On May 31, the Canadian government tabled the 2021 Exports of Military Goods report, providing details on reported Canadian arms exports and brokering of military goods for that year. The total value of these exports was the second highest in history: $2.73-billion. As has been true in recent years, most exports were light armoured vehicles (LAVs) destined for Saudi Arabia; however, exports to non-Saudi destinations also hit historic highs.
In 2017, Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP) became official. A message from the Minister of Foreign Affairs states that the policy’s main objective is to “eradicate poverty” globally by addressing inequality, specifically gender inequality. FIAP is organized into action areas, with a core area of “gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls” linked to other action areas, including “peace and security.”
In response to Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine, Canada has announced successive shipments of military goods to the Ukrainian government. As of mid-May 2022, the value of all committed transfers was in excess of $150-million, with military aid worth a further $500-million proposed in Canada’s 2022 federal budget.
The eighth Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty (CSP8) will be held this August. The theme chosen by conference president Germany is post-shipment controls and on-site verification. These instruments provide innovative ways to protect against the diversion of exported weapons systems once they leave the exporter’s hands.
As the tools and methods of warfare continue to evolve, it is critical that arms control, disarmament, and normative regimes also advance. Warfighting applications of today’s emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), outer space, and cyber capabilities are becoming more apparent andhold enormous potential for expansion if left unregulated. Such capabilities clearly have the potential to be used in harming civilians, violating international humanitarian law, and creating unpredictable and even unintended escalation of conflict. In this context, compliance with existing arms control measures and humanitarian principles is essential. Yet new arms control frameworks are also needed to mitigate these risks and maintain global commitments to disarmament.
“Footage released of air strikes carried out by Ukrainian Bayraktar TB2s include the graphical interface associated with Wescam surveillance and targeting sensors. This is Canadian hardware,” – Kelsey Gallagher
On Monday, February 14, Prime Minister Trudeau announced that Canadian officials had authorized $7.8-million worth of arms transfers, described as “lethal equipment and ammunition” to Ukraine. The transfers are to include “machine guns, pistols, carbines, 1.5 million rounds of ammunition, sniper rifles, and various related equipment.”
The undersigned, representing a cross-section of Canadian labour, arms controls, antiwar, human rights, international security, and other civil society organizations, are writing to reiterate our continued opposition to your government’s issuance of arms exports permits for weapons destined to Saudi Arabia. We write today adding to the letters of March 2019, August 2019, April 2020 and September 2020 in which several of our organizations raised concerns about the serious ethical, legal, human rights and humanitarian implications of Canada’s ongoing transfer of weapons to Saudi Arabia. We regret that, to date, we have received no response to these concerns from you or the relevant Cabinet ministers on the matter. Critically, we regret that Canada finds itself in violation of its international arms control agreements.
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.
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.