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Ottawa Says Mush, Finally

Canada has been exceedingly slow to press bribery charges against Canadian firms operating abroad – a huge source of frustration. The good news is that forward movement is evident on several fronts.

In March, the OECD released a review highly critical of Canada’s anti-corruption action, placing it as the worst performer amongst G7 nations. Why is this good news? Because the Government of Canada is facing increasing pressure at home and abroad to revise the Canadian Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act (CFPOA). Some of the major flaws of the CFPOA include lack of nationality jurisdiction, no “books and records” provision, no voluntary reporting clause, and exemptions for NGOs and for facilitation payments.

During the visit of the OECD review team in October 2010, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) announced that they had 23 cases under investigation – the first time Canada has reported publicly on the number of investigations.  And just last year Canada at last appointed a Crown prosecutor for the fight against corruption.

Last month, the Government announced that most provisions of the Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials Act have come into force. This new legislation will help ensure that so–called “mega-trials,” large and complex prosecutions, can be heard more swiftly and effectively, which may expedite anti-corruption cases.

Finally, the recent NIKO Resources case indicates a level of seriousness in the fight against corruption not previously seen.  As noted in a prior post on the FCPA Blog, NIKO was convicted in June of bribing the former Bangladeshi energy minister and levied nearly $9.5 million in fines and penalties against the firm. The only prior indictment in Canada was against Hydro Kleen in 2005 for bribing a US Customs Official and resulted in a $25,000 penalty – less than the $30,000 bribe paid. The difference in the penalties in the two cases is striking.

NIKO also received a three year probation order: regular compliance audits are mandated and will be monitored by the court. As well, a compliance officer will report to the board rather than the CEO. These features of the decision have anti-corruption advocates more optimistic than does the large financial penalty.

And only this week, it was reported that the RCMP are investigating Canadian mining company Blackfire Exploration for bribery in southern Mexico.

It finally feels that we are moving past a paper commitment to the fight against corruption by Canadian companies abroad. With the burgeoning attention to corruption cases by the police, Crown prosecutors, and judiciary, can our legislators be far beyond? We hope not.


Heather MacIntosh is the Program Director, of Democratic Development and Human Rights at the Sheldon Chumir Foundation for Ethics in Leadership. She can be contacted here.

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