Evidence of meeting #41 for Foreign Affairs and International Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was weapons.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Habib Massoud  Deputy Director, Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
  • Paul Galveias  Senior Export Control Officer, Export Controls Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
  • Mark Fried  Policy Coordinator, Oxfam Canada, and Member, Control Arms Coalition
  • Hilary Homes  Campaigner, International Justice, Security and Human Rights, Amnesty International, and Member, Control Arms Coalition
  • Lina Holguin  Policy Director, Oxfam-Québec, and Member, Control Arms Coalition
  • Kenneth Epps  Senior Program Officer, Project Ploughshares, and Member, Control Arms Coalition
  • Steve Torino  President, Canadian Shooting Sports Association
  • Tony Bernardo  Executive Director, Canadian Shooting Sports Association
  • Solomon Friedman  Lawyer, As an Individual

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Do I have any time left?

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Thirty seconds.

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

I'll quickly hand it over to my colleague.

June 11th, 2012 / 3:45 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Okay. I'll be very brief.

Thank you very much for being here. It's nice to see you again.

Just to follow up briefly on what Paul was mentioning about the language in the preamble, because we all know that fine-tuning the language is.... Isn't there already, in the arms trade treaty resolution passed in 2009, wording that acknowledged “the right of States to regulate internal transfers of arms and national ownership, including through national constitutional protections on private ownership, exclusively within...”? So in the resolution that led to those negotiations, isn't there already some language that simply could be reused?

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

That's all the time we have, but I'm going to ask you to finish the answer, please.

3:45 p.m.

Deputy Director, Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Habib Massoud

The language you're referring to refers to the internal trade, the domestic trade, and it has been very clear from the very beginning that the ATT is about the international transfer. It does not touch in any way domestic transfer or domestic ownership issues. What we're proposing now is to say, look, in international transfer, transfers that are legitimate, law-abiding, and responsible should not be targeted, and the target of this is irresponsible, illegitimate trade that goes to bad people—for lack of a better word.

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Thank you very much.

We're now going to move over to Mr. Breitkreuz and Mr. Dechert for seven minutes, please.

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'll be sharing my time with Mr. Dechert.

I appreciate the emphasis you've placed on recognizing and protecting the ability of law-abiding private firearms owners to enjoy the recreational use of their firearms in a responsible manner. I see that as a priority. You've mentioned it several times.

In your answers to my colleagues here, who have raised the same kind of issue, you talked about wording in the preamble for addressing this issue. Maybe you could elaborate on that a little more and explain how that is binding on nation states that participate in this. Why isn't it in the main part? Is the preamble as strong a protection for civilian firearms ownership as it would be in the regular text?

My colleague also asked about the changes that have taken place from the previous.... Maybe you could elaborate on that a bit too.

3:45 p.m.

Deputy Director, Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Habib Massoud

First, let me point out that I'm not a lawyer, so if in a legal discussion I get it wrong, I apologize. But as our lawyers have explained it to me, by putting this text in the preamble...the preamble starts to give a defining character to the whole text. Once you get past the preamble of a treaty and you go into the text, you're starting to go into the details.

The initial text sets out definitional criteria for what is being done here. We are going to be watching carefully the details of the text to ensure that the details are consistent with what we've said. But should there ever be any doubt, should there be any ambiguity, we would be able to go back to the preamble text and say, “Look, we have said...”. We have two text preambles. The first text says that the purpose of this treaty is to target terrorists, criminals, and human rights violators. The second text says that the purpose of this treaty is not to impact legitimate, responsible firearms owners.

When we go to the details of the text, should there be any confusion about that or some ambiguity and we need somewhere to be able to define what we can do, we can go back to the text in the preamble and say, look, just in case there was any doubt, here it is. I'll give you a specific example. In the discussions, a number of countries have said we should prevent weapons going to non-state actors. What they really mean by this is that they want to prevent weapons going to the likes of the narco-guerrillas in Colombia or to terrorist groups in the Middle East. That's fine, but if we were to somehow put the words “non-state actors” into the treaty, it could be misinterpreted to mean anyone who is not a government—a company, an individual....

Now, one of the things that we are going to try to do is to say, look, let's not use the words “non-state actors”; let's use the words “illegal armed groups”. That better defines it. But should there be any ambiguity about that, we could then turn around and say to look at the preamble, where we have said these people, not those people. That should clarify it, should there be any ambiguity.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Thank you. I appreciate that.

If in that final text things appear.... This is a negotiation that's going to be taking place in July. If civilian firearms are going to be included in there in some way, shape, or form, what would our response be? Would we be concerned about that?

3:50 p.m.

Deputy Director, Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Habib Massoud

Let me clarify. There is no distinction between civilian and military firearms.

As for what our approach is now, rather than focusing on firearms, we are focusing on the user. So rather than trying to make a distinction about this type or that type, which is, quite frankly, difficult and controversial, we're going to talk about who the users are. Frankly, it's much clearer and much easier to agree on who are legitimate, good, and responsible users and who are illegitimate, bad, and illegal users. We can try to focus it that way instead.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Dechert.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Dechert Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Mr. Massoud, for your comments here today.

In your opening remarks, you mentioned that the international standards for export controls that will be established by an ATT will almost certainly be lower than those of Canada's own export controls regime.

I wonder if you could briefly explain to our committee members the Canadian export controls regime and also how the Department of Foreign Affairs ensures that Canadian exports are sent through rigorous checks before being authorized.

Thirdly, I wonder if you could compare Canada's export control regime to those of other countries.

3:50 p.m.

Deputy Director, Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Habib Massoud

I will turn it over to my friend here, who knows much more than I do.

3:50 p.m.

Paul Galveias Senior Export Control Officer, Export Controls Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Thank you for the question, sir.

To start with your last question first, Canada's export control system is a gold standard. We are recognized internationally as exercising a great deal of diligence by making decisions based on clearly articulated principles, procedures, regulations, and legislation. That in itself differentiates us from many other states that simply have legislation in place but perhaps not the processes or the capacity to exercise exactly what they've signed on to do.