While Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said it’s not yet clear whether embassy staff would operate in the capital of Kyiv or the western city of Lviv, she said the goal is to be able to reopen imminently.
“We’re looking at several scenarios,” she told journalists in French on Wednesday morning.
That move could come amid a federal push to grant Joly new powers to seize and sell off Russian assets held in Canada in order to fund Ukraine’s recovery, and as Russia has threatened in recent days to step up targeting of “decision-making centers” in Kyiv.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday in a media scrum that he is unaware that Canada has seized any assets from Russian entities so far. Joly said in another scrum that if assets were seized without the ability to sell them, they would lose their whole value.
The government put a bill on notice on Tuesday night described as an act to implement certain provisions of the budget, and there is speculation it will include the new power to sell off Russian assets in that piece of legislation.
The soonest that legislation can be tabled is Thursday — 48 hours after it was put on notice.
Joly said Wednesday that the proposed new powers would be based on judicial orders — in other words, any bids to seize and sell Russian assets would need to be authorized by a judge.
She added the changes would give the government more powers to work with Canadian financial institutions to determine the value of Russian assets held in Canada as well, which she said is not clear.
Canada would be the first G7 country to implement the powers and she hopes other G7 countries will join. She said Wednesday that not being able to sell off assets currently is the “weakest link” in Canada’s sanctions package
“That’s why we wanted to show leadership here in the country, but also around the world,” she said. “We think this will go a long way.”
Joly could not estimate the value of the assets that could be seized by Russian actors, but said those of Russian oligarchs in Canada is “substantial.” She noted that Russian oligarchs have links in Europe and the U.S., too, which is why she is pushing for the policy to be adopted by other countries.
Her comments come after she announced an additional 200 sanctions Wednesday morning against people from the eastern areas of Ukraine, where Russia has now focussed its war efforts. In a statement, Global Affairs Canada said the new sanctions will target 11 senior officials and 192 other people supporting the invasion from within Luhansk and Donetsk, located in Ukraine’s Donbas region.
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland outlined plans in the budget presented earlier this month that she said will give Canada’s foreign minister the power “to cause the forfeiture and disposal of assets held by sanctioned individuals and entities to support Canada’s participation in the REPO Taskforce.”
Freeland said that it is an effort to encourage allies to take similar steps to boost their own powers, and that it complements the budget commitment of $500 million in additional military aid to Ukraine this year.
Last month, Canada and allies formed the Russian Elites, Proxies and Oligarchs (REPO) Taskforce as part of a bid to seize and forfeit the assets and wealth of individuals backing Putin’s unprovoked invasion.
“Right now, we can freeze assets. What we need to do is have the power to seize those assets,” Freeland said in an interview with Global’s The West Block.
“Ukraine is going to need to be rebuilt. And I can think of no more appropriate source of funding for that rebuilding than the seized assets of the Russian central bank and of Russian oligarchs.”