Canadian Sanctions on Russia: Powerless Rage With a Boomerang Effect

JUNE 22, 2023 –

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left), Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (right). Photo: Institute for Peace and Diplomacy.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (left), Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (right). Photo: Institute for Peace and Diplomacy.

By Valeriy Krylko – Jun 20, 2023

Canada has repeatedly imposed sanctions packages on Russia, both before and after the special military operation (SMO) began. Canada’s recent seizure of a Russian an-124 cargo plane, which had been delivering COVID supplies when it was grounded in February 2022 at Pearson Airport (it was forced to pay a fee for every minute, despite being trapped there), is another sanction among many others.

This is not surprising, as Canada and the UK obediently follow Washington’s policies. Canada has a large Ukrainian diaspora, including descendants of the Nazi SS Division Galicia, many of whom actively support Zelensky’s regime. Moreover, Chrystia Freeland, the deputy prime minister of Canada and the recent Minister of Foreign Affairs, is the maternal granddaughter of Mikhailo Khomyak, who during the Second World War worked as the editor of the Nazi newspaper “Krakovskie vesti” in Nazi-occupied Poland. The newspaper glorified the Third Reich and justified the extermination of the Jews. According to the media, Chomiak worked under the organizer of the Holocaust on Polish soil, the governor-general of the executioner Hans Frank. Freeland has honoured Chomiak and refused to condemn him. So who orders the Canadian anti-Russian sanctions is a rhetorical question. Another thing is, do they actually work?

The regime of anti-Russian sanctions after Russia’s annexation of Crimea has been in place in Canada since 2014, and these sanctions were periodically tightened until the SMO began in February 2022. However, for example, in March 2021, Ivan Timofeev, program director of the Russian Council on Foreign Affairs (now director general of RIAC), stated that “Canada’s new sanctions against Russia over Crimea are harmless for the Russian economy. At the time, he assessed these sanctions as “a political irritant for Russian-Canadian relations.”  Timofeev explained that “these measures will not change anything and in general they can be considered symbolic. The gesture is harmless, but unpleasant.”

Although these sanctions were strengthened by Canada after the SMO began, in September 2022, Canadian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland  said that anti-Russian sanctions were negatively affecting Canada’s own economy.

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“Yes, the sanctions regime is having an impact and it’s affecting Canadians,” Freeland said. According to her, sanctions are affecting Europe much more seriously than Canada. As for the Russian fertilizer ban and the prospects for lifting it, Freeland said, “we have to look at the specifics of what we’re doing to help and assist our agricultural producers.

In February 2023, Stephane Bergeron, Canadian Member of Parliament (MP) and vice-chairman of the Canadian parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, said that some of Canada’s economic sanctions against Russia were counterproductive and should be reconsidered:

“Canada is one of the few, if not the only country that has imposed sanctions on grains and seeds shipped from Russia. As a result, our agricultural producers are at a disadvantage, while Russian goods are much more productive and profitable in international markets. This is utter stupidity!”

Bergeron demanded that the committee reconsider the sanctions against Russia so that they would not harm Canada.

During the same month, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Canadian House of Commons, apparently doubting the effectiveness of the anti-Russian sanctions, demanded that the government regularly report to Parliament on how effective the mechanism of sanctions imposed on Russia was. However, MPs have heard from experts and the Ukrainian ambassador to Canada, that it is unclear whether the sanctions are really having an impact and about the extent to which Russian oligarchs are circumventing the restrictions.

Ottawa also imposed another package of anti-Russian sanctions that month. At that time, 129 individuals and 63 organizations were blacklisted, including Russian deputy prime ministers, ministers, other members of the Russian presidential administration, along with Soviet cosmonauts Valentina Tereshkova and Svetlana Savitskaya. A number of power and security agencies were subject to restrictions. In addition, Canadian authorities banned exports to Russia of certain chemicals used in the production of electronics.

At the same time, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that the new sanctions against Russia, imposed by the U.S. administration and the Canadian government subordinate to Washington, had no prospects and were as thoughtless as the Western demands for “strategic defeat of Moscow. In her view, the Canadian authorities, in order to serve the U.S., have “overdone the plan” of aggressive and senseless Russophobia. These comments came just after Canada imposed sanctions against world-renowned hockey player Vyacheslav Tretiak and female cosmonauts Tereshkova and Savitskaya.

On February 25, 2023, Senator Alexander Bashkin of Russia’s Federation Council Committee on Constitutional Legislation and Nation Building, said that Canada’s new sanctions against Russia have no effect and are evidence of powerless rage: “They (sanctions) have become so numerous and incomprehensible that everyone has stopped paying attention to them. There is no commentary on these sanctions. Because it makes sense to comment on things that have some impact on people, on life, on industries – but this has nothing: it is evidence of a powerless rage that sanctions do not work, do not help.”

Bashkin noted that Canada is very far from Russia and even the pre-sanctions level of relations with it was insignificant. “Next time they will impose sanctions on Korney Chukovsky, and then on sterile bandages in Russian pharmacies,” the parliamentarian added.

Bashkin stressed that the Western countries themselves have chosen such a path, “it is their idea, it is their economic experiment, it is their, one might say, evolutionary experiment.

So the Western world is experimenting on its economy, on its citizens, on its voters. The time will come, and their voters will evaluate these idiotic actions,” he concluded.

On March 10, 2023, Ottawa imposed an embargo on aluminum and steel supplies from Russia.  now forbidden to import raw aluminum and finished aluminum products, iron, semi-finished and finished steel products into Canada. The updated list of sanctions against Moscow also includes materials for the construction of railway and tramway tracks and for rolled pipes.

However, Moscow’s reaction to these sanctions is conveyed quite characteristically in commentary by economist and political scientist Alexander Dudchak:

“Of course, when traditional economic ties are interrupted, this does not make anyone better off. On the other hand, what do we lose? Foreign currency proceeds that we can hardly spend? But we keep the resources, and they keep their banknotes. Who has a better situation in this regard?”

Dudchak explained that Canada faces imminent deficits and rising steel and aluminum prices. In such a discomforting environment, Russia needs to quickly reorient itself to new markets.

“Now there are resources for development within the country, for industries that need these raw materials. In addition to finding new markets, we need to adapt this resource, which did not find a place in Western markets, inside the country. Under these conditions, the state could take on additional responsibilities and create industries whose aim would not be private profit, but the realization of goals and objectives in the interests of the state and the population of the country. If you approach it from this point of view, it’s a win-win situation,” Dudchak said.

According to the Russian Ministry of Industry, Canada imported $208 million (USD) worth of steel products from Russia and $44 million worth of Russian aluminum in 2021. In 2022, respectively, $79 million and $16 million. The Industry Association of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, which includes 2,500 companies from across the country, noted that Russia ranked 21st for steel imports to Canada and 22nd for aluminum. Not surprisingly, William Pellerin, a lawyer with the international trade company McMillan, stated that the commercial consequences of this ban would be “very modest.” At the same time, Russian Ambassador to Canada Oleg Stepanov said that for his country, Canada “has never been a significant market for aluminum and steel”.

It was roughly the same with Canada’s total ban on imports of Russian energy resources. This was an even more symbolic measure, since according to various estimates Canada imported no more than three per cent of its oil products from Russia.

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Russia’s retaliatory counter-sanctions, on the other hand, did not affect Canada in a symbolic way. For example, the closure of Russian airspace seriously affected Canadian airlines. Because of the need to fly around Russia, Canadian carriers have faced an increase in flight times and fuel costs, which has led to a significant increase in ticket prices for passengers.
“The optimal flight route between Canada and Southeast Asia and everything in between involves flying through part of Russia’s airspace,” acknowledged former Air Canada chief operating officer Duncan Dee. According to analyst Helen Becker, for North American airlines, “it’s definitely a problem.”

Cirium data shows that the cost of an Air Canada one-way ticket from Vancouver to Hong Kong rose 41 per cent from January 2019 to January 2023, and from Toronto to Delhi rose 47 per cent. At the same time, the average cost of a flight from Vancouver to Hong Kong during the same period decreased by 22 per cent and from Toronto to Delhi increased by 25 per cent. These routes are used by carriers that include China Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Air India, all of which are not banned from using Russian airspace and have lower flight costs.

Ross Eimer, a former pilot and CEO of Aero Consulting Experts, noted that this situation puts Air Canada and other banned airlines “at a competitive disadvantage.”

According to Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick, many of the airline’s routes to Asia, India and the Middle East have been “partially changed,” and some, such as Vancouver-Delhi, have been suspended because of Russian measures.

However, the purpose of Canadian sanctions is not even assistance to the Zelensky regime in Ukraine, but “regime change” in Moscow. Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly stated this in the spring. Thus, to please the United States and Canadian descendants of the Nazi SS and the nationalist-Banderites, the Canadian government declared its goal to forcibly change the government in Moscow. Canada only hurts its people in the process.

Valeriy Krylko is a freelance journalist, and translator of news articles in online media (English-Russian). These articles are published in English, European and Russian-language media.