October 3, 2017 2:18 pm
Updated: October 3, 2017 2:23 pm

Russia threatens Canada with retaliation as bill targeting human rights abusers nears passage

A Russian police officer, braving the bitter cold, patrols Red Square with the Kremlin in the background in this file image.

Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images

A bill now before the House of Commons that targets foreign citizens deemed to be guilty of human rights abuses is a “deplorably confrontational act” which “will be met with resolve and reciprocal countermeasures,” the Russian Embassy in Ottawa warned Tuesday.

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Bill S-226 moved to third reading on Monday. It would give the federal cabinet the power to forbid the Canadian business dealings, or dealings with Canadians abroad, of foreign nationals who are “responsible for, or complicit in, extrajudicial killings, torture or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”

The bill is modelled on the Magnitsky Act, a similar law in the United States. That law was named for Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who died in prison under mysterious circumstances after investigating a tax fraud.

While the language of the bill itself doesn’t mention Russia, the preamble, which explains the context, certainly does, calling Magnitsky’s treatment “a violation of the principles of fundamental justice and the rule of law,” and also mentioning Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian intelligence officer whose 2006 death in London from poisoning was blamed on Russia by a British coroner’s inquest.

Kirill Kalinin, the press secretary at the Russian embassy, would not agree to an interview or expand on the language of the press release. In particular, he would not explain what kind of “reciprocal countermeasures” were being referred to.

WATCH: Conservatives seek reassurance from Liberals that Canada will not waiver in Russian sanctions

Also Tuesday, the Russian news agency Sputnik quoted Andrei Klimov, a member of the Russian parliament’s upper house, as calling S-226 “clearly an unfriendly step … such unfriendly acts should not remain without response and unnoticed.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland is already subject to a travel ban imposed by the Russian government in 2014. 

READ MORE: Canada won’t drop Russia sanctions to ease Freeland’s travel ban, feds say

In Washington this week and last, a congressional investigation started to reveal the scale and attention to detail that went into Russian attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. election on social media, particularly Facebook.

Russian operators set up a series of accounts designed to find out which individual U.S. voters were susceptible to propaganda, then targeted them personally with powerful advertising tools, the Washington Post reported Monday.

A series of accounts associated with the Internet Research Agency, a St. Petersburg, Russia-based troll farm, bought over 3,000 ads on Facebook during the campaign.

Their content has not yet been made public, though on Monday Republican and Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee said they were in favour of publishing at least some of them.

In June, the Communications Security Establishment published a report about how Canadian elections could be vulnerable to cyber threats. They said that a low-tech paper-based election system wasn’t as vulnerable as one that relied on electronic voting.

READ MORE: Russian cyberattacks targeted 39 countries and combined hacking, forgery, disinformation

“At the federal level, political parties and politicians, and the media are more vulnerable than the elections themselves,” the agency reported. They mentioned hacking attacks on party databases, blackmail, theft of voter databases held by parties, and bot-driven distortion of online debates as possible dangers.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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