OTTAWA - Russia is accusing Canada of causing irreparable harm to their relations after Parliament formally passed the so-called Magnitsky Act targeting the actions of gross human rights violators.
But the chair of the House of Commons foreign affairs committee has a simple rebuttal — don't take it personally.
Liberal MP Bob Nault says the expansion of Canada's international sanctions law doesn't target one specific country because it is aimed at human rights violators everywhere.
However, Canada's new sanctions regime and those of other countries, including the United States, have been closely linked to the Russian whistleblower, Sergei Magnitsky.
Magnitsky died in a Moscow prison in 2009 after accusing officials of a $230-million tax fraud.
The Russian embassy has not specified any particular retaliatory action against Canada for passing bill S-226, but after the U.S. enacted its Magnitsky legislation, Russian President Vladimir Putin responded with a law that banned American citizens from adopting Russian children.
"Russophobes' rejoice: S-226 is now approved by Senate, causing irreparable damage to #RussiaCanada relations," said one of a series of Twitter postings by Russia's Ottawa embassy on Wednesday.
"In defiance of common sense S-226 is hastily signed into law. Irrational act sponsored by fugitive fraudster & tax evader and Russia-haters."
Nault brushed aside the Russian concerns.
"Even though this was in honour of Mr. Magnitsky, this is to deal with victims of corrupt foreign officials. This is beyond one country," Nault said in an interview.
"I would say to Russia not to take these things personally — unless you have a reason to take things personally.
"That to me is the only approach Canada should take to people who are feeling threatened by legislation that is obviously the right thing to do."
A U.S. lawmaker hailed the formal passage of the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act as an important step in the fight against impunity.
"The passage of this law also commemorates the activists, including Sergei Magnitsky, who gave their lives to fight for accountability and stand for principle," said Sen. Ben Cardin, the leading Democrat on the Senate foreign relations committee.
"I applaud my Canadian counterparts for this effort and look forward to closer co-operation in the fight against corrupt leaders and human rights abusers."