Canada and Small Arms Exports

Kenneth Epps

Kenneth Epps

Working Paper 06-2

In the international arena Canada has been an exemplary and consistent advocate of improved and restrictive controls on the transfers of small arms and light weapons (SALW). Quite apart from the leadership demonstrated by the Ottawa Process that led to the 1997 Landmines Treaty (and landmines, after all, are one very specific class of small arms), Canada has been active in proposing or endorsing common strict transfer principles to promote responsible transfers of SALW. In its own house, however, Canada has been less than thorough. As this paper will argue, Canada has demonstrated mixed standards in its own control of small arms exports. On the one hand, Canada has imposed restrictive and even innovative national procedures to control small arms transfers. On the other hand, Canadian guidelines and practice fall short of some of the emerging international standards to which Canada is committed through multilateral agreements.

This paper is the result of research for a project to engage civil society and governments in the Americas region in advancing international support for improved transfer controls in the UN Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects. A central project objective was to provide research to inform and advance commitment to global principles, based on state responsibilities under international law, to govern national decisions on the export of small arms and light weapons.

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