More than a year and a half after Canada’s unsuccessful run for a seat on the UN Security Council, shortcomings in Ottawa’s arms control and disarmament agenda remain prominent. As the international community continues to face multiple, overlapping security challenges at the start of 2022, the federal Cabinet installed last October has a fresh opportunity to take stock of Canada’s foreign policy priorities.
Under the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), special care must be taken to ensure that arms exports are not diverted from their intended use or user. Yet intentional and unintentional instances of diversion remain common and constitute a key challenge to the ATT regime.
For more than half a century, Canadian arms manufacturers have been selling weapons to foreign states. Much of this economic activity is the direct result of government assistance. From brokering contracts to staffing international arms fairs, the Canadian government goes to bat for Canadian weapons manufacturers.
Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest importer of weapons and the global north—in particular, the United States, the United Kingdom, and France—its main supplier. And this trade is growing. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Saudi arms imports for the period 2016-2020 were 61% greater than imports for the prior five-year period.
The government of Canada publishes federal arms export data in its annual Report on Exports of Military Goods from Canada. The report for 2020 reveals that Canadian military exports were at historically high levels, and that some of the customers were among the world’s worst abusers of human rights. While the 2020 edition includes minor improvements in transparency, significant information is still missing or obscured.
Just before Canada halted certain weapons exports to Turkey in April 2021, the FAAE committee released nearly 1,000 pages of government documents on Canada’s arms deals with Turkey. Although heavily redacted, the documents provide an unmatched look into the Canadian arms trade, including previously confidential memoranda to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, hundreds of pages of internal correspondence by Global Affairs Canada (GAC), and never-before-seen Canadian export permits for weapon systems.
As there is credible evidence that Saudi Arabia has breached the laws of war in Yemen, and has gone so far as to illicitly provide these vehicles to proxies in that conflict, Canada’s continued arms exports to Riyadh is a breach of domestic and international law.
In September 2019, Canada acceded to the legally binding Arms Trade Treaty, the first international framework to comprehensively control the international trade and transfer of conventional weapons. This positive action …
On April 27, 2021, Ploughshares Executive Director Cesar Jaramillo and Researcher Kelsey Gallagher provided testimony to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development of the Government of Canada. The subject was Granting of Arms Export, with a particular focus on permits granted for exports to Turkey.
The Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC), an independently operated Crown corporation, arranges contracts between Canadian manufacturers and foreign governments. Between 60 and 70 per cent of these contracts involve military goods, making the CCC Canada’s largest arms broker.