convictions of Canadian companies and allegations of political interference and misuse of our new deferred prosecution agreement regime. Still, Canada has the potential to be a host country for a court that could take on the task with transparency and the goal of setting the highest ethical bar.
The growth of the ICC demonstrates the necessity of a specialized anti-corruption court. The ICC holds international criminals to account and was conceived in the aftermath of the Second World War, the Nuremburg trials of Nazi atrocities and the Holocaust. While not perfect and outrageous assaults on humanity followed, it has made strides at enforcement and holding to account dictators, kleptocrats, oligarchs and organized crime syndicates, not to mention human rights abusers. Capacity and delay are challenges, but the cause is worthy.
The movement has strength and could gain momentum with the right backing, leadership and resources. At a 2016 anti-corruption summit, more than 180 countries pledged greater anti-corruption enforcement co-operation, which offers hope for action. In addition to the evolving fallout from the global pandemic, dark and complex issues demand our attention as well — displaced people, homelessness, poverty, all forms of addiction, the need for affordable childcare and the health and social needs in our Indigenous communities. It is justice that remains a cornerstone matter. 2020 ended with a glimmer of hope for all, with arrivals in many countries of vaccines, so we can only hope we see steps toward addressing another global threat — corruption. A court tasked to address this issue head-on is the antidote we need. We have the ability to take on all forms of corruption. Now we need the will and the wisdom to act.

Peter MacKay is a former federal cabinet minister. Besides his run for Conservative Party leader, he practises law and advises international businesses on trade.

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Category: Dispatches

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Peter MacKay is a former federal cabinet minister. Besides his run for Conservative Party leader, he practises law and advises international businesses on trade.

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