news | Monday June 20, 2016

Canadians and the Panama Papers: We’re not as innocent as we think we are

An opinion column published last week in the Ottawa Citizen confronts the Canadian tendency to take refuge in the fact that few Canadians were implicated in the release of the Panama Papers. Columnist Toby Sanger argues that Canadians are actually not so nice; in fact, we were instrumental in setting up the tax haven system:

The Panama Papers leak of people and firms using tax havens received much media attention in early April, leading shortly after to the resignation of Iceland’s prime minister and commitments by countries worldwide to take stronger action against illegal – and legal – use of tax havens. Yet few Canadians of any prominence were identified in the leak of information connected with 214,000 shell companies.

Is this because Canadians are such good boy scouts and girl guides? Do we obediently accept our collective responsibilities and pay our taxes, while others engage in the seedy world of shell companies, tax evasion and tax havens? It’s a nice idea but, unfortunately, it isn’t quite true.

In fact, Canadians were instrumental in establishing a number of Caribbean countries as tax havens starting in the 1960s, as Alain Deneault documents in his book Canada: A New Tax Haven.

Find Deneault’s scathing and illuminating book here for $29.95.

News Archive