Nossal: Should Canadian corporations be permitted to do business with corrupt and repressive regimes?

By: /
March 12, 2012

Canada already has a number of legislative tools for limiting and regulating commercial intercourse between Canadians and other countries, including, for example, the orders and regulations made under the United Nations Act, 1985, that are intended to give effect to UN sanctions. A more generalized blanket ban (“Thou shalt not do business with corrupt and repressive regimes”) might at first blush seem attractive to some, but such a ban would in fact be highly problematic. A blanket ban would only be legally enforceable if a way could be found to define in legislation what constituted a “corrupt and repressive regime” without actually naming names. However, no Canadian government of any political stripe would want to try to create a generic definition of “corrupt and repressive regime,” simply because some countries that Ottawa wanted to deal with would surely get caught in the definition. The other way to define a "corrupt and repressiveregime" would be to name it explicitly, and make economic intercourse with it illegal by specific legislation. But if that were the case, then logically there would be no need for a blanket ban.