Mr. Speaker, our government believes that regulating the international arms trade is essential for the protection of people and human rights. This is especially true for control and regulation that aim to prevent the illicit trade of arms.
The Arms Trade Treaty is about protecting people. It ensures countries effectively regulate the international trade of arms so that they are not used to support terrorism, international organized crime, gender-based violence, human rights abuses, or violations of international humanitarian law. Our government is committed to advancing export controls as a means of reducing the risks that come from the illicit trade in conventional arms. Joining the ATT, which calls on all of its state parties to set up effective export controls, is the next important step in advancing these export controls and reducing these risks.
Joining the Arms Trade Treaty will put Canada back on the same page as its closest partners and allies. Canada is the only NATO ally and the only G7 partner that has not signed or ratified the ATT.
The Arms Trade Treaty was negotiated in response to growing international concern about the direct and indirect consequences of the global arms trade on conflict, human rights, and development.
The goal is to ensure that all states take responsibility and rigorously assess arms exports. States must also regulate the legal arms trade and use transparent measures to combat illicit trade.
We recognize that unregulated or illicit arms transfers intensify and prolong conflict, lead to regional instability, contribute to violations of international humanitarian law and humans rights abuses, and hinder social and economic development.
Indeed, the proliferation of weapons, and particularly of small arms and light weapons, is one of the greatest security challenges faced by the international community. Armed conflicts affect civilians. Women and children are too frequently targeted or are innocent victims.
The consequences of illicit or irresponsible flows of conventional arms also go beyond the immediate threat of death, injury, or violence. Proliferation and illicit weapons trade contribute to a climate of persistent fear and insecurity, which undermines socio-economic growth and stability.
The Arms Trade Treaty has an important role to play in addressing these issues. Canada must be a leader in this effort, and we must lead by example.
The ATT represents the first time that the international community has agreed to a legally binding and global commitment to control exports of conventional arms. It sets a high common standard for export of arms, and seeks to eliminate illicit trade and diversion of conventional arms.
States acceding to the ATT must assess the risk that an export might be used negatively, including for human rights abuses or to contribute to organized crime. This is not always black and white. It requires looking not only at the state as a whole but also at who will take possession of the weapon, their track record, the risk that the weapon could be diverted from the purpose intended when it was exported, and other similar factors.
The ATT also requires states to consider mitigation measures to address identified risks. This treaty is very clear. If there is no way to ensure that a given export will not pose a serious threat to human rights or be used to violate international humanitarian laws or perpetrate international terrorism or crime, it must be forbidden.
Therefore, Bill C-47 would further strengthen Canada's existing processes in relation to the global movement of arms. Our changes, including those to accede to the Arms Trade Treaty, will make Canada's export control system even more robust, and will ensure a continued high standard for addressing the pressing issue of arms proliferation around the globe.
Canada’s existing export control system complies with 26 of the 28 provisions of the Arms Trade Treaty. In that sense, some changes are needed to bring Canada into full compliance with the two articles of the treaty where we fall short, namely, article 7, export and export assessment, and article 10, brokering.
One of the things the bill before us does is introduce the necessary legislative changes to ensure that we meet our ATT obligations.
Article 7 of the Arms Trade Treaty establishes common, clear, and rigorous standards regarding the factors that states must take into account before authorizing the export of any items subject to the ATT. These factors include an assessment of the potential that Canadian exports could be used to commit serious violations of human rights law or international humanitarian law, as well as the potential that the exports could fall into the hands of criminals or terrorists.
The ATT is the first arms control treaty that focuses specifically on the issue of gender-based violence and violence against women and children, issues that are very important to our government. These criteria are designed to ensure that Canada assesses the risks associated with the export of a given product or piece of technology regarding the intended end use and end user.
Bill C-47 will also ensure that Canada can fulfill the stipulations of article 10 of the ATT, which requires that every state regulate brokering. Brokering captures the transfer of arms without an export permit. The provisions of the bill ensure that Canadians who arrange the transfer of arms between a second and a third country follow the same rules as those who export arms outside Canada.
Regulating brokering activities will give our government the ability to monitor the activities of individuals and organizations that serve as intermediaries between arms dealers and the end users of military goods.
Moreover, these brokering permit requirements would also apply extraterritorially, meaning they would apply to Canadians engaged in brokering activities abroad. This additional capability will allow us to have a better idea of the types of brokering control list transfers involving Canadians that occur globally and to bring a greater level of visibility on potentially high-risk transactions brokered by Canadians.
Our government intends to go beyond the standards set by the Arms Trade Treaty and ensure that brokering regulations cover not only the conventional weapons covered by the ATT but also military articles and dual-use items that are likely destined to a weapon of mass destruction end use.
Requiring permits for brokering would ensure that comparable levels of scrutiny would also be applied to brokering activities. As a result, Canadian export permit authorities can better assess the risks of potential arms transfers before they occur to determine their suitability, and to deny a permit for such transfers where there is an overriding risk of the negative consequences of one of the export permit criteria, including the risk of serious violation of international human rights law or international humanitarian law.
I would like to point out that there is a legitimate role for brokers who arrange or facilitate sales for reputable arms manufacturers. Unfortunately, there are also those who do not act responsibly and who choose instead to profit from the sales of arms, even though they know that they will fall into the wrong hands.
Internationally, there are far too many cases where unscrupulous arms dealers put profits ahead of human life. Transactions facilitated by those dealers have given rise to the transfer of firearms to conflict zones, in direct violation of United Nations firearms embargoes, and to terrorist or criminal groups. This legislation will make it possible for responsible Canadian dealers to hold permits and conduct legal activities. It will ensure that those who choose to act unethically will also end up acting illegally.
Beyond the changes required by the ATT, the bill will enhance Canada's export and import controls by addressing the issue of penalties imposed on individuals who try to circumvent Canadian law and regulations. The bill will increase the maximum fine for a summary conviction offence from $25,000 to $250,000 for any offence under the Export and Import Permits Act. Increasing the maximum penalty underscores the seriousness of these offences that contribute directly to destabilizing accumulations of weapons and technologies in conflict zones around the world.
Let me reiterate that these new measures would ensure that our government will be better able to pursue bad-faith actors and hold them to account. At the same time, Canada would be in a better position to review bona fide arms transfers to legitimate end-users. Canada would also be able to effectively penalize those who would try to circumvent these processes.
I would like to make it clear that Canada's accession to the Arms Trade Treaty does not and would not affect domestic ownership of firearms or Canada's domestic firearms laws and policies. The ATT would govern the import and export of conventional arms, not the trade in sporting and hunting firearms owned and used by law-abiding Canadian citizens.
However, the ATT does not limit the number or type of arms a country can sell. The ATT simply requires states to establish rigorous export controls of the kind that Canada already has in place to ensure that exports are not put to unforeseen harmful use.
The ATT is not a one-size-fits-all system. It recognizes that states' export control systems must meet their national needs. It does not prevent states from including expedited processes in their export control systems, as Canada does for close allies, such as the United States.
The government will ensure that exports are assessed in accordance with the criteria set out in the ATT and that they do not violate the prohibitions in the treaty.
Turning now to the Export and Import Permits Act and to the Criminal Code, we have indicated to Canadians that our government is committed to strengthening Canada's export controls with respect to military and strategic goods and technology. This bill and our commitment to accede to the Arms Trade Treaty are part of our promise to increase the rigour of Canada's export-control system. As members are aware, Canada already has a robust export control system. We are a key member of a number of export control and non-proliferation regimes that allow us to exchange information on trends in arms movement and on best practices with our allies.
In addition, Canada has a strong sanctions regime that includes sanctions related to the export or sale of arms. Canadian sanctions are part of a multilateral action. They reflect the work we do in concert with our allies. Sanctions are implemented in Canada through the United Nations Act or the Special Economic Measures Act.
Canada has its own financial intelligence unit with respect to illicit financing of arms. The mandate of the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada is to facilitate the detection, prevention, and deterrence of money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities. Our government is taking steps to ensure that these new obligations do not unduly hinder or restrict legitimate transfers of military, dual-use, and other strategic items that are aligned with our national interests and do not pose undue risk.
It is the government's intention to apply the ATT assessment criteria not only to those goods specifically outlined in the ATT, but also to all dual-use, military, and strategic goods. Our government will also apply the ATT assessment criteria to both export and brokering permit applications. We will thus exceed the standards set by the ATT, and strengthen our export control system at the same time. Indeed, our government intends to see Canada establish a particularly high standard when it comes to gender-based violence and violence against women and children. The fact that this issue was included in the treaty is a clear sign of the power of advocacy by states like Canada who are determined to address gender-based violence.
While this is given less attention and consideration in the ATT than other criteria, Canada intends to propose including gender-based violence in the regulations, applying a higher standard, and assessing the risks related to gender-based violence to a broader set of exports than those defined within the ATT. These new measures would ensure that our government is better able to pursue bad-faith actors and hold them to account. Canada would also be better able to effectively penalize those who would try to circumvent these processes.
Canadian businesses would still be able to conduct legitimate transactions in pursuit of Canadian strategic and defence interests and the strategic interests of our allies.
Finally, these changes would allow Canada to meet its international obligations and accede to the ATT. I encourage all my colleagues here today to seek to advance this bill rapidly so that Canada can once again take its rightful place with its international partners as a state party to the Arms Trade Treaty.