A document drafted by Canada’s money-laundering overseer initially warned the real estate industry to watch out for “specific ethnic communities”, but feedback from the Canadian Real Estate Association led to the provision’s eventual removal from the manuscript.
FINTRAC stated that it created the document to guide real estate companies in fulfilling their mandate to detect and pinpoint money laundering, which might be used to finance terrorist groups, among other illegal ventures.
The initial version of the document—which was supplied to the industry back in 2014—outlined various risk factors that would endanger the company through involvement in financial crimes, such as “a specific ethnic community that is currently dealing with specific events (e.g. prevalence of terrorism or money laundering, war etc.) in the home country.”
In its letter to FINTRAC, CREA maintained that this reference is anathema to the Human Rights Act.
“Canadians are rightly proud of the Human Rights Act, and especially in this day and age when we see what’s happening south of the border,” CREA spokesman Randall McCauley said, as quoted by The Canadian Press.
“Our lawyers would have rightly pointed out or reminded FINTRAC that no Canadian can discriminate against another, or deny access to a service based on where they’re from.”
FINTRAC assured that the reference was never meant to provoke discrimination of any ethnic group, but acknowledged the possible confusions that might arise from the warning.
“FINTRAC chose to remove the terminology as it recognized the potential for misinterpretation and misrepresentation,” FINTRAC spokesperson Renee Bercier wrote in an e-mail.
“The intent of the guidance was to highlight, broadly, that regulated businesses may deal with clients that have a material connection to high-risk jurisdictions or other jurisdictions that are currently dealing with specific events, including terrorism or money laundering, war, a high level of corruption, or organized crime,” Bercier explained.
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