Steger: Should Canadian corporations be permitted to do business with corrupt and repressive regimes?
It would be difficult to define legally what is a “corrupt and repressive regime”. We have some existing domestic legislation that is not being implemented as effectively as it could be to combat bribery and corruption. The Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act (CFPOA) was enacted in 1999 which brought Canada into compliance with the 1997 OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. This law prohibits the giving of a bribe to any public official in any country for the purpose of obtaining a business advantage and has extraterritorial reach. It is a criminal statute, and applies to bribery that has a “real and substantial connection” to Canada. While this legislation has been on the books since 1999, there have only been two convictions to date. Last year, the government seemed to be sending a signal that corruption would not be tolerated. Niko Resources was convicted under the Act and fined $9.5 million for giving a Toyota land cruiser to a Minister in Bangladesh. Canada should ramp up investigations under the CFPOA and consider revising the statute in line with the UK Bribery Act which was amended in 2011. The UK Act raises the bar for anti-corruption legislation internationally higher than the U.S. and Canadian legislation by providing for significant extraterritorial reach.