Canada Ranked 6th Largest Weapons Exporter in 2004

Tasneem Jamal

Kenneth Epps

The Ploughshares Monitor Autumn 2005 Volume 26 Issue 3

Canada has been ranked as the sixth largest global arms exporter in 2004 by two well-known and respected monitoring agencies, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) (2005, p. 453) and the Washington-based Congressional Research Service (CRS) (Grimmett 2005, p. 83). Although Canada is ranked well below the traditional major weapons suppliers – the US, Russia, the UK, and France – the CRS Report attributes to Canada an export volume just below fifth-ranked Germany. According to both sources, in 2004 Canada delivered more weapons than China, a state often cited as a significant weapons supplier.

The 2004 ranking represents a peak for Canada, although it has been one of the top 10 arms suppliers for several years. In its most recent report, for the four-year period 2001-2004, the Congressional Research Service ranks Canada as ninth overall for arms deliveries to the world. Similarly, SIPRI ranks Canada as seventh in global suppliers of major conventional weapons for its latest five-year period (2000-2004).

The reported value of Canadian military exports for 2004 differs between the two sources (see Table 1). The CRS reports a total value of US $900-million (or more than $1-billion Canadian). The CRS does not provide the details of Canadian shipments or recipients but from other CRS data it is possible to determine that Canadian weapons worth at least an estimated US $600-million were shipped to developed nations in 2004. SIPRI, which compiles data on the value of the trade in major conventional weapons (but does not include the value of weapon components that are exported by many Canadian companies), estimates Canada’s total weapons exports for 2004 to be US $543-million. In its 2005 Yearbook, SIPRI reports shipments of armoured vehicles from Canada to Australia, New Zealand, and the US.1< It also reports maritime patrol aircraft deliveries to Greece and surveillance aircraft deliveries to Iraq.2

Table 1: Largest global arms exporters 2004

Rank  CRS Report   CRS Volume*3   SIPRI Report SIPRI Volume*
1 USA   18.555  Russia  6.197
2 Russia 4.6 USA 5.453
3 France 4.4 France 2.122
4 UK 1.9 Germany 1.091
5 Germany 0.9 UK 0.985
6 Canada 0.9 Canada 0.543
7 China 0.7 Ukraine 0.452
8 Israel 0.5 Israel 0.283

 * in US $billions
In addition to the CRS and SIPRI reports, the annual United Nations Register of Conventional Arms provides useful data and insight into weapons exports and imports of the majority of UN members. The Register is limited in scope – it is confined to seven categories of major weapon types – and in detail – it does not provide data on the value of any equipment transferred, for example. However, it does contain sufficient information to allow an estimate of the value of the weapons transfers reported and it can be a useful check against other reports. As shown in Table 2, for 2004 Canada recently reported exports to the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Saudi Arabia in two categories of the Register: 138 armoured combat vehicles in Category I and 67 large-calibre artillery systems in Category II. With the exception of five battle tank chassis surplus to the Department of National Defence and shipped to the US, all the weapon exports reported by Canada were variants of light armoured vehicles built in London, Ontario by General Dynamics Land Systems Canada.

It is worth noting that, despite its policy of support for the UN Register since its founding in 1991, Canada did not completely fulfill its commitment to the Register until 2004 when, for the first time, it reported relevant weapons exports to the US.4 The Canadian government does not report weapons exports to the US in its “Annual Report on the Export of Military Goods from Canada” because the report is based on the use of export permits and under unique military trade arrangements with the US, export permits are not required for weapons trade with the US. Until now, Canadian reports to the UN Register have mirrored the annual report and excluded US data. In 2004, however, Canada reported the transfer of 93 armoured combat vehicles to the US, which, like Canadian arms trade in general, represents more than half of the total shipments.

Table 2: Canada’s Report to the UN Register of Conventional Arms for 2004

UN Register Category Final importer state Number and description of items
Category II:
Armoured combat vehicles
United States
United States
New Zealand
5 Leopard 1A5 battle tank chassis
88 Light armoured vehicles
31 Light armoured vehicles
12 Light armoured vehicles 
Category III:
Large-caliber artillary systems
Saudi Arabia 67 Light armoured vehicles – Assault Gun Variant (with 90 mm cannon) 



  1. Surprisingly, the SIPRI documentation of LAV exports from Canada in 2004 does not include Saudi Arabia as a recipient, although Canada reported such shipments for 2004 to the UN Register and, in editions of its Yearbook as late as 2003, SIPRI reported LAV deliveries to Saudi Arabia.
  2. According to media reports, the US Army has ordered 16 SAMA CH 2000 surveillance aircraft for the Iraqi Air Force from Jordan Aerospace Industries (JAI). The aircraft will be built in Jordan under licence from Zenair Ltd., a Canadian company based in Midland, Ontario that designed the aircraft and that will also supply the engines. The portion of the US$12-million contract to be paid to Zenair has not been reported (Jane’s Defence Weekly 2004, p. 6).
  3. CRS figures are delivery values based on “unclassified background data from U.S. government sources.” SIPRI figures are limited to a “trend-indicator value” and “not the actual money values of such transfers.”
  4. The breakthrough in reporting US exports to the voluntary UN instrument likely resulted from Canada’s belated response to its legal obligation to report the same weapons trade information to the Organization of American States. The obligation stems from Canadian ratification in 1999 of the legally binding OAS “Inter-American Convention on Transparency in Conventional Weapons Acquisitions.”


Grimmett, R. 2005, Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 1997-2004, CRS Report for Congress, August 29.

Jane’s Defence Weekly 2004, 6 October, p. 6.

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute 2005, SIPRI Yearbook 2005: Armaments, Disarmament, and International Security, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Spread the Word