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

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), our study on the Canada and United Nations arms trade treaty negotiations will commence.

I want to thank our two witnesses from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. We have Habib Massoud, who is a deputy director of the non-proliferation and disarmament division.

Welcome, sir.

We also have Paul Galveias, who is the senior export control officer of the exports control division.

Paul, welcome.

Thank you both very much for being here today. I believe you have an opening statement, so I'll turn the floor over to you. We'll give you 10 minutes, and then we'll go back and forth with our colleagues to ask some questions.

I'll turn the floor over to you, sir.

3:30 p.m.

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

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Chairman, an arms trade treaty was first proposed formally in 2009, when the UN General Assembly passed a resolution mandating negotiations on a legally binding international treaty to set common international standards to regulate the import and export of conventional weapons.

Over the last two years, a series of meetings took place in New York to prepare for the negotiations on an ATT. These preparations will culminate in a negotiating conference to be held at the UN headquarters in New York next month, from July 2 to 27.

During these preparatory meetings, the Argentinian chairman of the ATT process prepared draft elements of a treaty text. I believe you have been provided with the chairman's draft text, which is dated July 14, 2011.

The chairman's text is helpful but needs improvement, particularly in sections dealing with the implementation and with transparency and reporting. Nevertheless, we believe it can serve as the working basis for negotiations on a treaty, as long as elements of the text undergo further revisions, particularly to the sections on implementation and on transparency.

An arms trade treaty—or ATT— should one be finalized this summer, will set common standards for national export and import regimes to regulate the international transfer of conventional arms.

Canada and others will advocate that the treaty not set out how each country should organize its own domestic import and export controls but only what the goals of such controls should be.

Canada believes an ATT should include criteria to determine if exports would, one, violate UN Security Council sanctions; two, contribute to serious violations of human rights; three, contribute to serious violations of international humanitarian law; four, provoke, prolong, or aggravate armed conflict; five, support or facilitate terrorism; or six, support or facilitate organized crime. If so, the arms export would be prohibited. Without these six key criteria, any future ATT would be meaningless.

While the ATT's criteria are meant to disrupt the irresponsible trade in conventional weapons, the treaty should also recognize the legality of the legal and responsible international trade in conventional weapons and respect the lawful ownership of firearms by responsible private citizens for personal and recreational uses such as sports shooting, hunting, and collecting.

In order to do this, the Canadian delegation to the ATT negotiations this summer will propose that two elements be included in the treaty. The first would recognize that the purpose of the treaty is to prevent the illicit and irresponsible transfer of conventional weapons, while the second would acknowledge and respect the responsible and lawful use of firearms for recreational purposes like hunting and sport shooting. Adding these elements to the treaty will focus and define its terms.

Many of Canada's friends and allies agree with this proposal and have worked closely with the Canadian delegation at the ATT talks to draft text that would be acceptable to a large majority of countries.

The Canadian government will have two goals at these talks.

First, it wants to be sure that the legitimacy of firearms ownership by responsible, law-abiding private firearms owners is recognized, which would be accomplished by our proposal to add the two elements I have just mentioned.

Second, the government wants to ensure that no new burdens are placed on Canadian firearms owners and manufacturers. This second goal has already been largely achieved in the lead-up to the ATT talks this summer.

All the countries participating in the talks now accept that the treaty should set out what countries signing it should do—for example, preventing conventional weapons from falling into the hands of criminals or terrorists—but it should not set out how countries should be doing this; that is, the treaty should not dictate to countries signing it how they should be organizing their own export control regimes, only that the goal of these controls should be to prevent weapons from falling into the hands of criminals, terrorists, and human rights violators.

Canada already has in place a robust system of controls for export of conventional arms. 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 control regime. The items being considered for inclusion in an ATT are already subject to export controls in Canada.

Similarly, many of the criteria being contemplated for an ATT are already factors that the government considers when deciding whether or not to authorize an arms export. Therefore, Canada's present export controls will remain largely unchanged by a future ATT. This means that Canadian firearms owners and manufacturers will not have any new rules or regulations imposed on them by an ATT.

Four weeks have been allocated for the talks this summer to negotiate an arms trade treaty. The four weeks will be difficult, and success is by no means assured. However, Canada will work closely with our friends and allies, including in particular the U.S.A., the U.K., Germany, Italy, Japan, Israel, Australia, and New Zealand, to negotiate an effective ATT that will make a significant contribution to global efforts to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals and terrorists, while at the same time recognizing and protecting the ability of law-abiding private firearms owners to enjoy the recreational use of their firearms in a responsible manner.

Thank you.

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Dean Allison

Thank you very much.

We're going to start with Mr. Dewar.

You have seven minutes, sir.

June 11th, 2012 / 3:35 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you to our guest. It's good to have you back at the foreign affairs committee.

This is a treaty that many had hoped would be able to curtail the trade in arms. Clearly, as we watch scenarios like Syria happen, we see that there's an urgency to deal with the proliferation of arms. I have to say that when you look at the conflicts in a multipolar world and at the types of conflicts that we're seeing now, it is absolutely critical that we do this in a multilateral way. As you mention in your overview, we can have our own policies as nation states, but it's clear I think that if we can do it in a multilateral way, it will be more effective, and it will deal with the proliferation.

Just in terms of negotiations, you made a couple of points that have been topical with regard to the treaty. In particular, you emphasized a couple of times that you want to make sure that the treaty is going to, as you put it, “respect the lawful ownership of firearms by responsible private citizens for personal and recreational uses”, and you reference “sports shooting, hunting, and collecting”.

This, of course, became a bit of an issue during negotiations. I'm just wondering about this. Were there other countries that had the same opinion on it that we did? Also, were there other countries that actually didn't find this to be as important an issue as Canada did?

3:40 p.m.

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

Habib Massoud

Certainly, many of our allies understand that the purpose of the ATT is to target bad people—let's just say, very generally, terrorists, criminals, and human rights violators—and there has always been the implicit understanding that, look, this is not meant to target legitimate, responsible trade by legitimate, responsible, law-abiding individuals. When I've discussed this with other delegations, they've said, well, of course, you know, that's implicitly understood. The argument the Canadian delegation has returned is, well, that's fine, so let's make it explicitly understood.

The question really has been, how do we protect that interest? We've explored a number of options. Some of them did not meet with much favour. The latest option we are proposing now, that of including text in the preamble, seems to have achieved the greatest support for achieving that goal. But there really hasn't been much disagreement about the goal generally.

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Is it safe to say that we were the only ones identifying this as an issue?

3:40 p.m.

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

Habib Massoud

No. Initially it was identified by Italy and Japan, which felt that this was important to them as well. We were just more active in exploring options to achieve this goal.

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

So it's safe to say that with regard to the concern we heard before—and which certainly was that Canada was pushing this issue to the point of saying that we might not be able to sign on—there has been some form of what we'll call a compromise found, a compromise that people can live with.

3:40 p.m.

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

Habib Massoud

I hope you're not mistaking goals with approaches, because the goal of focusing the treaty on impeding the trade to terrorists, criminals, and human rights violators has been generally accepted and generally agreed on. It is about how that approach is to be achieved. The simple fact is that, beforehand, delegations said, well, look, this is implied. The Government of Canada said, let's find some way of making it clear, and let's clarify it in this. Some of the approaches we suggested early on did not meet with much favour. It's now the new approach that has met with much greater favour, but the general goal has never been in dispute.

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Regarding the corruption of the arms trade, when you look at how we can actually attack that and what would be an effective ATT, how are we able to address that? That's a big issue in the arms trade, as you know. It's about money, and attacking corruption is going to be important. So what's our best way of attacking that problem within this very lucrative business? Something that obviously drives it is money—and misery, I suppose. Can you tell us about how we can get at the corruption within the arms trade?

3:40 p.m.

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

Habib Massoud

The chairman has proposed as one of the criteria what impact that will have on corruption in the receiving country. Certainly, we will support the inclusion of that criteria as the chairman has let us set it out, but—and my colleague here can answer this even better—one of the things we are looking at is, for one, that we evaluate an export permit and ask if this is a legal permit and if all things are being done in a legal manner. If there's any illegality involved in an export permit application and we find it including corrupt practices, that permit will be denied.

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Do you believe that we have to do a better job as a country in reporting on ourselves? I reference the fact that I tried as recently as a year ago to scope out just what our sales of arms were generally to other countries. There is a bit of a challenge, if you will, with sourcing, because sometimes, as you know, sales are directly over the border and then they kind of disappear with our friends to the south. So do we not have to look at tightening up our monitoring and certainly our reporting of our arms sales?

3:45 p.m.

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

Habib Massoud

We report fully consistent with national and international laws. If you want the change in the national laws to have us report more, we'll abide by Parliament's decision.

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Yes, I think that would be a good idea.

3:45 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!