Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, an arms trade treaty was first proposed formally in 2009, when the UN General Assembly passed a resolution mandating negotiations on a legally binding international treaty to set common international standards to regulate the import and export of conventional weapons.
Over the last two years, a series of meetings took place in New York to prepare for the negotiations on an ATT. These preparations will culminate in a negotiating conference to be held at the UN headquarters in New York next month, from July 2 to 27.
During these preparatory meetings, the Argentinian chairman of the ATT process prepared draft elements of a treaty text. I believe you have been provided with the chairman's draft text, which is dated July 14, 2011.
The chairman's text is helpful but needs improvement, particularly in sections dealing with the implementation and with transparency and reporting. Nevertheless, we believe it can serve as the working basis for negotiations on a treaty, as long as elements of the text undergo further revisions, particularly to the sections on implementation and on transparency.
An arms trade treaty—or ATT— should one be finalized this summer, will set common standards for national export and import regimes to regulate the international transfer of conventional arms.
Canada and others will advocate that the treaty not set out how each country should organize its own domestic import and export controls but only what the goals of such controls should be.
Canada believes an ATT should include criteria to determine if exports would, one, violate UN Security Council sanctions; two, contribute to serious violations of human rights; three, contribute to serious violations of international humanitarian law; four, provoke, prolong, or aggravate armed conflict; five, support or facilitate terrorism; or six, support or facilitate organized crime. If so, the arms export would be prohibited. Without these six key criteria, any future ATT would be meaningless.
While the ATT's criteria are meant to disrupt the irresponsible trade in conventional weapons, the treaty should also recognize the legality of the legal and responsible international trade in conventional weapons and respect the lawful ownership of firearms by responsible private citizens for personal and recreational uses such as sports shooting, hunting, and collecting.
In order to do this, the Canadian delegation to the ATT negotiations this summer will propose that two elements be included in the treaty. The first would recognize that the purpose of the treaty is to prevent the illicit and irresponsible transfer of conventional weapons, while the second would acknowledge and respect the responsible and lawful use of firearms for recreational purposes like hunting and sport shooting. Adding these elements to the treaty will focus and define its terms.
Many of Canada's friends and allies agree with this proposal and have worked closely with the Canadian delegation at the ATT talks to draft text that would be acceptable to a large majority of countries.
The Canadian government will have two goals at these talks.
First, it wants to be sure that the legitimacy of firearms ownership by responsible, law-abiding private firearms owners is recognized, which would be accomplished by our proposal to add the two elements I have just mentioned.
Second, the government wants to ensure that no new burdens are placed on Canadian firearms owners and manufacturers. This second goal has already been largely achieved in the lead-up to the ATT talks this summer.
All the countries participating in the talks now accept that the treaty should set out what countries signing it should do—for example, preventing conventional weapons from falling into the hands of criminals or terrorists—but it should not set out how countries should be doing this; that is, the treaty should not dictate to countries signing it how they should be organizing their own export control regimes, only that the goal of these controls should be to prevent weapons from falling into the hands of criminals, terrorists, and human rights violators.
Canada already has in place a robust system of controls for export of conventional arms. The international standards for export controls that will be established by an ATT will almost certainly be lower than those of Canada's own export control regime. The items being considered for inclusion in an ATT are already subject to export controls in Canada.
Similarly, many of the criteria being contemplated for an ATT are already factors that the government considers when deciding whether or not to authorize an arms export. Therefore, Canada's present export controls will remain largely unchanged by a future ATT. This means that Canadian firearms owners and manufacturers will not have any new rules or regulations imposed on them by an ATT.
Four weeks have been allocated for the talks this summer to negotiate an arms trade treaty. The four weeks will be difficult, and success is by no means assured. However, Canada will work closely with our friends and allies, including in particular the U.S.A., the U.K., Germany, Italy, Japan, Israel, Australia, and New Zealand, to negotiate an effective ATT that will make a significant contribution to global efforts to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals and terrorists, while at the same time recognizing and protecting the ability of law-abiding private firearms owners to enjoy the recreational use of their firearms in a responsible manner.