An Act to amend the Export and Import Permits Act and the Criminal Code (amendments permitting the accession to the Arms Trade Treaty and other amendments)

Sponsor

Status

In committee (House), as of Oct. 3, 2017

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-47.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Export and Import Permits Act to

(a) define the term “broker” and to establish a framework to control brokering that takes place in Canada and that is undertaken by Canadians outside Canada;

(b) authorize the making of regulations that set out mandatory considerations that the Minister is required to take into account before issuing an export permit or a brokering permit;

(c) set May 31 as the date by which the Minister must table in both Houses of Parliament a report of the operations under the Act in the preceding year and a report on military exports in the preceding year;

(d) increase the maximum fine for a summary conviction offence to $250,000;

(e) replace the requirement that only countries with which Canada has an intergovernmental arrangement may be added to the Automatic Firearms Country Control List by a requirement that a country may be added to the list only on the recommendation of the Minister made after consultation with the Minister of National Defence; and

(f) add a new purpose for which an article may be added to an Export Control List.

The enactment amends the Criminal Code to include, for interception of private communications purposes, the offence of brokering in the definition of “offence” in section 183.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Oct. 3, 2017 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-47, An Act to amend the Export and Import Permits Act and the Criminal Code (amendments permitting the accession to the Arms Trade Treaty and other amendments)

Export and Import Permits ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2017 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-47 and Canada's leadership on this issue and coming to the table with international partners not only on this issue but on a number of issues, including climate change, gender parity, and a number of fronts where we are leading the way, is very important. We can be at the table and help end suffering in certain areas of the world where conflict does exist, and a number of mechanisms in the bill will allow us to achieve this goal, which we should pursue on a day-by-day basis.

It is something that our government remains focused on. It ensures that Canada strengthens existing practices and becomes a party to the ATT, something that the previous government unfortunately failed to live up to its duty to do.

Export and Import Permits ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2017 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me walk the member through the process. That is probably the best way I can do it.

The process that existed under the Conservatives would remain absolutely unchanged under Bill C-47. First, if someone wishes to purchase a weapon in Italy and then bring it to Canada, the individual must be at least 18 years old and have a possession and acquisition licence, a PAL, with a licence privilege for the classified arm that is being imported. Second, all firearms must be declared at Canadian customs and the applicable duties and taxes must be paid. Third, no import authorization for firearms that are not prohibited under Canadian law would be required. If the individual wanted to travel to Italy with a sporting or recreational firearm, he would need to apply for an export permit. This is the system that existed under the former government, and there is absolutely no change to that. It will be the system that exists under the current government, which I have the pleasure of serving with.

If the Italian government wanted to verify his permit, it would be done without providing personal information. Again, this is the same system that existed under the prior government, and Bill C-47 would not change that system under the current government.

I hope I have clarified that for the hon. member.

Export and Import Permits ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2017 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Peace River, who will be speaking after me.

It is an honour to rise in this place to speak on Bill C-47, an act to amend the Export and Import Permits Act and the Criminal Code. As the government has signed the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, this bill takes steps to meet its obligations.

The Arms Trade Treaty is very broad in scope. It governs the trade in everything from small arms to main battle tanks, as well as combat aircraft. In fact, article 5 of the treaty explicitly requests that the treaty be applied to “the broadest range of conventional arms.” Why illegal hunting rifles should be regulated by the same treaty as an attack helicopter is still a little unclear to me, but perhaps the hon. members opposite have figured it out.

Given the treaty's unfortunately broad scope, the process of meeting Canada's obligations under this treaty deserves close scrutiny. We need to ensure that law-abiding firearms owners are not negatively impacted.

To its credit, the Arms Trade Treaty is a treaty with laudable objectives. Preventing and eradicating the illicit trade in conventional arms is undoubtedly an admirable goal. Canada must not stand idly by as weapons flow to conflict zones, where they may be used to inflict horrific abuses on civilian populations and fuel terrorist organizations.

Conservatives have always been supportive of measures to establish international arms control standards. However, the government's own former minister, the hon. member for Saint-Laurent at the time, stated in June 2016 that “Canada already meets the vast majority of Arms Trade Treaty obligations." He also said, “In fact, the Arms Trade Treaty was designed to bring other countries up to the type of high standard that Canada already applies through its robust export control regime”.

These remarks do make me wonder at the wisdom of subjecting the arms industry to regulatory upheaval by signing the Arms Trade Treaty and introducing this bill. Apparently Canada was already more than compliant. It is important to remember that major arms exporters such as Pakistan, Russia, and China are not party to the treaty, which will limit its effectiveness in actually controlling the global arms trade.

It is also notable that contrary to the Liberals' talking points, Canada was not the only holdout on the bill in G7. Our closest trading partner and ally, the United States, has not ratified it, so we are far from alone in abstaining.

It is also troubling that the treaty's scope is extremely broad. It does not acknowledge the legitimate, lawful ownership of firearms for personal and recreational use. What is in the preamble is not in the treaty.

Nevertheless, I respect that the government at least has good intentions in contributing to the treaty's stated purposes of international peace, stability, and reducing human suffering.

With that said, I am the representative of a riding with a large rural population. I must question how lawful firearms could be affected by amendments this bill makes to the Export and Import Permits Act. Legal firearms in Canada are subject to an extensive, strict regulatory regime. The Firearms Act regulates the transportation, storage, and display of legal firearms by individuals. It also mandates the possession and acquisition licence. Further, firearms are currently listed in the Export and Import Permits Act as a controlled import.

Despite the government's assurance that the proposed changes will not impact the legitimate and lawful use of sporting firearms, the implementation of brokering controls and permits is yet another addition to the substantial regulatory system already in place. The new brokering permits seem to cover everything related to firearms, including accessories such as optics.

The first question that this bill raises is this: what additional bureaucratic burden might the brokering permit application place on the Canadian firearms industry?

It remains unclear what specific documentation will be required to apply for the permit. As a first step, the government should provide assurances to firms that are compliant with the existing regulations. They need to know that the new brokering permit requirement will not render them unable to continue their businesses.

Also notable is the government's commitment to establishing a brokering control list that exceeds the Arms Trade Treaty requirements by covering more goods and technology.

I assume this promise is an indication of the government's earnest desire to contribute to the Arms Trade Treaty objectives. However, the government should be aware that this promise raises yet more questions for lawful Canadian firearms owners and organizations who are unclear on what the ultimate result of a more expansive list might be.

Bill C-47 would also require that all documentation pertaining to the application for a brokering permit be retained for six years. Yet again, the bill leaves the question unanswered as to what documentation will be required.

We only recently removed the wasteful debacle that was the long gun registry. I am sure the government can understand that the lawful firearms community is wary of any provision that mandates data collection without giving any indication of what data will actually be collected.

For example, will any consumer data form part of the documentation required to obtain a permit? Here, too, there is an opportunity for the government to provide some assurance to the lawful firearms community. The government should give us some sense of how the bill meets the Arms Trade Treaty obligations while still respecting legitimate trade and use of legal hunting and sporting firearms.

As the bill stands, we do not know what documentation will be required to obtain a brokering permit under the new system. We do not know what goods or technology might be added to the brokering control list at the minister's discretion. We do not know what documentation will need to be retained for the mandated six year period. This makes it difficult to appraise its potential impact on the lawful firearms community.

The government's former minister of foreign affairs stated that brokering controls would be a new regulatory area for Canada, and a good example of where we are adding rigour to the existing system. The rigorous new regulatory area being added to the existing program needs far more explanation.

With all of these questions up in the air, it is incredible the Liberals conducted little or no consultation with the lawful Canadian firearms community before introducing this legislation.

Beyond the unanswered questions I have already asked, does the government know the cost to the firearms industry of adapting to the new brokering control permits? There is a serious potential for the loss of jobs as manufacturers and importers transition to the new regulations.

If the government had consulted with lawful firearms community stakeholders, it would know that the questions I pose in my remarks are important to that community. It is a large Canadian demographic already subject to a strict regulatory environment.

Our former Conservative government declined to sign the Arms Trade Treaty specifically because there were concerns about how it might affect lawful and responsible firearms owners. The United Nations refused to exempt civilian firearms from the treaty. The government's own assessment found that Canada was already meeting the vast majority of Arms Trade Treaty obligations, but still the Liberals have opted to sign on.

The government likes to say the treaty will have no impact on law-abiding civilian firearms usage. Why then are civilian firearms even included in the treaty? Why was the United Nations against exempting them? It makes one wonder.

As a result of the Arms Trade Treaty not explicitly protecting the rights of law-abiding firearms owners, it is the responsibility of the government to provide assurance it will meet its obligations without overly impinging on the lawful Canadian firearms community. I look forward to the government doing the right thing, and demonstrating some openness to working with lawful firearms community stakeholders.

This legislation is designed to meet the obligations of a treaty that has lumped in hunting rifles with large calibre artillery systems. The government needs to listen to lawful firearm owners to mitigate the potential damage the bill might do.

Export and Import Permits ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2017 / 1 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Mr. Speaker, I had a private member's motion in the last Parliament. It specifically addressed the ATT and our not signing on to the particular agreement, and not being a part of it in the form that it was currently in. It was Motion No. 589 which stated:

That, in the opinion of the House: (a) Canada already exceeds all the standards listed in United Nations resolution 55/255 concerning firearms (the resolution); (b) the regulations envisioned in the resolution would do nothing to enhance public safety, and would serve only to burden the law-abiding firearms community; and therefore, the government has already surpassed its obligations with respect to the resolution and is not required to take any further steps.

I mention that today because the same problems that existed when I presented my private member's motion in the last Parliament still exist to this very day. What needs to be understood by a couple of our friends who maybe are not part of the firearms community out in Canada today, and they are watching, is that Canada already has an extremely good system in terms of monitoring the sales and permitting sales of military equipment around the world.

The trade controls bureau regulates the Export and Import Permits Act, which, since 1947, has allowed the minister to prevent the supply of military equipment to countries for a variety of reasons, including security threats, internal and external conflicts, or sanctions by the United Nations. That is already in place, and Canada already abides by that and uses it effectively.

I will bring the question back to the firearms community. Why not exclude the firearms community from this particular Arms Trade Treaty? We would maybe have broad agreement throughout the firearms community that it would not be such a bad thing, but since it is not exempted, it would become a big problem for firearms owners.

I will bring this all back to pre-election 2015. The Liberal Party promised it would not reinstitute a firearms registry in Canada. It was a very hot topic for the Liberals. There were many rural Canadians who were upset by a firearms registry, and it was a big problem for the government because the prior Liberal government was the one that brought it in.

It was not a very popular piece of legislation. Pre-election, the Liberals said they were not going to do this again. The minister, by all his actions, is showing the exact opposite. He is just trying to do it through the back door, and we have mentioned it many times. My colleague from Red Deer—Lacombe and I mentioned this before when this was brought forward in the House. With Bill C-47, there is a real desire to bring in a back door registry without saying so.

I will read out some of the parts of what this bill would actually require. This is Bill C-47 for all those in Canada watching. They can see the actual act. I am going to read what it would require of business owners who sell long guns and firearms. It would require them to keep records.

It states:

Every person or organization that applies for a permit, import allocation, export allocation, certificate or other authorization under this Act shall keep all records that are necessary to determine whether they have complied with this Act.

If company X is a company that sells firearms, it might export and sell them to somebody from the U.S. who buys them. This would then apply to that company's database. I might go in and buy a firearm from this particular company, and this is a question that some have asked. What limitations are there to access the records of that particular company? Are all records accessible? For every firearm that was bought and sold, is the record accessible? Because the bill does not exclude firearms owners or long gun owners, it really says that all databases would be made available to the minister.

I will talk about some more things in the actual act, and why we have problems with it. Under electronic records, the bill states:

Every person or organization that is required to keep a record and that does so electronically shall ensure that all equipment and software necessary to make the record intelligible are available during the retention period required for the record.

Those are computers, so they need to be accessible. Under inadequate records, the bill states:

If a person or organization fails to keep adequate records for the purposes of this Act, the Minister may, in writing, require them to keep any records that the Minister may specify, and they shall keep the records specified by the Minister.

Those are not some records; those are any records.

The period for retention is another issue with firearms communities. Is it just for a week? Is it just for a certain period of time? It is actually much longer than a week. The bill states:

Every person or organization that is required to keep records shall retain them until the expiry of six years after the end of the year to which they relate or for any other period that may be prescribed by regulation.

It could be up to seven years. Firearms companies such as a little local firearms store in my community's backcountry, like Corlanes in Dawson Creek, because they are exporters and importers, would be required by the minister of public safety and this Parliament to have accessible records of those sales. It sure sounds like a firearms registry to me.

Let us get to the bottom of it, where this is all coming from is demand by the minister. The bill states:

If the Minister is of the opinion that it is necessary for the administration or enforcement of this Act, the Minister may, by a demand served personally or sent by mail, require any person or organization that is required to keep records to retain those records for any period that is specified in the demand, and the person or organization shall comply with the demand.

There it is. There is the back door registry. The minister has already talked about, in another piece of legislation that is coming before us very soon, handing over the previous firearms registry data to a province in this country. It seems that on one hand he reassured his electorate, especially those in Saskatchewan who sent him back to Ottawa, that there would never be a firearms registry brought forward again by a Liberal government, but here we have two examples—today, in Bill C-47 and next in Bill C-58—of doing the exact opposite. That is why our firearms community is so concerned.

We saw it was ineffective the last time it was brought in. It was very expensive and it was putting the focus on the wrong individuals. I am a firearms owner myself. I do it lawfully. I have been trained in how to safely fire and handle restricted firearms, non-restricted firearms, etc. For people who obey the law and do it properly, this is unneeded attention on a community of people who safely and lawfully buy and sell firearms and do it as part of our history.

I have a pin on my lapel. I am co-chair of the parliamentary outdoor caucus. I do that with my colleague across the way. We support hunters, anglers, outfitters, trappers, etc. We support the historic events that really started this country. It started with the fur trade. A lot of my constituents still hunt, trap, and fish. I like to do that when I have time to get out there. These kinds of laws have a negative effect on those communities, because we put the focus on them as if they are criminals already, when they have done nothing wrong. All they have done is chosen to buy a firearm to go hunt and provide food for their family.

The crux of my argument today is that the Liberal government said it was not going to bring in a firearms registry. The Liberals said it over and over again, because it was a big deal to a lot of their constituents. A lot of rural folks elected Liberal members of Parliament with the reassurance that it would not happen, and here we have a minister and a government that is trying to do that. From one back door or another, it is determined to get a firearms registry re-established in the country.

We need to come into this with our eyes wide open. Voters who are watching this today need to understand this is a big deal. This is why we did not accede to the Arms Trade Treaty when we were in government. It was because it did not have exclusions for firearm owners written within our particular act. My private member's bill spoke to that. It was one more reason why we did not accede to it.

I challenge the government to have a sober second thought and look at this again. We implore the government not to accede to the ATT. We already have enough regulations and laws that get to the same end the ATT is trying to get to in terms of selling military equipment across the world. The Liberals should especially think about the firearm owners to whom they promised they would not start a registry. Hopefully, the government will not support this legislation today.

Export and Import Permits ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2017 / 1:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, BC

Mr. Speaker, “bogus” is certainly language I would not use to refer to the concerns of this community. We are talking about doctors, lawyers, professionals, carpenters, and mechanics who are all part of the hunting community and are advocates against what this particular piece of legislation is trying to collect. I suggest that the government really needs to listen a lot more closely to that particular community. The government made promises to this particular community that it was not going to bring in a registry, and by bringing Bill C-47 in through the back door, that is exactly what it is doing.

This seems to be the government's attitude when it chooses language like the word “bogus” with this particular community. This community has said loudly that it does not want a registry, and I think it is prepared to speak loudly again. I just hope the member is prepared for that.

Export and Import Permits ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2017 / 1:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a delight for me to stand in the House again after a wonderful summer break to address the House on a very important issue. This is an issue that the Liberals sprinkled out at a time when they were introducing bills with much more severe and longer impacting consequences, with the hope that probably this bill would just be swept under the carpet and maybe not given the attention it deserved. In fact, I believe it does deserve a lot of attention.

By way of background, in 2016, the Liberals announced that Canada would accede to the Arms Trade Treaty. Subsequently, Bill C-47 was introduced to that end. The bill would effect changes in several different ways. First, it would establish controls over brokering in military goods between two countries outside of Canada. Second, it would create a legal obligation for the Minister of Foreign Affairs to consider certain assessment criteria before authorizing permits. Finally, it would increase the maximum fine under the Export and Import Permits Act from $25,000 to $250,000 for summary conviction offences. However, since the 1940s, under the Trade Controls Bureau, we already have provisions for Canada to do exactly what the bill is addressing.

Before I go any further, I would like to indicate that I will be sharing my time with the member for St. Albert—Edmonton.

As hon. members will recall, our previous Conservative government refused to sign the Arms Trade Treaty, because we were concerned about how the treaty would effectively be responsible to law-abiding gun owners. These concerns are just as real today as they were at that time. Conservatives have always supported efforts to establish international standards for the trade of arms, which help prevent illicit transfers that fuel conflict and encourage terrorism or organized crime. Unfortunately, without providing protection for law-abiding gun owners included in the text of the ATT, I cannot support the bill.

In fact, we already have in place the things that the bill attempts to do. Our government is already abiding by that through the Trade Controls Bureau, as I mentioned earlier. We take very seriously the trade of arms between other countries, to make sure they are not going into regimes that support terrorism or that fuel conflict by way of countries that should not be receiving these types of arms.

As parliamentarians, our first responsibility is to protect the rights of Canadians. The Government of Canada has a duty to ensure that the rights of Canadians are not outsourced to foreign countries. Unfortunately, the Liberals are refusing to acknowledge the potential infringements on law-abiding gun owners that could come as a result of participation in the ATT. Bill C-47 would require records to be kept on Canadian firearm owners who have imported or exported their guns or else face stiff fines of up to $250,000 or even imprisonment. This provision would have a direct impact on those who participate in lawful recreational and hunting activities that involve firearms.

What is most disconcerting about Bill C-47 is that it represents an attempt by the Liberal government to revive the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry, which was eliminated by our previous Conservative government. Bill C-47 would allow for the government to create regulations that demand firearm importers and exporters to report and keep all of their import registry data for at least—

Export and Import Permits ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2017 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Ted Falk Conservative Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I, too, thought what I had to say was very interesting. I appreciate the fact that you have brought attention to that.

Bill C-47 would also allow governments to create regulations that would demand firearm importers to report and keep all their import registry data for at least six years and have it available to government. In its simplest form, this is the start of a backdoor firearms registry. It would force the information of individuals to be registered with importers and sellers and be available to government. It sounds pretty much like a registry to me.

Moreover, these proposals will add costs onto the manufacturers and distributors of legal firearms, which will ultimately be passed down to the consumers, the purchasers of firearms. Somebody has to pay for this extra cost that will be incurred with Bill C-47.

When our previous Conservative government was in office, we listened to Canadians and eliminated the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry. Instead of treating law-abiding firearms owners like criminals, we repealed the requirement to register non-restricted fire arms, long guns, rifles, shotguns, and provided for the destruction of all records pertaining to that registry held by the Canadian Firearms Registry under the control of the chief firearms officer.

While we removed the need to hold a registration certificate for non-restricted firearms, this did not change the requirement for individuals to hold a valid firearms licence in order to acquire or possess a firearm. They also had to pass the required Canadian firearms safety course, undergo a screening process, and obtain a registration certificate for restricted and prohibited firearms such as handguns. Through these changes, we recognized that recreational firearms users were not criminals. At the same time, we ensured that appropriate measures were taken to maintain public safety through licensing and gun safety education.

Acceding to the ATT could impose another burdensome bureaucracy on Canada that would mirror the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry our previous Conservative government eliminated. The same problems that we had with the gun registry, the lack of accountability, the immense costs, and the overall uselessness of it, are highly likely again under the ATT regime, unless amendments are made to it.

Interestingly, through Bill C-47, the Liberals are trying to bring back the registry through the backdoor with as little attention as possible.

The Liberals have a tendency to do this, introduce proposals they know will not be accepted by Canadians at a time when they hope it will go unnoticed. Take their recent massive tax hikes on local small businesses, farmers, and professionals as an example. The Liberals waited until the middle of the summer to sprinkle out these proposals when they figured Canadians were enjoying time with family and friends or perhaps were out of town on vacation. Of course, they made the consultation period run right through the fall harvest season, which would severely impact the ability of farmers to interact and contribute to the discussion on this very important proposal before us.

In a similar fashion, when this backdoor gun registry bill was introduced, the Liberals hoped that no one would hear about it. They introduced it at the same time as their marijuana legislation, both Bill C-45 and Bill C-46, the day before the Easter long weekend. The expectation here was clearly that this bill would fall under the radar while the marijuana bills dominated the discussion and the news cycle.

Whenever the Liberals insist on pushing forward with an agenda they know Canadians will not stand behind, this is their standard way of going about it. However, if they know Canadians do not support this legislation, as evidenced by the fact they are trying to keep it as low profile as possible, why are they trying to pass it at all?

Canada's export regime as it stands today is already among the strongest in the world. I think the Liberals would agree on that point. Canadian governments of all political stripes have always ensured Canadian values are reflected in export decisions and have taken steps to prevent illicit transfers that fuel conflict, encourage terrorism, or organized crime. It seems to me this is another Liberal solution in search of a problem. If it were benign, it would be one thing, but because it has the potential to negatively impact law-abiding Canadian farmers and hunters, we as Conservatives must speak out against this.

The Conservatives have taken a clear and principled stand. We believe that any arms trade treaty should recognize and acknowledge the legitimacy of lawful ownership of firearms by responsible citizens for their personal and recreational use. This includes Canadian heritage activities, such as hunting, sport shooting, and collecting. More than that, the legitimacy of these activities are recognized around the world, including those state parties to the ATT. Our previous Conservative government insisted that this be a part of any serious treaty on this subject.

For the Liberals to move ahead with this legislation without having received such a basic concession is disappointing. The Prime Minister may believe it will help him secure the United Nations Security Council seat that he wants so badly, but to do so would be at the expense of the rights of Canadian gun owners.

Export and Import Permits ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2017 / 1:30 p.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity to have side conversations with other members in the Conservative caucus.

To me, it is quite clear that Bill C-47 is entirely about arms trade. It is entirely about export of armaments. It has no application to domestic sale of long guns or guns of any kind.

It is unfortunate we are having this conversation in the House, because I think it could unnecessarily alarm people, including people in my own riding of Saanich—Gulf Islands who are long gun owners and gun owners and who do not want these imaginary burdens that the Conservatives imagine are created by the bill.

I will try to explain it, if I can, for my friends in the Conservative caucus. When we go through the bill, the structure is clear. Everything in the bill is related to amendments to permit accession to the Arms Trade Treaty. My question for the Liberals, if I had a chance to put it, would be about the huge loopholes that have been left on the sale of arms.

However, going back to the concern about legitimate hunters, “broker” is defined only in terms of export and import of armaments. The list that is concerning people, which is found in paragraph 10.3 of the bill, “keeping records”, only applies to those, under the purpose of the bill, keeping records necessary to determine if they have complied with an act which is about the export of armaments that could be used by terrorist organizations around the world.

If my hon. colleague were satisfied, as I am satisfied, that there was no way this bill could have any impact on domestic owners, would the member please agree that it would be better for the world to limit the sale of armaments?

Export and Import Permits ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2017 / 1:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-47, an act to amend the Export and Import Permits Act and the Criminal Code. In essence, what Bill C-47 would do is implement the Arms Trade Treaty, which was signed by the government.

Without more, I oppose Bill C-47 for two broad reasons.

First, I am not satisfied that the Arms Trade Treaty and Bill C-47, the implementation of that treaty, would actually strengthen Canada's arms control regime.

Second, I oppose the bill because of serious concerns and questions that have been asked by law-abiding firearms owners and users in our country, concerns and questions that the Liberal government has refused to answer with respect to whether the legislation would result in a backdoor gun registry.

I will first address the issue about whether the bill would actually strengthens Canada's arms control regime. The fact is that Canada has long had a very strong arms control regime. It is a regime that has been in place for about 70 years. It is a regime that is robust. Canada is a leader when it comes to arms control with respect to our export regime.

As the hon. member for Durham highlighted in some detail, the scope of the that regime includes the Trade Controls Bureau, which has operated since 1947. What does the Trade Controls Bureau do? It governs, tracks, and controls the export of military weapons and arms out of Canada. It has worked very well. Under the import and export regime that Canada has with respect to arms control, the items subject to control are listed. They include military weapons, nuclear, chemical, biological materials, among other things. Canada does not just list those items subject to control; it tracks the export of controlled items. We track it by way of the CBSA, through Statistics Canada, and we track it in a very robust way, one that is consistent with international standards, including the World Customs Organization. That is the standard by which Canada tracks. While Canada tracks, one of the things lacking in the Arms Trade Treaty, as the member for Durham correctly pointed out, is transparency and tracking.

We then not only have the Trade Controls Bureau, we also have what is called an “Area Control List” that, by way of order in council, can block the export of not only weapons but anything from Canada to another country. Right now, North Korea is on that list.

What we have is again a very strong and very robust regime. It is one that has worked and is working. There are questions about whether this bill would in fact improve upon what Canada has. However, in some respects it would water it down. I cannot support a piece of legislation that arguably would weaken the very good regime that Canada already has.

As has been raised by a number of hon. members in the House, there are serious questions about whether this bill would, through the back door, re-establish a gun registry. We know of course what a disaster the long gun registry was, as introduced by the previous Liberal government. It was a registry that targeted law-abiding firearms owners, cost the taxpayers of Canada some $2 billion, and did absolutely nothing to prevent firearms from getting into the hands of criminals. On the contrary, it in fact made the situation worse by creating a black market for various firearms. When the firearms community, every firearms organization in Canada, unanimously raises questions about whether this bill would impede law-abiding firearms owners by way of a back-door firearms registry, those concerns have to be taken seriously. However, instead of listening to the firearms community, instead of consulting with law-abiding firearms owners, the current government would prefer just to dismiss them out of hand.

I heard my friend, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the member for Fredericton, when he stood up in the House. I respect that hon. member, but he asserted that the claim that acceding to the treaty would create a back-door gun registry was phony and bogus. I say let us look at the language of the Arms Trade Treaty and Bill C-47. Let us start with article 2.

Article 2 states:

This Treaty shall apply to all conventional arms within the following categories

It then lists a whole series of categories. At the end, article 2.1(h) refers to small arms. Small arms include any firearm that could be operated and used by an individual, so it would include a rifle or any number of firearms that are lawfully used by Canadians for civilian recreational purposes every single day.

We then go to article 12, which says:

Each State Party shall maintain national records, pursuant to its national laws and regulations...[in terms of] conventional arms covered under Article 2.

As I mentioned, article 2 includes small arms.

We then go to Bill C-47 and look at the substance of it, and we see, among other sections of this bill, proposed subsection 10.3(6), which says that every person or organization under the act, which would include a broker, is required to retain records for a period of some six years.

Bill C-47 goes a lot further than that because it provides for the specific manner in which those electronic records must be kept by way of an electronic database.

I see I am out of time, but it raises very serious questions about this issue. I would be happy to pick up from where I left off in questions and answers.

Export and Import Permits ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2017 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith.

I am happy to rise here today to speak in this debate on Bill C-47, the legislation that is meant to meet Canada's obligation to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty.

This treaty came into force in 2014. The previous Conservative government refused to join the majority of countries around the world and sign this treaty. Indeed, it was the only government within NATO and the G7 to refuse to do so. I and my colleagues within the NDP are happy to see the government now move ahead to join most of the civilized world in acceding to the Arms Trade Treaty. Therefore, we will support sending Bill C-47 on to committee. We have several concerns about the bill that I hope will be fixed with amendments in committee, and I will expand on a couple of those concerns.

I represent the riding of South Okanagan—West Kootenay, which has a long history of pacifism. Part of that history involves the strong Doukhobor communities in parts of the West Kootenay and Kootenay Boundary regions. The Doukhobors came to Canada in the early 1900s, seeking a refuge to practise their belief in pacifism and living their motto of “peace and toil”. In the 1960s, another wave of pacifists came to southern B.C. in the form of American draft dodgers, who left their homes and families to avoid conscription into the Vietnam War.

This history has created several very active, key groups promoting peace in my riding. There is the Boundary Peace Initiative, and the Kootenay region branch of the United Nations Association. Another peace initiative in my riding is the Mir Centre for Peace at Selkirk College in Castlegar, which provides a diploma program in peace and justice studies, as well as an international program in unarmed civilian peacekeeping. These groups and others like them are celebrating the International Day of Peace today across Canada. While I wish I could be with them in person in the riding, I am happy to celebrate the day with this debate. I am proud to represent a riding with such strong interest in peaceful solutions to world conflicts and to speak here today about efforts to regulate the trade in military material.

However, residents of my riding are not alone in their concern about arms trade. Polls show that the majority of Canadians do not want our country to export military equipment to countries with a history of human rights abuses. Many Canadians would be surprised to learn that our country has almost doubled its military exports in the last 10 years and that we are the world's second-largest arms dealer to the Middle East. This kind of involvement in such an explosive region makes it difficult to increase our role as a trusted peacemaker anywhere in the world.

Where does Bill C-47 fall short?

First of all, exports from Canada to the United States would be exempt from the Export and Import Permits Act as amended by the bill. This is contrary to the letter and spirit of the Arms Trade Treaty, which calls for a complete and transparent coverage of all military exports. Fully half of our military exports go to the United States. The government has argued that the U.S. is a trusted ally and we should not need to regulate arms trade to our neighbour, but I see two problems with that stance. First, the U.S. has not ratified this Arms Trade Treaty and so has no obligation to track trade in military products. Second, the present administration in the U.S., I think it is fair to say, has a very different stance on trade with a number of countries that Canada has expressed concerns about. Therefore, material and parts for military systems sold by Canadian companies to the U.S. could be incorporated into equipment there and sold anywhere in the world without it being tracked through the Arms Trade Treaty.

Another concern we have is that important parts of our legal obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty will only be enacted through regulation. These include the legal obligation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs to assess permits using certain criteria.

Unfortunately, these criteria will only be revealed through regulation after the bill receives royal assent. In other words, we here in this place will not have any role in debating those criteria, and they could arguably be an important part of the law.

As I said at the beginning, the NDP supports the bill at this stage. Any efforts to control, regulate, and monitor the export of military equipment can only be a step forward to a more peaceful world.

The NDP has a strong history of supporting and promoting initiatives for peace around the world, and we were very disappointed when the Liberal government refused to take part in the recent UN negotiations toward a nuclear weapons ban treaty.

The Prime Minister said in question period earlier this week that the NDP is always ready with “well-meaning platitudes”, or at least that is how it was translated in Hansard. In the verbal translation we heard here, that came out as “we were ready with lovely words”. What the NDP is concerned about with respect to Bill C-47 is that it is in fact just lovely words. It does not fully meet the Arms Trade Treaty obligations.

We hope that the government will seriously consider amendments at committee stage to fix these problems so that Canada can fully live up to its agreements on the world stage and truly make the world a more peaceful place.

September 21st, 2017 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, we will continue this morning's debate on Bill C-47 regarding the Arms Trade Treaty. Tomorrow we will begin debate at second reading of Bill C-58, an act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

We will continue with consideration of Bill C-58 on Monday and Tuesday next week.

On Wednesday, we will commence second reading debate of Bill C-55, the bill to enhance the protection of Canada's marine and coastal areas.

Next Thursday, we will resume debate of the bill before us today, Bill C-47.

In response to the opposition House leader's question, my hon. colleague knows very well there are seven opposition days in the fall, and we will have more information for her in regard to scheduling. We figured, with all of us coming back to the House, it would be kind of us to let the opposition settle in, and get the government's business ahead, but I look forward to continuing to work together.

Export and Import Permits ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2017 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have been baffled by the responses from the other parties. From the Liberals, we hear that Bill C-47 is fine in meeting the challenges of the arms control treaty and its ratification. From the Conservatives, we hear that it goes too far, and will apply to domestic gun sales. It is certainly the case that on reading the bill, it does not have any domestic application to selling guns within Canada.

I know the member mentioned this in his speech. We have a huge loophole here, one pointed out by Project Ploughshares, Oxfam, and other groups that have been working hard to get the arms control treaty brought in. The treaty allows weapons to be sold in the United States, which is not planning to become a party to this treaty, and there will be no record keeping for that.

Would my hon. colleague agree that we need amendments at committee, so the bill can meet the challenge of the arms control treaty?

Export and Import Permits ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2017 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, today is the International Day of Peace, on which we are asked to commit to peace above all differences and to contribute to building a culture of peace here in our community, our country, and around the world.

Human rights are not optional. If the government wants to show Canada that it is a leader in human rights, then it needs to ensure that it, and we, are walking the talk.

I was very moved at a ceremony in my community in Nanaimo on August 6, which is the anniversary of the tragic and terrible bombing of Hiroshima, where members of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom were talking about the United Nations treaty to ban nuclear weapons. At this ceremony last year they shared my hope that the Prime Minister was going to walk his talk and sign the treaty, given his campaign commitments about peace, security, and restoring Canada's good reputation on the world stage.

However, this year peace activists—and I think particularly of my mentor, Dyane Brown—were condemning the Prime Minister because he had directed Canada to vote against negotiations to end the nuclear weapons trade. Therefore, Canada voted against those negotiations and is not a signatory to that treaty. It was shameful. The United Nations Secretary-General called for nuclear negotiations, and 68 countries voted in favour. This was a bit more than a year ago, and Canada was on the outside of that international consensus.

The vote was called “the most significant contribution to nuclear disarmament in two decades” by one of the United Nations member countries. It is a shameful position for our country to be in. With the Liberal government's vote, Canada has effectively removed itself from nuclear disarmament democracy and diplomacy. We do not understand how Canada can be back, in the government's words, “on the international stage” when the Prime Minister is turning his back on the most important international negotiations in years. The threat of nuclear war is so present on the international stage right now that it is even more important that the international community work together at this time.

New Democratic members of Parliament and the representative for the Green Party stood on the steps of Parliament yesterday with activists in the area. We ourselves signed that treaty in a sign of solidarity, even though our Prime Minister and the Government of Canada will not.

There is much more United Nations consensus in which our country can join. A 2009 resolution of the Security Council stressed the particular impact of armed conflict on women, children, refugees, internally displaced persons, persons with disabilities, and older persons. As the New Democrat spokesperson on the status of women, I am going to bring a gender lens in particular to this debate.

The UN and international aid agencies say women are among the most heavily impacted victims of war. Tens of thousands suffer sexual violence, rape, and lack of access to life-saving health care. Amnesty International says women and girls are uniquely and disproportionately affected by armed conflict. Women bear the brunt of war and are the vast majority of casualties resulting from war. Rape and sexual violence target women and girls and are routinely used not only to terrorize women but as a strategic tool of war and an instrument of genocide. Systematic rape is often used as a weapon of war in ethnic cleansing and, in addition to rape, girls and women are often subject to forced prostitution and trafficking during times of war, sometimes with the complicity of governments and military authorities.

Is it not time that we look more closely at the regimes to which Canada exports weapons? In all countries everywhere in the world, sexual violation of women erodes the very fabric of a community in the way that few weapons can. This is the moral challenge to our country and government. About 603,000,000 women live in countries where domestic violence is not considered a crime. Are we exporting weapons there?

In many countries there is repression, silencing of abuse, and mistreatment and imprisonment of women, human rights defenders, and activists. Are we exporting weapons there? In some countries, women are considered perpetual legal minors, permanently under the guardianship of a male relative. Are we exporting there?

In some countries, it is actually legal for a man to rape his wife. Are we exporting arms to those countries?

We hear again and again that Canadians want to have more scrutiny over the destination of Canadian weapons, and they want to know that we are not exacerbating those human rights abuses in countries abroad.

At last year's New Democrat convention, Stephen Lewis powerfully said:

We're not supposed to be sending armaments to countries that have a 'persistent record of serious violations of the human rights of their citizens.' Saudi Arabia is the embodiment of the meaning of the word 'violations.' And the government of Canada refuses to release its so-called assessment of the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia. So much for the newly minted policy of transparency.

He then called out the Prime Minister, who “unselfconsciously calls himself a feminist” but is selling weapons to a regime "steeped in misogyny.”

Is it not time that we looked more closely at the regimes to which we export weapons? Many Canadians would be shocked to know that Canadian weapons exports have nearly doubled over the last 10 years.

While Canada used to export primarily to NATO countries, under the Conservative government these shifted to regimes with particularly troubling human rights records. Canada is now the second-largest arms dealer in the Middle East after the U.S. Saudi Arabia is now the world's second-largest buyer of Canadian-made military equipment.

There are increasing allegations that Canadian weapons are being used to commit human rights violations in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Sudan.

Last year, the NDP wanted to create a committee in this House that would have provided parliamentary oversight of arms exports. We would have had multi-party co-operation investigating current and future arms exports. However, the Liberal government voted against it.

All last year we called for Canada to accede to the Arms Trade Treaty. Finally, with this legislation, Canada is, but Bill C-47 does not strengthen export controls, and we have no idea whether future arms deals with human rights-abusing countries would be prohibited. The Arms Trade Treaty was meant to prevent these kinds of deals, but the government's legislation seems to go against the spirit and the letter of the Arms Trade Treaty.

Nor does it consider violence against women and children. The Arms Trade Treaty requires the exporting country to take into account the risk of arms or munitions “being used to commit or facilitate serious acts of gender-based violence or serious acts of violence against women and children.” The Arms Trade Treaty is the first international convention to recognize and address the link between conventional arms transfers and gender-based violence. That is a good thing. Such criteria should be incorporated into Canada's export controls, but this bill fails to address that need.

We have a government that says it is deeply committed to equal rights for women, and committed to transparency, do let us move forward. Let us do the right thing collectively. Let us amend this bill to make it fair, transparent, full of human rights for women, and consistent with the Arms Trade Treaty. Let us make Canada proud again on the world stage.

Export and Import Permits ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2017 / 3:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Madam Speaker, I am very proud today to stand in the House to speak to Bill C-47, which would make the legislative changes necessary so Canada could finally accede to the international Arms Trade Treaty. This issue has concerned me for many years.

Six years ago, I led a training program for women running for parliament in the Democratic Republic of Congo. So many of the women, when speaking of their motivation to run for office, spoke of having been sexually violated at gunpoint and wanting to build a country where their sons and daughters did not have to live in fear of violence. When I asked the women in that room how many of them had been raped, over 80% of them put up their hand. I will never forget what one of the women said to me. She said, “Congo doesn't manufacture weapons. Every gun that was used against us was brought here by somebody. If you can stop the guns, you can stop the rape.”

Two years later, the international community came together in 2013 to sign the Arms Trade Treaty, which regulates the illicit trade in small arms and conventional weapons, and it was agreed upon. It came into force in 2014.

The Arms Trade Treaty includes specific provisions on the use of conventional weapons to commit serious acts of violence against women and girls, including rape. I assumed that Canada would be one of the first countries to lead the world in signing this incredibly important treaty, but I was wrong. Now, 130 countries have signed the Arms Trade Treaty and I am very proud that once this legislation passes, Canada will finally be among them.

According to Oxfam, 2,000 people a day are killed by small arms around the world. In fact, the amount of money the continent of Africa lost as a result of armed conflict between 1990 and 2006 was almost the exact same as the amount of official development assistance it received. Not only does regulating the illicit trade in weapons stop arms from getting into the hands of dictators, of criminals, of terrorists, of mercenaries, and of non-state militia groups that commit horrific human rights abuses, but it will also ensure that the poorest and most fragile states will be able to commit that money to the sustainable development goals.

Signing the Arms Trade Treaty is not just good for people in other countries, it also will benefit Canada significantly.

The first benefit that I would like to highlight are the international relations benefits to Canada of acceding to the Arms Trade Treaty. It will put us back in line with our allies. At this point, Canada is the only NATO or G7 country not to have signed or ratified the treaty. Canada has long been at the forefront of promoting export controls as a way of reducing the types of risks that are addressed in the Arms Trade Treaty. Indeed, we are founding members of the four export control regimes, multilateral initiatives created in response to concern about the proliferation of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons; missiles and related dual use goods and technologies; or, in the case of the Wassenaar arrangement, in order to regulate the export of conventional weapons. Remaining outside the ATT is not in Canada's international interest.

We have long recognized that Canada benefits from a strong, rules-based international system. In that regard, the Arms Trade Treaty sets clear rules for international trade in conventional arms, rules that take into account important issues for Canada, such as preventing violations and abuses of human rights or international humanitarian law. It is in Canada's interest that as many states as possible join and implement the ATT, to ensure that all states adopt the type of strong export controls that we already have in place.

Accession to the ATT will allow Canada to be more effective and to work multilaterally in its quest for a more transparent and accountable arms trade.

Accession to the Arms Trade Treaty also offers Canada important national and international security benefits. Canada's security and that of its allies is put at risk when terrorists have easy access to weapons. The ATT requires that all state parties assess the risk that exports could contribute to terrorism and not export these goods if that risk is overriding.

The ATT requires the same considerations for transnational crime, which benefits from selling weapons to the highest bidder regardless of how they intend to use such weapons. The ATT also requires that its state parties prevent diversion of their exports and of their own stockpiles of weapons.

More broadly, the illicit proliferation of conventional weapons promotes and sustains conflict, conflict that leads to regional and even global instability; conflict that forces people from their homes; conflict that generates poverty and inequality and prevents sustainable development.

Canada benefits from a stable, prosperous world. The conflict created when weapons flow easily into fragile states creates instability for us and for all our international partners. Accession to the ATT will allow Canada to work with the international community to stem such weapon flows.

We recently contributed one million dollars to the UN Trust Facility Supporting Cooperation on Arms Regulation with the goal of assisting states that want to accede to the ATT or improve their implementation of the treaty. Many states have not implemented the strong set of checks and balances that are necessary.

Canadian and international security can only benefit from more states that carefully consider the potential impacts and diversion risks of conventional arms exports before authorizing such sales.

There is considerable domestic benefit to Canadian accession and implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty. Canadian accession to the ATT will promote responsible and transparent arms trade globally. As I have already noted, Canada has a strong and rigorous export control system, but that does not mean it cannot be further improved.

The bill before the House will allow Canada to fully implement the ATT. By doing so, we will be strengthening our current system of export control. Although the government wishes to see Canada accede to the treaty as soon as possible, we will accede as a responsible member, by being able to comply with all the obligations of the treaty.

The bill before the House is intended to ensure that Canada explicitly complies with the obligation to assess exports of conventional arms according to the criteria set out in the Arms Trade Treaty. These include the need to assess the effect on international peace and security, the risk of serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, the risk of facilitating terrorism or transnational organized crime, and the risk of gender-based violence or violence against women and children. Our government intends to ensure that these considerations will be enshrined as required obligations for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, and that the criteria set out in the ATT will be explicitly listed as factors that must be considered in each export licence assessment.

The bill before us would also ensure that Canada can comply with ATT obligations on brokering. It proposes to impose the same standards we expect from Canadian individuals and companies that export conventional weapons to those who seek, legitimately, to broker such weapons. Brokering controls will strengthen Canada's export control system by tracking the movement of controlled items outside of Canada and supporting global co-operation in the international trade of conventional arms.

Our government proposes to apply these provisions not only to conventional arms, as the ATT requires, but also to items of strategic importance. We propose to ensure that brokering operations are assessed according to the same factors used to obtain export licences.

This will ensure that arms transfers organized by Canada comply with Canadian legislation and policies.

I began by talking about the courageous women I met in the Congo and around the world. They are fighting for a world where their daughters and sons can live free from fear and violence. Through Bill C-47, I can stand in this place and let the women I met in the Congo, Liberia, Kosovo, Bosnia, and in so many other places know that our country will do its part.

Export and Import Permits ActGovernment Orders

September 21st, 2017 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Speaker, I honour the member's work with the United Nations and around the world. She has a particular voice that is brought to this issue. I thank her for the storytelling she included in her speech.

The question I have is about the commitment of Bill C-47 to examining the human rights violations of women and children in particular. I am very interested in her perspective on this, because I know this is an important part of her background.

It is my understanding that the Arms Trade Treaty requires the exporting country to take into account the risk of arms or munitions being used to commit or facilitate serious acts of gender-based violence or serious acts of violence against women and children. Although this is in the Arms Trade Treaty, it is not translated into Bill C-47.

Could the member speak to that? If she agrees that it is a missing piece, will she argue for amendments in committee to close that loophole?