Corruption has been a hot topic in Canada recently with a series of scandals involving both the public and private sectors making headlines. On 5 February, Canada’s federal government introduced amendments, which will strengthen the country’s main law aimed at bribery abroad. The changes will make it easier for Canada to prosecute Canadians and Canadian companies who bribe or try to bribe foreign public officials.
The tightening of the legislation comes after continued pressure from Transparency International Canada, Transparency International and the OECD, which criticised Canada for failing to take a strong stance against foreign bribery.
The OECD introduced its anti-bribery convention in 1997. The convention obliged member states to introduce legislation making the paying of bribes to foreign officials illegal. Canada adopted its Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act (CFPOA) to fulfil its obligations under that convention but did almost nothing to enforce the law until recently.
If legislative change follows the recent announcements by the Canadian government, as is expected, several loopholes that could allow companies to escape the anti-bribery provisions of the law will be closed and Canadian law in this area will fall into line with similar laws in the United Kingdom and the United States.
Transparency International has monitored the progress of countries in implementing the OECD anti-bribery convention. We have published six yearly assessments of countries and ranked them based on the number of foreign bribery cases they prosecute. In the 2010 report Canada’s was assessed as having “little or no enforcement” and both TI Canada and the OECD stepped up its advocacy.
In the 2012 report, Canada received a ranking of ‘moderate enforcement’ and was cited for its improvement. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the national investigative agency, had about 35 investigations under way in 2012 – the highest since the CFPOA was passed.
In January this year, after an investigation and guilty plea, the courts handed out the largest fine to date, US$10.35 million, to a Calgary-based oil company for bribing an official of the government of Chad.
Once the Canadian law has been amended, organisations such as Transparency International Canada will continue to apply pressure for effective enforcement of the legislation. “If the political will is there, Canada can become a leader in the fight against international corruption,” said TI Canada’s Chair and President Janet Keeping.
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