Canadian arms exports to Egypt: fudging the figures

Conventional Weapons, News

The current crisis in Egypt is complex and fluid. To date Canada’s response has been measured, but understanding the situation and Canada’s role in Egypt is not improved by misrepresentation of relevant facts. A recent article in The Globe and Mail noted:

“Canadian companies have exported small amounts of military equipment to Egypt, worth less than $1-million a year on average, according to the most recent government reports. A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD), Claude Rochon, said those export permits are only granted after a review, which includes examining the potential impact on human rights. ‘We will carefully review any requests for military export permits to Egypt, as we always do,’ he said in an e-mail.”

The facts are that between 2001 and 2009 military exports to Egypt reported by the Canadian government exceeded $25 million, an average of $2.8 million per year. Only in the last two years of reported data (2008 and 2009) was the value of these exports “less than $1-million a year on average.” We don’t know if this average has gone up or down since 2009 because the government has failed to report more recent arms exports to Egypt or anywhere else.

There are grounds to suspect, however, that recent Canadian military shipments to Egypt may have climbed. From government data released to parliament earlier this year we know the value of recent arms export permits. Export permits reflect what the government has authorized for export, even if the value of final shipments may not reach the permit value. The permit values also provide an indication of how careful the review process is.

According to the government data, between 2006 and 2011 military export permits for Egypt exceeded $145 million, an average of over $24 million per year. Although the bulk of these permits totalling $94 million were authorized in 2006, the data shows that in 2011 $20.8 million in permits for arms shipments to Egypt were approved, more than double the $8.2 million total for 2010.

It would seem that the recent review of requests for military export permits to Egypt is not as careful as the government official claims.

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