team of young businesspeople using a laptop during a late night meeting
Anti-Money Laundering

CPAs need to come together to fight money laundering

FCPA Pamela Steer, CPA Canada’s president and CEO on why combatting corruption in all its forms requires a united front

team of young businesspeople using a laptop during a late night meeting“If we are not collectively working toward the same goal, the fight will inevitably be lost,” says Steer. (Getty Images/shapecharge)

The old saying “it takes a village” is a favourite of mine. The concept of an entire community coming together to raise a child and create a safe environment can be easily extended to combatting money laundering and corruption.

We cannot make meaningful progress on this important issue without engaging with our provincial, territorial, and Bermudian CPA partners and other stakeholders. It is essential that we also collaborate with the international accounting community because money laundering and corruption extends beyond borders.

It is a global issue that undermines the public’s trust in the systems that hold our society together. If we are not collectively working toward the same goal, the fight will inevitably be lost.

This issue was thrust into the spotlight recently when former British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Austin Cullen released his report on the public inquiry into money laundering in B.C. The accounting sector was one of the subjects of review according to the inquiry’s terms of reference, and CPA Canada and CPABC were granted Participant Status by Commissioner Cullen. As such, both were keen to see the commissioner’s final report.

The report states the federal antimony laundering (AML) regime is not effective and recommends that B.C. establish an independent AML commissioner to provide strategic oversight of the provincial response to money laundering.

In parallel with the federal AML regulator, the commissioner also recommended that CPABC regulate its members in the province for AML purposes. Also of note, the commissioner included a recommendation regarding the federal government’s work to create a pan-Canadian beneficial ownership registry, which is an initiative CPA Canada has been recommending and endorsing for quite some time in the public interest.

Pamela Steer at CPA Canada’s office in Toronto FCPA Pamela Steer, president and CEO of CPA Canada 

All in all, the report is 1,800 pages and includes 101 recommendations, with 13 directed at the accounting sector. There is a lot to absorb, but the profession must maintain its vigilance and actively fight back against money laundering and corruption. Kevin Dancey, CEO of the International Federation of Accountants, and a former president and CEO of CPA Canada, provides this astute viewpoint.

“Corruption and money laundering are some of the most significant obstacles to sustainable development, in every country, at every development level,” he said. “They are intrinsically cross-border issues.”

It will make little difference to purge money laundering in Canada if the bad actors can simply move operations to anywhere else on Earth.

“That’s why we need a robust ecosystem of actors at the national and international levels to fight back,” Dancey continued. “The accountancy profession and professional accountancy organizations are core parts of this ecosystem.”

I fully agree and Canada’s accounting profession is determined to be part of the solution.

Federal anti-money laundering regime requirements have been applicable to accountants and accounting firms undertaking activities covered by the legislation since its introduction in 2000. We continue to advocate for policy improvements and keep Canadian CPAs informed regarding AML changes. In fact, information about the compliance requirements of Canada’s AML regime will be among the topics addressed at The ONE Conference in Vancouver, September 12-13, 2022.

It really does take a village to tackle this issue, and by working collectively with domestic and global partners, we will make positive contributions to the fight against money laundering and corruption. This is a battle clearly worth waging.


Anti-corruption expert José Hernandez talks about what CPAs can do to fight corruption and money laundering.

Plus, be sure to bookmark CPA Canada’s AML resources and updated Guide to comply with Canada’s anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing (AML/ATF) legislation.