On January 9, 2013 the Director of Strategic Communications for Foreign Minister John Baird confirmed that Canada added Colombia to its Automatic Firearms Country Control List (AFCCL) to support the export of armoured vehicles to the Colombia military. The Colombia sale was announced the following day when General Dynamic Land Systems Canada of London, Ontario reported a $65.3 million (US) contract to produce 24 LAV III armoured vehicles for the Colombia Army. The GDLS Canada press release noted that “all vehicles will be equipped with a Rafael Remote Controlled Weapon Station.” Colombia had to be included in the AFCCL before the export of this automatic firearms system could be authorized.
It is not the first time that Canada has added a country to the AFCCL to support the export of armoured vehicles built in London. Saudi Arabia was included in the first AFCCL listing in 1991 to assist the export of more than 1,000 LAVs to the Saudi Arabia National Guard (SANG) over the following decade. Project Ploughshares has regularly argued that there are substantial risks the SANG will use Canadian-built LAVs in human rights violations. They were used by the SANG in 2011 to support Bahraini forces in the violent suppression of civil dissent in Bahrain.
Similar risks apply to the Colombia sale. The armoured vehicles are highly mobile and adaptable – they can be used in most urban and rural environments, including potentially against civilian populations. Additionally, a persistent armed conflict continues in Colombia. One of the key guidelines of Canadian export controls states that Canada “closely controls” the export of military goods to countries “involved in or under imminent threat of hostilities.” In approving the Colombia LAV order the government has chosen to bypass this guideline.