New RI report on Economic Sanctions under International Law and more


Today the Rideau Institute is proud to announce the launching of a new, bilingual report entitled Economic Sanctions Under International Law: A Guide for Canadian Policy, a co-publication with the Human Rights Research and Education Centre, University of Ottawa and part of a co-project with the Group of 78. Author Craig Martin, a Canadian Professor of Law and Co-Director of the International and Comparative Law Center at Washburn University School of Law, in Kansas, United States is also the inaugural Senior Fellow at the Rideau Institute. Prof Martin observes:

Economic sanctions have become an increasingly favored tool of international relations over the last several decades, but they have also become increasingly controversial.

This is particularly the case for sanctions that are not authorized by the United Nations Security Council (so-called “autonomous” or “unilateral” sanctions), and which either have a severe and widespread impact on the population of the targeted state, or which target “innocent” third states or other entities to deter them from interacting with the target state (so-called “secondary sanctions”).

Like other Western states, and regional organizations like the European Union, Canada has developed robust sanctions regimes during this period, not only to implement United Nations (U.N.) Security Council resolutions, but also to engage in autonomous action in response to human rights violations, gross corruption, and nuclear proliferation.

Professor Martin notes:

While there has been recent discussion in Canada regarding the wisdom and effectiveness of such sanctions, or indeed whether Canada should be more aggressive in its use of sanctions, there has been far less analysis of the international law issues raised by an increasing reliance upon this foreign policy tool.

This report is an effort to provide that analysis.

The report provides a detailed analysis of the several international law regimes implicated by economic sanctions, and assesses the various possible legal objections to the different kinds of economic sanctions.

Report finds “troubling inconsistency” in objective versus impact of Canadian sanctions

But in closing, the report also identifies a troubling inconsistency between Canada’s stated purpose for many of these sanctions – namely, to force other states to address widespread human rights violations within their territory – and the potential for such sanctions to compound the deprivation and suffering of the very people the policy is aiming to help.

What is more, these sanctions are more broadly defended as an effective tool for upholding and enforcing the rule of law, yet there has been a reluctance to consider whether certain aspects of these economic sanctions regimes are indeed unlawful, and that they may be thereby actually undermining the international rule of law. As Martin writes in the Report:

The possibility that a policy [economic sanctions] can be challenged as violating and undermining the very legal regime that it is claimed to be defending and advancing, obviously creates the grounds for allegations of irrationality and hypocrisy—and indeed, Canadian sanctions policy has been challenged at the United Nations on just that basis in the past.

Report concludes Canada must exercise great caution in wielding this mechanism

The report concludes that there remain a number of unsettled aspects regarding the lawfulness of autonomous economic sanctions, and suggests that this calls for caution in considering the scope and application of Canadian economic sanctions policy.

It further recommends that decisions in this regard be informed not only by the specific international law issues implicated by autonomous sanctions, but also by the broader rule of law principles and ethical values that Canada has long espoused both at home and abroad.

Prof Martin cautions:

Canadian policy makers need to be mindful of Canada’s role in helping to shape the evolving international law regime; and their decisions should arguably be mindful of whether the use of economic sanctions furthers, or undermines, Canada’s championing of human rights, respect for sovereignty, and the primacy of the international rule of law.

Economic Sanctions Under International Law: A Guide for Canadian Policy is available in English here and French here.

January 19 webinar will explore Sanctions Report findings and implications

On 19 January 2022 from 11:00 -12:30 pm EST, the Rideau Institute, the University of Ottawa’s Human Rights Research and Education Centre (HRREC) and the Group of 78 will co-sponsor a webinar to explore the Report’s important and timely findings in more depth.

The Rideau Institute and HRREC are co-publishers of the report, which is part of a co-project of the Rideau Institute and the Group of 78, made possible by a grant from the Rideau Institute Research Fund.

Please keep watch for further details and registration information.

For a recent blog examination of the impact of Canadian policy in relation to the American trade embargo on Cuba, see: Canada gets Cuba policy right….(16 July 2021).


For a superb run-down of all the issues involved in the still impending Canadian decision on Huawei 5 G, see: Why a Canadian ban on Huawei 5G may come with a whimper, not a bang (Ian Young, 24 November 2021.

Echoing the view of Canadian intelligence expert, Wesley Wark, Canadian Professor and Canada Research Chair in global politics and international law, Michael Byers, stated he was “unconvinced” that banning Huawei was necessary from a security or technological perspective. He went on to say:

Our networks will be vulnerable to intrusion even if there’s not Huawei technology; this is not a panacea for our cybersecurity concerns…But our political imperative to align ourselves with our intelligence partners, particularly the US, will be the overriding factor.

In the view of

The point of intelligence sharing is to inform foreign and economic policy decision making of the individual members. Members should be vigorously resisting American pressure to use this mechanism to dictate key economic policies in its own interest, unsupported by evidence of actual security concerns.

Whither Canada?

We reiterate our call on the Government of Canada to quietly join New Zealand in resisting further misguided American efforts to expand the mandate of the Five Eyes intelligence network beyond its intelligence work.


Senior Globe and Mail International Correspondent Mark Mackinnon reports that:

[t]wo sources with knowledge of the deliberations said Defence Minister Anita Anand is considering deploying hundreds of additional troops to support the Canadian soldiers already in Ukraine on a training mission. Other options being looked at include moving a warship into the Black Sea, or redeploying some of the CF-18 fighter jets based in Romania.

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, in Canada for the Halifax International Security Forum, said his country requires additional assistance as Russia masses troops and military equipment along its border with Ukraine.

As Mark Mackinnon notes, this is Minister Anand’s first major test:

She and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau [and surely the Foreign Minister] must calibrate whether a further Canadian show of support for Ukraine would help dissuade Mr. Putin – or push him to take action.

The Globe and Mail article adds:

The Russian leader, who has warned for more than a decade against any move to invite Ukraine into NATO, recently upped the ante by declaring that any expansion of existing NATO infrastructure in Ukraine would also cross a “red line” and provoke an unspecified response from Russia.

For a good discussion on the fraught issue of what exactly the USA promised to Russia regarding NATO enlargement, see …Promises Made, Promises Broken? What Yeltsin Was Told About NATO in 1993 and Why It Matters (Jim Goldgeier, 22 Nov 2019 which puts the “no definitive promise” argument in its best light.

And see also: What triggered tension between Ukraine and Russia? (Inside Story, 28 Nov 2021.

Unlike the Globe and Mail article, Canadian Press Reporter, Brett Bundale (in the CTV article) recalls that the current Canadian training mission in Ukraine is not without controversy, writing:

Potentially complicating Canada’s ongoing operations in Ukraine is a recent report that found far-right radicals in the Ukrainian army boasted on social media that they received training from the Canadian Armed Forces.

These allegations are longstanding but have finally led to a long overdue military review started in late October.

Two fearless Canadian journalists, Scott Taylor and David Pugliese, have written extensively on this problem of Canada (both Foreign Affairs and DND) downplaying Kiev’s tolerance for Nazi glorification. See for example, SCOTT TAYLOR: Canada failed to condemn pro-SS rally in Ukraine (, 10-11May 2021), where he concludes with some advice to the government we are assisting:

Here is a little bit of free advice for those concerned about Russian disinformation: just put an end to parades and events that glorify Hitler’s Waffen SS.

Turning back to the Ukrainian request for further military support, whatever is decided, and we hope the most cautious and prudent approach prevails, more than a military response is needed.

In the view of

Now is the time for Canada to finally get behind the floundering Minsk II peace process in Ukraine, a subject we canvassed at length in our 28 May, 2021 blog on Conflict Resolution under the heading: Enhancing Prospects for Peace in Ukraine.

If the new, rather inexperienced Foreign Minister Melanie Joly wants to indicate she is not going to take a backseat to the Department of National Defence when it comes to Canada’s policy towards Ukraine, now is her opportunity.

Whither Canada?

This time of increased tension with Russia is exactly the time to bring renewed diplomat vigor to the Donbas peace talks and much more caution to Ukraine’s bid to join NATO.

We urge the new Foreign Minister to initiate a much more constructive Canadian approach to the Ukraine peace process, as the only way out of ever-increasing military tensions. 


The brainchild of Dr. Steven Feldman, an innovative virtual “museum” hopes to help American Jews rethink their understanding of the Israeli/Palestinian relationship.

So writes Peter Larson, editor of the bridge-building blog, Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) with the great tag line:

Let’s raise the issue but lower the temperature.

In this week’s CTIP blog, Larson interviews Steven Feldman to find out exactly what he is doing and why he is doing it. Feldman explains:

The museum uses largely Jewish sources to encourage American Jews to take a new look at Israel. It documents our role in making and keeping Palestinian families refugees from their homes, actions inconsistent with our Jewish values.

For the complete interview, click here. For the website of the museum itself, click:


Further to our 5 November blog where we discussed the widely condemned action by Israel in criminalizing major Palestinian human rights organizations, we draw attention to an electronic parliamentary petition designated e-3679 (Foreign Affairs), sponsored by Liberal member of Parliament, Nathaniel Erskine Smith.

This petition calls upon the Government of Canada to:

  1. Call upon the Israeli authorities to immediately rescind the designations and end all efforts aimed at delegitimizing and criminalizing Palestinian human rights defenders;
  2. Support Palestinians seeking the fundamental human rights, justice and accountability; and
  3. Honour its obligation to ensure Israel’s compliance with international law.

Please consider signing this petition by going to the parliamentary website here.

 Innovative tool for following Canada’s voting record at the UN on Palestinian human rights

In the dashboard … you can see how Canada has voted on a series of 16 standing resolutions about Palestinian human rights at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)from 2000 to the present. – CJME website

Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) have developed a fantastic new tool for easily following Canada’s dreadful UN voting record against Palestinian human rights.

To find out more, click on:  How did Canada Vote? UN DASHBOARD


For everyone who is interested in how to promote more constructive Canada-China relations, the recordings from this excellent two-day virtual conference by the Institute for Peace and Diplomacy are a must-see.

Click here for the full list of sessions and links to the recordings.

Among our favourites are the barn-burning lunchtime keynote by Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs,  and the final keynote address by former Australian Ambassador to China (and keen critic of the current Australian government), Dr. Geoff Raby.

Photo credit: Rideau Institute