Could affect ‘politcally-exposed’ persons like judges, MPs, military officers and their families
A retired supreme court justice and former United Nations human rights commissioner whose daughter is running in the 2015 federal election is sounding the alarm about an obscure piece of legislation designed to track the financial transactions of so-called “politically-exposed persons.”
Louise Arbour said her daughters Emilie and Catherine have been unfairly targeted by their banks and have been asked personal questions about their finances — inquiries about deposits, income sources, and the names of family members on joint accounts — because of the legislation.
Her daughter Catherine had her account suspended until she answered the questions, Arbour added.
It casts a very wide net to catch, frankly, probably very few fish. – Former supreme court justice Louise Arbour
“You wonder why they would be asking such questions.” Arbour told Robyn Bresnahan, host of CBC’s Ottawa Morning, on Friday.
Emilie Taman is a federal prosecutor who is running for the NDP in the riding of Ottawa-Vanier. Earlier this week, Taman lost a legal battle to keep her job after she was denied a leave of absence with pay to run for federal office.
Although the phone calls to her daughters came three years ago, Arbour — who wrote an editorial in the Globe and Mail this week about the little-known legislation — said she wanted to speak out now because of changes to the law introduced in a 2014 omnibus bill, slated to go into effect next year.
The earlier version of the legislation, introduced in 2008, targeted “politically-exposed foreign persons” and their families, said Arbour.
Arbour believes she and her family shouldn’t have been covered by that legislation. But last June, that legislation was updated as part of Bill C-31, officially titled “An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 11, 2014 and other measures.”
The new bill amended the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act to include “politically-exposed foreign persons” — such as mayors, high-ranking military officers, heads of government agencies, and the “holder of any prescribed office or position.”
The amendments also would cover family members of those individuals and people who are “closely associated, for personal or business reasons.” They would also cover judges like Arbour.
‘Invasion of privacy rights’
Arbour said the amendments are misguided.
“I think it casts a very wide net to catch, frankly, probably, very few fish,” Arbour said.
“Maybe elsewhere in the world, the capacity for moving money illegally belongs to this elite class of public servants. Maybe they have better access to the means to do that. I don’t think there’s any evidence in Canada that that’s where the problem is,” said Arbour.
A debate on the new legislation “at the very least” should have taken place, she added.
“This is not an earth-shattering issue. But it’s also a pretty serious additional invasion of privacy rights, which I think has been increasingly invaded by a government that’s very keen on surveillance of every sort,” said Arbour.