New guidance for legal professionals dealing with sanctions imposed on Russia, Belarus released

Federation of Law Societies of Canada's Policy Counsel Counterpart Group prepared new guidance

New guidance for legal professionals dealing with sanctions imposed on Russia, Belarus released

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada’s policy counsel counterpart group has recently released new guidance for legal professionals dealing with sanctions imposed by the federal government on Russia and Belarus amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

The new guidance, or the Canadian Sanctions Related to Russia and Belarus: Implications for the Profession, listed down certain obligations that legal professionals should be mindful of in considering the potential impacts of the sanctions on the provision of legal services.

“Legal professionals are expected to familiarize themselves with the sanctions and exercise due diligence in determining whether the sanctions apply to a matter or client they are dealing with,” the FLSC said.  

Under Special Economic Measures (Russia) Regulations, it is prohibited for any Canadian citizen or person in Canada to:

  • Deal in any property, wherever situated, held by or on behalf of a designated person whose name is listed in schedule 1;
  • Enter into or facilitate, directly or indirectly, any transaction related to such a dealing;
  • Provide any financial or other related services in respect of such a dealing;
  • Make any goods, wherever situated, available to a designated person listed in schedule 1;
  • Provide any financial or related service to, or for the benefit of, a designated person listed in schedule 1.

Since legal professionals cannot assist clients engaged in illegal conduct, the new guidance advises lawyers to scrutinize any requests they receive from clients to ensure they do not get involved with a designated person dealing in a prohibited activity.

“Legal professionals are reminded that they may be targeted by bad actors seeking to evade or avoid the consequences of the sanctions,” the FLSC said. “They should remain vigilant and guard against such advances.”

If a request from a client would, if acted upon, violate the sanctions or the rules of professional conduct, the new guidance urges legal professionals to advise their client.

“If a client persists with their request despite this advice, the legal professional must withdraw from representation and follow the applicable rules of professional conduct governing withdrawal from representation,” the FLSC said.

The new guidance also requires legal professionals to know their clients, comply with client identification and verification rules, and familiarize themselves with the persons targeted by the sanctions.

“Legal professionals should take all reasonable steps to identify participants in a transaction and ensure that they do not include persons targeted by the sanctions,” the FLSC said.

Moreover, the new guidance requires legal professionals to obtain information about the source and origins of the funds related to their legal services.

The new guidance also reminds legal professionals of their duties under the applicable rules of professional conduct and human rights statutes to not engage in discrimination based on a protected ground, such as national or ethnic origin, when providing legal assistance.

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