Global sanctions guide

Cayman Islands
  1. Does Canada have a sanctions regime in place?

Yes. Canada has sanctions in place against a number of countries, as well as against specific individuals and entities identified as being associated with terrorist activities.

  1. Does Canada implement UN sanctions?

Yes. As a member of the UN, Canada must implement UN Security Council resolutions into Canadian law. The Government of Canada does this by making orders and regulations, pursuant to the United Nations Act 1985.

  1. Does Canada implement an autonomous sanctions regime?

Yes. As well as sanctions imposed under the United Nations Act, Canada implements an autonomous sanctions regime under the Special Economic Measures Act 1992 (“SEMA”). In order to maximise the effectiveness of its sanctions regime, Canadian policy seeks to ensure, whenever possible, that sanctions are applied multilaterally. Absent a UN Security Council resolution, SEMA allows Canada to impose sanctions in either of the following situations:

  • where an international organisation of states, or association of states of which Canada is a member, calls on its members to take economic measures against a foreign state; or
  • where a grave breach of international peace and security has occurred that has resulted in, or is likely to result in, a serious international crisis.

Non-UN sanctions are generally imposed by enacting regulations under SEMA. Canada may also impose export/import restrictions on specific countries under the Export and Import Permits Act 1985 (“EIPA”).

  1. What is the nature of the sanctions regime in Canada?

Sanctions imposed by Canada on specific countries, organisations, or individuals vary and can encompass a variety of measures, including restricting or prohibiting trade, financial transactions or other economic activity between Canada and the target state or the seizure or freezing of property situated in Canada. Examples of sanctions include:

  • arms embargoes
  • asset freezes
  • export/import restrictions
  • financial prohibitions
  • technical assistance prohibition

Canadian sanctions laws apply to all persons in Canada and all Canadians outside Canada, including entities formed under the laws of Canada or a province. Exceptions to these restrictions or prohibitions may include transactions with UN agencies, Canadian non-governmental organisations, or other aid agencies. Exemptions may also apply to food, medical supplies, goods used for public health purposes or disaster relief, or goods required under pre-existing contracts. The specific exemptions are listed in the regulations for each set of sanctions.

  1. Does Canada maintain a list of sanctioned individuals and entities?

Yes. Canada primarily relies on UN lists. As well, when sanctions are imposed under SEMA, the list of designated persons specific to a particular regulation is published in a schedule to that regulation. In general, all prohibitions described in a regulation apply to all individuals or entities named in its schedule.

Where a regulation includes more than one schedule, the prohibitions may apply selectively. Names may be added or removed from a list by an amending regulation. While each SEMA regulation has a list of designated individuals or entities under that particular regulation, the Canadian government does not maintain a single list of all sanctioned individuals or entities.

  1. Are there any other lists related to sanctions?

Yes. Canada may also impose sanctions or restrictions under the following laws:

  • Criminal Code: the Governor in Council may, on the recommendation of the Minister of Public Safety, place an entity on the list of terrorist entities if there are reasonable grounds to believe that:
    • (a) the entity has knowingly carried out, attempted to carry out, participated in or facilitated a terrorist activity
    • (b) the entity is knowingly acting on behalf of, at the direction of or in association with an entity referred to in (a)

The listing of terrorist entities under the Criminal Code enables Canada to apply appropriate criminal measures to those entities. The list of terrorist entities is published on the Public Safety Canada website. In addition, names subject to the regulations made under the Criminal Code and UN Resolutions have been combined into the lists currently posted on the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions website here.

  • Freezing Assets of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act 2011 (“FACFOA”): Canada may agree to a demand by a country in turmoil to freeze the assets or restrain the property of certain of its government officials or politicians. Unlike sanctions, which are generally punitive, FACFOA restrictions are a form of assistance that Canada provides to the requesting country. Canada implements regulations pursuant to FACFOA in order to freeze the assets of identified individuals and entities
  • Immigration and Refugee Protection Act 2001: allows Canada to impose travel restrictions or deny access to Canadian territory to persons who are deemed security risks or serious criminals.  Canada can also issue security certificates which are immigration proceedings for the purpose of removing from Canada non-Canadians who are inadmissible for reasons of national security, violating human or international rights, or involvement in organised or serious crimes. Only permanent residents or foreign nationals can be subject to a security certificate
  • Export and Import Permits Act 1985: imposes export and import trade controls with respect to specific countries or specific types of goods via the Area Control List, the Export Control List and the Import Control List
  1. Does Canada have a licensing or authorisation system in place?

Yes. Canadian sanctions regulations generally include mechanisms for the Minister of Foreign Affairs to issue permits or certificates to authorise specified activities or transactions that are otherwise prohibited:

  • permits – can be granted on an exceptional basis in respect of activities that are prohibited under SEMA. Permits can also be granted to deal with goods covered by the Export Control List of the EIPA
  • certificates – the types of certificates that may be applied for are set out in the relevant regulations under the United Nations Act and may include property for basic or extraordinary expenses. They may also be issued by the Minister of Foreign Affairs in respect of certain other situations – for example, in the case of mistaken identity
  1. What are the consequences for a breach of sanctions in Canada?

Breach of Canadian sanctions laws is an offence which can result in fines, imprisonment or both. In addition, property that has been dealt with contrary to the laws and regulations may be subject to forfeiture. Any publicity on this issue, particularly related to non-compliance, is likely to have an adverse impact on reputation.

  1. Who are the relevant regulators in Canada and what are their contact details?

The Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development is responsible for overseeing sanctions in Canada.  

Economic Law Section (JLHB)
125 Sussex Drive
Ottawa ON
K1A 0G2

T: (+1) 613 944 4000
F: (+1) 613 992 2467

UN Regulations and SEMA require anyone in Canada, as well as Canadians outside Canada, to disclose to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (“RCMP”) and, in the case of regulations under the United Nations Act, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (“CSIS”) the existence of any property in their possession or control that they believe is owned or controlled by, or on behalf of, anyone on the UN List or other sanctions list. This includes information about any transaction or proposed transaction relating to such property.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police
73 Leiken Drive
Ottowa ON
K1A 0R2

T: (+1) 613 993 7262
F: (+1) 613 825 7030

Canadian Security Intelligence Services
Ottowa ON
K1G 4G4

T: (+1) 613 993 9620
F: (+1) 613 231 0612

In addition to the disclosure to the RCMP and CSIS, the reporting persons and entities subject to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act, including financial institutions and securities dealers, must also report such property to the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (“FINTRAC”).

24th floor, 234 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa ON
K1P 1H7

T: (+1) 866 346 8722
F: (+1) 613 943 7931

The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions regulates Canadian federally regulated financial institutions and their compliance with sanctions.

255 Albert Street
Ottawa ON
K1A 0H2

T: (+1) 800 385 8647
F: (+1) 613 990 5591

Contributor law firm

Anne F. Ramsay, Stikeman Elliott LLP, 5300 Commerce Court West, 199 Bay Street, Toronto, ON, Canada, M5L 1B9

T: (+416) 869 5500
F: (+416) 947 0866