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Irwin Cotler

 
EDITORIAL: CANADA INVOKES SEMA AGAINST IRAN

By Rhonda Spivak, July 28, 2010

EDITORIAL:  CANADA INVOKES SEMA AGAINST IRAN

I had never heard of the  Special Economic Measures Act [SEMA] until Liberal Member of Parliament  and  Former Minister of Justice  Irwin Cotler, who is the chair of the Responsibility to Prevent Coalition  started talking to me about it  a couple of weeks ago  in Israel.

After reading the 200 page report released by Cotler in Jerusalem recently ( which I wrote about  in the article that is reprinted below in its entirety), I became  convinced that Cotler had made persuasive arguments as to why Canada ought to invoke SEMA vis-à-vis Iran.

In particular, Cotler wrote in an editorial in the National Post on July 13, 2010:

“Even in regards to the nuclear threat alone, the Canadian response is tepid where it should be robust. For example, the government should invoke and apply the Special Economic Measures Act (SEMA), which authorizes the Canadian government of Canada to impose economic sanctions and regulations against a foreign state if "a grave breach of international peace and security has occurred that has resulted or is likely to result in a serious international crisis." Yet, to date, the government of Canada has only designated Zimbabwe and Burma under SEMA, even though Ahmadinejad's Iran constitutes a greater global threat to international peace and security "that has resulted in a serious international crisis." [emphasis added]

Applying  SEMA  means that Canadian economic cooperation with Iran is restricted in a variety of strategic sectors, including: petroleum; banking; and, research and development.  Significantly, the measures also prohibit the provision of services to any ship associated with the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL)

On Wednesday July 21, after publishing an article about Cotler’s press conference in Jerusalem, I sent an email to Kirsten Ross in the Prime Minister’s office as to why SEMA had not been enacted.  Here is what I wrote to Ross:

“Recently, liberal MP Irwin Cotler released a report on behalf  of the Responsibility to Combat Coalition dealing with measures that should be taken against the Iranian regime. 

 “Cotler has said (and it is written in the report) that the Canadian government should invoke and apply the Special Economic Measures Act (SEMA), which authorizes it to impose economic sanctions and regulations against a foreign state if "a grave breach of international peace and security has occurred that has resulted or is likely to result in a serious international crisis." 

 “As Cotler said, “To date, the government of Canada has only designated Zimbabwe and Burma under SEMA, even though Ahmadinejad's Iran constitutes a greater global threat to international peace and security.

“My question is: Why has Canada not invoked SEMA with regard to Iran?  Will the Canadian government do so in the future?"

On Friday July 23, at 3:06 p.m. I received an email from Simone MacAndrew, Spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade that said:
 
“I have been working on your request and was wondering if it would be possible to get back to you on Monday?(July 26)”
 
I answered in the affirmative.

By Monday morning July 26 the government of Canada had announced that  it  had invoked SEMA.

Spokesperson Simone MacAndrew wrote to me at 3:10 on Monday:

“As you are probably aware, on July 26, 2010, Prime Minister Harper made a statement announcing that Canada is imposing sanctions on Iran under the Special Economic Measures Act. These sanctions are in addition to existing sanctions passed under the United Nations Act. (See link - http://pm.gc.ca/eng/media.asp?category=3&featureId=6&pageId=49&id=3553)
 
“Please find a link to further information on today's announcement on Canada Passing Sanctions under the Special Economic Measures Act –http://www.international.gc.ca/sanctions/iran.aspx

Do I think that the fact that Irwin Cotler has persistently called on the Canadian government to invoke SEMA not only in the Canadian press but at press conferences around the globe in the last few weeks helped to ensure this action was taken?

It may well be that invoking SEMA was something that the Harper government was planning to  do for some time, and  has been in the works for a while.  The timing of invoking SEMA may also be something that Canada was coordinating with other international measures undertaken by European allies.  Maybe Canada’s invoking of SEMA is something that would have happened anyway without Cotler’s persistence in raising the issue.

 But my hunch is that Cotler’s tireless devotion on this one helped.

 

COTLER DROPS A BOMBSHELL: U.S AWARDED MORE THAN $107 BILLION IN CONTRACT PAYMENTS TO COMPANIES DOING BUSINESS IN IRAN

By Rhonda Spivak, July 21, 2010

Nearly $15 billion awarded to companies that violated American sanctions law

JERUSALEM- According to an international report released last week by former Canadian Justice Minister and Liberal Member of Parliament Irwin Cotler, over the last decade “ the U.S. government has awarded more than $107 billion in contract payments, grants and other benefits over the past decade to foreign and multi-national companies doing business in Iran. That includes nearly $15 billion to companies that violated American sanctions law by making large investments that helped Iran develop its vast oil and gas reserves.”

The report concludes that  “the  American government  has sent  mixed and disturbing messages to the corporate world regarding doing business in Iran by actually rewarding companies whose  commercial transactions conflicted with American national security objectives [emphasis added].”

Cotler held a press conference last week in Jerusalem on behalf of the Canadian based organization  Responsibility to Prevent  Coalition.
Prior to the press conference, Cotler gave the Winnipeg Jewish Review an in-depth interview, in which he referred to the Coalitions’s findings regarding U.S. actions and inactions in this regard as “shocking” and “unbelievable.”

The 200 page report, entitled “The Danger of a Nuclear, Genocidal and Rights-violating Iran: The Responsibility to Prevent Petition”, adds that “It is alarming to appreciate that more than two thirds of U.S. government money went into companies doing business in Iran’s energy sector—thereby serving as an enormous source of revenue for the Iranian government and the IRGC [Iranian Revolutionary  Guard Corps].”[emphasis added]

The Responsibility to Prevent Coalition’s report is endorsed by  a 100 scholars, jurists, parliamentarians, human rights activists and former world leaders, including Elie Wiesel, Alan Dershowitz and Winnipeg’s David Matas, and Lloyd Axworthy.

Jerusalem was one of six stops made by Cotler on an international advocacy tour that includes meetings with governments and press in North America, Britain, Au

 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


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