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)

February 8th, 2018 / 4:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

Thank you for the question, Ms. Vandenbeld.

I'll start by responding to your preamble.

The work we have all been doing together on Bill C-47 is a real example—and Mr. Chair, let me address you also—of how a parliamentary committee can do really important work in improving legislation. As I said, this is not the first time this committee has had a real impact on the work of the government. The Magnitsky report is another example of the way this committee's work has shaped our government policy. That's the way parliamentary democracy is supposed to work, and I would like to thank the committee, and the witnesses who come before the committee, for being so effective. It's made a real difference to what we're doing as a country.

Regarding the theme you and I are flighting for—women, the country and security—I absolutely agree with you. I also want to congratulate you, Ms. Vandenbeld, on the work you are doing, not only in Canada, but also in Kosovo, Vietnam, Bangladesh and the Congo. I think that those life experiences enrich your life both as an MP and as a member of this committee; that's very clear to me. It is very useful for Canada to have a woman with those kinds of experiences.

For our government, including women in everything we do in terms of peace and security issues is a priority. We talked about that at the peacekeeping summit in Vancouver, and it was only the beginning. I am certain that our plan to include more women in peacekeeping operations will make a huge difference for Canada, for the world and for the United Nations.

There will be a lot of work, and it won't be easy. However, this is important work, and we now have a plan. We have the support of many countries around the world. I know that this work is necessary, and I am sure we will manage to do it

February 8th, 2018 / 4:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Thank you very much.

Before I begin, Minister, I want to thank you for the respect that you have shown this committee and the witnesses before this committee in your openness and willingness to see amendments that are going to improve Bill C-47 and strengthen our export control mechanisms. I appreciate that.

I would like to begin by thanking you for joining us today. I would also like to commend you on your commitment to promoting a feminist foreign affairs policy, especially on your commitment to the Global Women, Peace and Security Agenda.

As you know, the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 1325 18 years ago. The resolution calls for women to be part of peace proceedings, in all respects. We know that peace treaties are more stable, inclusive and sustainable when women are involved.

Canada has a great deal of expertise and has much to offer in this area. We already have women participating, as civilians, in peacekeeping missions around the world. I noted that Canada's second action plan integrated principles relating to women, peace and security. That plan will lead to an increase in the number of women participating in all aspects of the promotion of peace, be it through peacekeepers, police officers, non-government organizations, NGOs, or through efforts to strengthen a state in the wake of a conflict.

In your opinion, how could that new policy have a greater impact worldwide?

February 8th, 2018 / 4:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

Thank you very much, Jati, for that question.

As you know, I currently represent a very urban riding, but I was born and raised in a very rural one, so I understand that question, and I think it is a very important one. I'm delighted to have this opportunity to offer some clarity on that issue.

Bill C-47 will make changes to the process for importing and exporting controlled goods to and from Canada. It does not affect domestic gun control regulation and it does not affect the domestic trade in arms. The Firearms Act falls under Public Safety, so admirably and effectively managed by our friend Minister Goodale. This is not the purview of Global Affairs Canada. We have quite enough on our plate without that.

Bill C-47 does not create any form of new registry for gun ownership. Let me be very clear on that. Record-keeping obligations in the Export and Import Permits Act have existed since 1947, and Bill C-47 does not change the system that Canadians already know.

Let me quote from the the Arms Trade Treaty preamble, which acknowledges, and I quote:

the legitimate trade and lawful ownership, and use of certain conventional arms for recreational, cultural, historical, and sporting activities, where such trade, ownership and use are permitted or protected by law

I know that there have been some concerns about that issue, and I am very pleased to have the opportunity to absolutely put those concerns to rest, so thank you for that question.

February 8th, 2018 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Jati Sidhu Liberal Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Minister, thank you for taking time out to come in front of the committee. My question is going to be on Bill C-47.

During this committee's study of Bill C-47, we heard concerns raised by the Canadian Shooting Sports Association and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters.

Coming from a rural riding in British Columbia, I get to hear those concerns at the same time. Would this bill have any impact on domestic firearms? It's a two-fold question. The next one is, does it impose any record-keeping requirements that don't already exist?

February 8th, 2018 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

I would like to ask one last question about arms exports. Bill C-47, which concerns the implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty, includes criteria, and I think that is an improvement.

As you know, all the experts we have heard from pointed out that the bill violates the spirit and the letter of the Arms Trade Treaty. The bill still has significant shortcomings; it does not at all address the role of the Canadian Commercial Corporation or the Department of National Defence. However, in the sale of helicopters to the Philippines, we are are talking about two major players. The bill also does not cover our exports to the United States. Yet President Trump announced that he would loosen the rules on arms exports from the United States to some countries with a poor track record in human rights. We know that Canadian weapon parts got to Nigeria through the U.S.

Are you also planning to resolve those issues in the current bill? I'm talking about the role of the Canadian Commercial Corporation, the role of the Department of National Defence and exports to the U.S.

February 8th, 2018 / 3:30 p.m.
See context

University—Rosedale Ontario

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

I would like to thank our chair and the committee for the opportunity to join you all here today. I have some prepared remarks, a few things I'd like to say off the top.

Before I begin, I would like to introduce two outstanding Canadian public servants who are here with me. I think everyone in Canada now knows Steve Verheul. I was about to say that he is our chief negotiator of CETA, which he is, but right now, significantly, he is our chief negotiator of NAFTA. Thank you for being here with us, Steve.

With me also is David Morrison, who has recently been named our associate deputy minister of Global Affairs. David has been doing terrific work on a number of files, but most particularly he's a Latin America expert and has been leading our effort on Venezuela.

Muchas gracias, David.

For the Albertans here, he's from Lethbridge.

Mr. Chair, honourable members, thank you for inviting me to speak to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development about how our government is delivering on its foreign policy priorities. Last June, in the House of Commons, I presented Canada's priorities in terms of foreign policy. The very essence of those priorities is the fact that they are founded on the importance of maintaining a stable and rule-based international order.

Our government is capitalizing on Canada's global presence, which is long-standing tradition, to speak with a strong voice in order to defend intolerance and nativism, while addressing the legitimate concerns of individuals who feel overwhelmed by globalization. This means that constructive leadership is needed in the established world order and with our partners to promote peace, security and prosperity around the world.

Mr. Chair, that is exactly what our government is doing.

At the United Nations, the G7, the G20, the OAS, the World Trade Organization, in the Commonwealth, la Francophonie, and NATO, to name just a few, Canada today is engaging creatively to navigate the complexities of today's world.

We are doing so, Mr. Chair, not only in word but also in deed. We have shown that Canada can lead and assemble partners to find solutions to the world's most pressing global challenges.

In October, in Toronto, I hosted the third ministerial meeting of the Lima Group on Venezuela. Foreign ministers from over a dozen countries convened to discuss steps needed for a peaceful return to democracy and to relieve the terrible suffering of the Venezuelan people. I repeated this message once again two weeks ago in Chile at the fourth Lima Group meeting, as well as the importance that Canada's sanctions against Venezuela have in our efforts to achieve these goals.

The issue of Venezuela was further extensively discussed at the North American foreign ministers meeting last Friday in Mexico City. We may be holding another meeting of the Lima Group in Lima next week. That's under discussion. Just a couple of hours ago I spoke with the Peruvian foreign minister about that possibility.

With the United States, Canada also recently hosted the Vancouver foreign ministers meeting on security and stability on the Korean peninsula. This was an essential opportunity for the international community to demonstrate unity against and opposition to North Korea's dangerous and illegal actions and to work together to strengthen diplomatic efforts towards a secure, prosperous, and denuclearized Korean peninsula.

Likewise, on Myanmar, I'm proud of Canada's leadership and cross-party support for that leadership. Too often in diplomacy, it is said that words do not matter, but they do. It is significant that Canada was one of the first countries to denounce the crimes against humanity and the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya.

Since the beginning of 2017, Canada has contributed $37.5 million to help address the needs of affected people in Myanmar and Bangladesh. This includes $12.5 million the government contributed to match the donations of generous and concerned Canadians. I would really like to thank and congratulate all the Canadians who took part in that. That is why we have appointed Bob Rae, a friend and an exemplary Canadian, as special envoy. As a non-Muslim-majority country, it's particularly important that Canada speak out in defence of this persecuted Muslim minority.

When it comes to Ukraine, I was delighted to travel to Kiev in December and to meet with President Poroshenko, Prime Minister Groysman, and Foreign Minister Klimkin.

I conveyed our unwavering support for Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty and spoke about our recent addition of Ukraine to the automatic firearms country control list, something that the Ukrainians thanked me for.

Last June I also said we would take strong steps to ensure that all human beings are treated with dignity and respect, based on our strong commitment to pluralism, human rights, and the rule of law. Since then, we adopted the Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act—and thank you to everyone around this table for the support for that measure—to enable Canada to take action against individuals who commit serious violations of human rights and those who engage in significant acts of corruption anywhere in the world.

I want to thank all the members of this committee for your important work on this legislation. It truly would not have happened without this committee's leadership, a very important contribution.

We will continue to firmly denounce any kind of injustice and intolerance around the world, as we have done in places such as Yemen, Chechnya and Iran in recent months.

You also heard me talk about women and girls. As I said in June, it is important for a prime minister and a government to proudly self-identify as feminists.That actually marked an historic milestone.

Women's rights are human rights, and they are at the heart of our foreign policy. That is why we are determined to promote a feminist and ambitious foreign policy. That commitment is at the heart of Canada's feminist international aid policy, which was launched in June by my colleague Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, and at the heart of Canada's new national action plan dedicated to women, peace and security, which I announced last November.

I know that the contribution of several committee members here today was a great help in developing those policies. So I would like to thank them once again.

At the United Nations Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial conference held in November, in Vancouver, Canada launched the Elsie Initiative on women's participation in peace operations. The initiative's goal is not only to ensure that women can participate fully in peacekeeping operations around the world, but also to guarantee that good conditions are in place for their long-term participation. The Elsie Initiative is designed to improve the overall effectiveness of United Nations operations. We are hearing from experts from a number of countries this month to determine that the next steps will be.

Our reputation as a country with clear and cherished democratic values that stands for human rights is strong. We must continue to be a global leader and keep working hard to protect these values and rights.

On that point, I would like to directly address an issue that has received important scrutiny in Canada: arms exports. Last summer we became aware of media reports on the possible misuse of Canadian-made vehicles in security operations in Saudi Arabia's eastern province. At that time, I asked officials at Global Affairs Canada to conduct a full and thorough investigation of these reports. Today I can confirm that officials at Global Affairs found no conclusive evidence that Canadian-made vehicles were used in human rights violations. That was the independent, objective opinion of our public service and the advice given to me as minister.

That experience did, however, cause me to pause and re-examine Canada's export permit system. My conclusion is that Canada can and must do better. Canada is not alone in the world in taking stock of how we allow and monitor the export of arms and of the considerations that go into these decisions. I have spoken with my counterparts in Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands, among others, whose countries have all recently, in one way or another, questioned how arms are exported.

I am proud of the important commitment that our government made with Bill C-47. This would amend the Export and Import Permits Act to allow Canada to accede to the Arms Trade Treaty. This is the first treaty to tackle the illicit trade in conventional weapons, and it sets an essential standard for the international community.

It is long overdue that Canada joins many of our NATO and G7 partners by acceding to the ATT. We have heard support for the arms trade treaty from civil society, NGOs, and Canadians. We also heard the clear desire to do better. We need to be ambitious and strengthen Bill C-47. We had originally planned to place the criteria by which exports are judged, including human rights, into regulation, but we heard from committee members and civil society that they would like to see the Arms Trade Treaty criteria placed directly into legislation. This would include the consideration of peace and security, human rights, and gender-based violence. I can say today that the government would welcome this.

Going further than that, our government is today announcing its support for the inclusion of a substantial risk clause in Canadian law. Such a clause would mean that our government and future governments would not allow the export of a controlled good if there were a substantial risk that it could be used to commit human rights violations. A substantial risk clause would mean that Global Affairs Canada would need to ensure, before the export of controlled goods, that we have a high level of confidence that controlled exports will not be used to commit human rights abuses.

That is an important decision because it will have an impact on the way Canada regulates arms sales, but it's the right thing to do. Canadians are deeply committed to human rights for everyone, and they rightly expect exported goods not to be used to violate human rights.

I want things to be very clear. I want us to hold ourselves to a higher standard when it comes to Canada's controlled goods exports.

This is a significant decision. It will mean changes in how Canada regulates the selling of weapons. This is the right thing to do. Canadians fundamentally care about human rights for all, and Canadians rightly expect that exports will not be used to violate human rights.

Let me be clear: from this day forward I want us to hold ourselves to a higher standard on the export of controlled goods from Canada.

I would also like to provide further clarity on one point. As a matter of broad principle, Canada will honour pre-existing contracts to the greatest extent possible. We can all understand and appreciate the fundamental importance of being able to trust Canada. We also understand the inherent importance of providing stability and certainty. Canada is a trusted partner around the world, and people must continue to be sure of the high worth of our word and our commitments. The world needs to know that an agreement with Canada endures beyond elections. This is important not only for international partners but also for Canadian companies and Canadian workers, who need to know they will be able to follow through on plans into which they invest their time and resources.

These two amendments will also provide clarity to industry by laying out the government's and Canadians' expectations for our export control process. We will work with Canadian industry to continue to provide it with appropriate guidance.

Mr. Chair, let me now turn to trade for one moment.

When it comes to NAFTA, we continue to work hard on the bread-and-butter trade issues at the negotiating table. Our goal is greater competitiveness, investment certainty, and growth in North America.

At the most recent round of talks in Montreal, we put forward some creative ideas with the view to establishing a constructive dialogue on certain key issues, including the rules of origin, investment dispute settlement, and ongoing modernization of the agreement. Serious challenges do remain, particularly with regard to the United States' unconventional proposal. As the Prime Minister said yesterday in Chicago, our objective is a good deal, not just any deal.

At the negotiating table, Canada always takes a facts-based approach. We are always polite and we are adept at seeking creative solutions and win-win-win compromises, but we are also resolute. Canada will only accept an agreement if it is in our national interest and respects Canadian values.

Finally, Mr. Chair, let me conclude with a few words about one of Canada's signature priorities for this year, our G7 presidency. This is a great opportunity for us to speak with a strong voice on the international stage.

During its G7 presidency in 2018, Canada will mobilize its counterparts on global issues requiring immediate attention, including by investing in economic growth that benefits everyone, by preparing for the jobs of the future, by working together on climate, ocean and clean energy changes, and by building a more peaceful and safer world. More specifically, we will promote gender equality and women's empowerment, and we will ensure that a gender-based analysis is conducted for each aspect of our presidency.

Mr. Chair, I will conclude by saying that, within G7 and the international community as a whole, Canada is continuing to defend a rule-based national order and to look for ways to strengthen it. We do this at every opportunity, while explicitly taking into account the relationship between peace, common prosperity, open trade and human rights.

Thank you.

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

January 30th, 2018 / 2:50 p.m.
See context

Fredericton New Brunswick

Liberal

Matt DeCourcey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, we are absolutely committed to an export control system that is transparent, rigorous, and predictable. Our government is taking steps to further enhance our system through Bill C-47, which the member knows is at committee right now. We look forward to having that back in the House. That will help Canada take a leadership role in the regulation of exports of arms around the world. We have allocated $13 million to help Canada accede to the Arms Trade Treaty, and we will be sure to continue moving forward in that effort to ensure our controls are robust and effective, and they reflect our human rights considerations.

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

December 4th, 2017 / 2:35 p.m.
See context

Fredericton New Brunswick

Liberal

Matt DeCourcey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, we are absolutely committed to an export control system that is rigorous, that is transparent, and that is predictable. Our government is taking steps to further strengthen the export regime. We have allocated $13 million to help Canada accede to the arms trade treaty.

With Bill C-47, which we just spoke of, we are moving forward on a key campaign commitment to strengthen Canada's arms control regime and accede to that treaty. Bill C-47 would allow us to join our G7 and NATO allies by acceding to the treaty and playing a leadership role in regulating the trade of conventional arms around the world.

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

December 4th, 2017 / 2:35 p.m.
See context

NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-47 on the Arms Trade Treaty respects neither the letter nor the spirit of the treaty, and it does not even cover exports to the United States, which is why Stéphane Dion's former human rights advisor said that the bill is quite simply inadequate.

In committee, the NDP proposed six amendments to the bill based on expert testimony.

Will the government finally listen to Canadians' concerns, accept our amendments, and fix the flaws in this bill?

November 7th, 2017 / 4:40 p.m.
See context

Cameron Hill Elected Councillor, Gitga'at First Nation

Thank you.

Gitga'at First Nation congratulates Canada for introducing Bill C-48, the oil tanker moratorium act, and thanks the committee for the opportunity to provide testimony regarding the bill.

Before I continue, I was made aware that everybody had our submission. Is that correct?

November 7th, 2017 / noon
See context

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

I'm going to refer to the testimony by Mr. Gilmour and Mr. Arbeiter, from the department, who said Bill C-47 was an attempt to “universalize best practices”. Almost all parties have acknowledged Canada has had since about the 1950s these best world-leading practices.

You've mentioned that 26 of 28 elements of the ATT we're already in line with. I would suggest that actually it's 27, because we've had formalized policies since the 1980s and those policies are now going to be law.

November 7th, 2017 / 11:45 a.m.
See context

President, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East

Thomas Woodley

My belief is that we are not setting an example. Other witnesses have declared that we are setting an example, but I don't see that. I see Bill C-47 as a sort of watered-down implementation, with incomplete processes to actually bring the intents of the ATT to the fore. I see it as a flawed bill, and I really think it needs serious amendments to bring it to the standard that the ATT is actually targeting.

November 7th, 2017 / 11:40 a.m.
See context

President, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East

Thomas Woodley

One of the things I would like to emphasize is that those of us who have a certain focus on human rights are certainly not against commerce, and we are certainly not against Canadian industry being very productive and successful. I think, to your point, human rights and making human rights part of our political platform and our political strategy is not to say that we want to end all communications and all commerce with a particular country with a particular regime, but rather to put healthy pressure on those regimes, on that commerce, such that the governments in question will move in the direction in which we would like them to move in terms of respect for human rights. By actually putting specific obligations into Bill C-47 itself, we sort of liberate the process to do what it's meant to do, which is that we want to raise the bar for human rights, whether it be with Saudi Arabia or any other country. That's not to say we don't want to do commerce with anyone, but let's raise the bar: look, it's out of our hands; we've made this commitment to human rights.

I'll let others comment, but that would be my take.

November 7th, 2017 / 11:15 a.m.
See context

Thomas Woodley President, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East

Good morning.

My name is Thomas Woodley. I'm the president of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East.

I first wish to thank the committee for this kind opportunity to speak to you this morning. It's a privilege, of course, to be here. I look forward to a frank and honest discussion about Canada and its role in the sad realities of the international arms trade today.

CJPME is an organization, my organization, whose mission is to empower Canadians of all backgrounds to promote justice, development, and peace in the Middle East. We have about a dozen activist groups across the country, and we have approximately 125,000 Canadians who have participated in our activities and campaigns over the years. Because of the devastating role that arms have played in the Middle East over the years, my organization has become increasingly involved in attempts to limit the flow of arms to the Middle East.

CJPME was thrilled when the international Arms Trade Treaty was first concretely debated in 2012, then adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2013, and entered into force in 2014. However, despite our excitement at the adoption of the ATT by much of the world community, we were saddened and upset by the Canadian government's reluctance to consider signing the treaty for many of the past several years.

It's important to note that at the same time the ATT was creating greater hope for higher standards and greater transparency in the movement of arms around the world, Canada was negotiating one of its largest arms deals ever with a serial human rights abuser, Saudi Arabia. This arms deal has been in and out of the news over the past two or three years, as you all know, I'm sure, with two successive governments providing shifting justifications for the sale, despite the fact that Saudi Arabia regularly ranks among the worst of the worst of human rights violators.

In fact, a survey of Canadians just two months ago, in September, by Nanos Research for the The Globe and Mail found that 64% of Canadians oppose or somewhat oppose the Canadian government's decision to sell light armoured vehicles to the Saudi government. Despite the fact that it's common sense, as demonstrated by the survey results, that this sale should not have been approved, Canada's existing export controls, as embodied in the Export and Import Permits Act, EIPA, failed to prevent the sale. There is clearly much to say about this sale, but it's obvious that for a strong majority of Canadians, the current EIPA provisions did not properly function to prevent this sale.

We had high hopes that the new government would sign on to the treaty in a way that would address the long-standing shortcomings of Canada's existing arms export controls. Nevertheless, when Bill C-47 was introduced, it was immediately clear that many of the fundamental objectives of the ATT were being circumvented through the provisions of the bill, whether through omissions, through exclusions, or through deferral to regulations, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

The committee has already heard from a number of witnesses, and I believe there are important points to make regarding some of the testimony that the committee has already heard. I'll address three points.

The first is the need for a legally binding obligation in Bill C-47 on the minister. A witness for the government admitted the following:

Article 7 of the ATT requires each state party to consider a number of specific risks with respect to the items proposed for export, before authorizing the export to take place...The critical element was the need to create a legally binding obligation for the minister to take the ATT assessment considerations into account in deciding whether to issue an export permit.

First, we must be clear that the ATT establishes strict prohibitions on arms exports, depending on an objective risk assessment, and that simply requiring taking considerations into account will not satisfy Canada's obligations under the treaty.

The same witness went on to suggest that the ATT requirement was “most effectively implemented through regulation”. My organization would vigorously disagree with this conclusion. Implementation of this obligation via regulation may be the easiest or most malleable implementation, but it creates a glaring loophole that could lead to high-risk arms sales being approved. In fact, it is precisely this type of loophole that led to the $15-billion Saudi arms deals to be approved under the existing EIPA regulations, against the better judgment of the Canadian public.

As such, my organization agrees with the testimony provided by several other witnesses before this committee which asserted that in order to comply with the ATT fully, Bill C-47 must oblige the Minister of Foreign Affairs to deny exports that carry an overriding risk of contributing to undermining international peace and security, or committing or facilitating serious violations of international law.

Our recommendation would be that Bill C-47 establish an obligatory minimum threshold for export approval as per the ATT. I posit, for example, that there is no need for flexibility around the question of whether or not Canada should approve an arms sale if the arms in question risk being used in human rights violations. If, according to government witnesses, additional flexibility is required to accommodate evolving threats and new international norms, let additional regulations address this need above and beyond the minimum threshold demanded by the ATT and codified in Bill C-47.

Regarding the need to report arms sales to the U.S. under Bill C-47 implementation of the ATT, a witness for the government suggested that accession to the ATT would not require Canada to track and report arms sales to the U.S. Nevertheless, a plain-English reading of the ATT would suggest otherwise. Article 1 of the ATT insists on the highest possible common international standards in the sale of arms, yet Canada's existing arrangement with the U.S. has neither a high standard nor a common standard.

Article 2 of the ATT makes clear that this implementation applies to all arms exports of acceding nations. Exempting Canadian arms exports to the U.S. specifically contradicts this obligation.

Finally, article 5 of the ATT calls for the treaty to be implemented in a consistent, objective, and non-discriminatory manner. A separate, less stringent process for Canadian arms exports to the U.S. clearly is not the consistent standard demanded by the ATT.

The government witness suggested that the ATT does not specify how states parties should organize their export control systems. This may be a fair statement as long as the export systems in question do not violate a nation's obligations under the ATT. However, Canada's arrangement with the U.S. under the defence production sharing agreement clearly does not meet Canada's obligation under the ATT.

For my final point I would suggest that as we consider Bill C-47, we should try to segregate the decision between our ethics and Canadian jobs. I suspect that privately many of the committee members here are as uncomfortable as I am with Canada's $15-billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia. However, because proponents of the deal have positioned it as a choice between questionable risks on the one hand and Canadian jobs on the other, the issue becomes a political hot potato. It is not surprising that elected representatives in successive governments would take the approach they have given that the alternative would be a form of political self-flagellation.

Therefore, I would recommend that Canada's implementation of the ATT include provisions to enable lawmakers to avoid this type of catch-22. Perhaps as a result of the role of the Canadian Commercial Corporation, the Saudi arms deal from the get-go was presented as a trade-off that would jeopardize well-paid Canadian defence jobs in London, Ontario.

Under Canada's accession to the ATT, the ethical issue should be addressed much earlier in the sales process, long before people are calculating the trade-off in Canadian jobs.

Naturally, a legally binding obligation on the minister, as required by the ATT, could help prevent many morally questionable deals from even being considered, but beyond that, CJPME would recommend that lawmakers look at other ways to segregate and front-load the ethical considerations of the deal before the potential economic benefits of the deal are promoted publicly. As mentioned above, there may be implications in terms of the ongoing role attributed to the Canadian Commercial Corporation.

The above discussions highlight some of our top concerns with the pending legislation. CJPME would recommend that if they have not already done so, committee members should be sure to review a document issued by a group of Canadian NGOs, CJPME included, entitled “Bill C-47 and Canadian Accession to the Arms Trade Treaty Civil Society Concerns and Recommendations”.

This document was officially released on October 16 and was the result of deliberations between many of Canada's leading NGOs on this issue, including CJPME. It details a number of items that go beyond the scope of my presentation here today.

I believe Canada has the opportunity to prevent unnecessary misery and suffering around the world as a result of unwise or illicit arms sales. My organization and I exhort this committee to propose the amendments necessary to ensure that Canada's accession to the ATT adheres to both the letter and the spirit of the treaty.

Thank you for your attention. I welcome any comments.

November 7th, 2017 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Anna Macdonald Director, Control Arms Secretariat

Thank you very much for this opportunity to address the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.

The Arms Trade Treaty is an amazing document. It took over 10 years of campaigning and six years of UN processes to come into being. It has the potential to bring the arms trade under control and prevent the devastation wrought every day through arms-fuelled poverty, conflict, and human rights abuses. Throughout the world, both the persistence of cyclical conflicts and high levels of armed violence are hampering development, increasing human rights abuses, and exacerbating poverty.

Before the ATT, there was no global treaty regulating the trade in conventional arms and little to prevent the high number of weapons that end up in the illicit market. The ATT therefore offers an important humanitarian tool for addressing the challenges posed by the poorly regulated flow of weapons to some of the world's least developed areas and to conflict zones.

I am the director of the Control Arms coalition, which brings together hundreds of non-governmental organizations from all regions of the world and from many different fields, including human rights, poverty alleviation, conflict reduction, weapons specialists, health, youth, gender, and survivor networks, parliamentary networks, and legal expertise.

Control Arms provides evidence-based research and analysis, conducts outreach to government supporters and the public, builds capacity and expertise among both governments and civil society, and facilitates policy dialogue. We have an emphasis on support and training in the global south and in monitoring of Arms Trade Treaty implementation.

Canada's absence from the ATT was a strange exception over the last few years, and we are greatly encouraged by the current government's commitment to accede to the treaty in the near future. This presents a tremendous opportunity for a return to the leadership in disarmament and peace issues for which Canada was once renowned, for example, through the leadership which led to the Ottawa convention and subsequent mine ban treaty signed in Ottawa in 1997.

The current process toward accession also presents a great opportunity to modernize Canadian export control legislation toward high standards in transparency and accountability and with a firm basis in international human rights and humanitarian law. We welcome some of the positive considerations in Bill C-47, such as the inclusion of brokering and the extension to extraterritorial controls on brokers. However, we share our Canadian partners' concerns on some of the flaws in the legislation, which I would encourage you to reconsider. The most important and relevant aspects of the ATT I would like to highlight in this regard are as follows.

First, there is the purpose of reducing human suffering. Central in the object and purpose of the ATT in article 1 is the purpose of reducing human suffering. This is the goal that must remain paramount in all efforts to universalize and implement the treaty. This is an instrument specifically designed to reduce the human suffering resulting from armed violence and armed conflict, not only in the direct deaths and injuries caused by weapons but also through trauma, displacement, economic impoverishment, torture, and oppression. Therefore, Canadian legislation must also be oriented toward this goal of reducing human suffering.

Second, there is the aim of the highest possible common standards, which article 1 also calls for, meaning that there should be no exemptions or exceptions. The continued exclusion of exports to the U.S., constituting as they do over 50% of Canadian arms exports, is a significant omission. Canada will be undermining common standards by excluding a major arms importer and exporter that's unlikely to become a states party in the near future. Article 2 additionally emphasizes that the treaty is applicable to all exports covered under the scope, and article 5 calls on states to implement ATT in a consistent, objective, and nondiscriminatory manner. To our knowledge, there is no other country that enables such a specific export destination to be exempted from its legislation in its ratification or accession to the ATT. To do so would be both unusual and undermining to the core principles of the treaty. The very nature of the ATT is that it is global, the first treaty to regulate the trade of conventional weapons, and therefore aims for universal adherence to high common standards.

Third is the importance of absolute prohibitions and risk assessment. The heart of the treaty is in articles 6 and 7, which cover prohibitions and risk assessments. These articles are very clear and unambiguous that a state “shall not” authorize an arms transfer where it has knowledge the arms will be used in war crimes, in violation of international agreements to which it is a party, or where a risk assessment results in overriding risk. Canadian proposed legislation, which will allow the foreign affairs minister to merely take into account such risks, sets a much lower threshold. In our view, this would mean Canada would not be in compliance with the ATT.

Additionally, I would like to encourage you to consider appropriate parliamentary structures that would enhance oversight and transparency. We have found around the world a strong correlation between active parliamentarians in both the speed of ratification and accession and effective treaty implementation. In the U.K., for example, the committee on arms export controls functions as an additional cross-party oversight mechanism, which holds ministers to account and hears evidence from expert stakeholders.

Finally, I would draw your attention to the inclusion in article 7 of specific language on “gender-based violence”, mandating the risks of gender-based violence to also be considered as part of the authorization assessment. This is the first treaty ever to include specific language on GBV and its operative provisions, and I encourage the Canadian government to explore all possible ways to ensure that this groundbreaking aspect of the treaty is implemented.

In conclusion, the two most important flaws in the proposed legislation, which I encourage you to reconsider, are, first, that Bill C-47 does not cover arms exports to the U.S. and that this therefore leaves a large percentage of exports that will be excluded from the treaty provisions, and, second, the lack of legal limits on the discretionary power available to the foreign affairs minister.

Control Arms supports the universalization and implementation of the ATT, and we believe that it can have a positive humanitarian and human rights impact. We urge you to seize this opportunity to reposition Canada once again as a leader in disarmament and peace-building and to demonstrate the highest possible standards in bringing the arms trade under control.

Thank you.