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Evidence of meeting #41 for Foreign Affairs and International Development in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was weapons.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Habib Massoud  Deputy Director, Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Paul Galveias  Senior Export Control Officer, Export Controls Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Mark Fried  Policy Coordinator, Oxfam Canada, and Member, Control Arms Coalition
Hilary Homes  Campaigner, International Justice, Security and Human Rights, Amnesty International, and Member, Control Arms Coalition
Lina Holguin  Policy Director, Oxfam-Québec, and Member, Control Arms Coalition
Kenneth Epps  Senior Program Officer, Project Ploughshares, and Member, Control Arms Coalition
Steve Torino  President, Canadian Shooting Sports Association
Tony Bernardo  Executive Director, Canadian Shooting Sports Association
Solomon Friedman  Lawyer, As an Individual

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, again, to all of you for very interesting presentations.

One thing I picked up from the presentations is the effect of the current lack of rules on Canada from an aid effectiveness point of view, but also from an economic point of view. I think one of you underlined the fact that we have Canadian businesses all over the world, and what they are doing can often be preempted or disturbed by social upheaval. Of course, that's not even including humanitarian considerations and human rights considerations. So if we look at what it can do to Canada, on top of what it already does to the people in some developing countries, in particular, we see the importance of this treaty.

We've heard other witnesses talk a lot about the effect such a treaty could have on domestic gun ownership. Most of the experts I've heard, including disarmament ambassadors and people like that, have always stated, point blank, that it won't have any effect on domestic policy. But as we've heard other comments...maybe, Mr. Epps, you could react with your point of view on that.

5:20 p.m.

Senior Program Officer, Project Ploughshares, and Member, Control Arms Coalition

Kenneth Epps

Thank you.

Well, I'm convinced that it will not have an impact on domestic legal gun ownership and use. There may be some implications we can speculate about, but there is certainly no evidence, based on the treaty negotiations that I've seen to date, that would indicate that there would be any significant impact.

I think where we might see some impact is in Canada's procedures around exports and imports of weapons. Hopefully some of those would include, for example, greater transparency. But on domestic use of firearms, I have difficulty understanding what the problem would be.

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Thank you very much.

I also have a quick question about civilian firearms. What I have seen myself, when I used to live in Africa, is that in surrounding countries civilian firearms were doing as much damage as military equipment, if not more, just because they were more readily available. Mr. Fried, would you have any comments on that?

5:25 p.m.

Policy Coordinator, Oxfam Canada, and Member, Control Arms Coalition

Mark Fried

Most certainly.

The weapons that we would consider to be for civilian use are commonly used by criminals in developing countries, and I would say in many countries. They're used by criminals and by terrorists.

I think the Canadian government's approach that we heard about earlier today is quite appropriate: not to look at the type of weapon—because any weapon can be adapted for bad use—but to look at the end users themselves. I think this is a much more fruitful discussion than trying to eliminate a class of weapons, because weapons can be used for all sorts of things.

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

I have a very brief question for Mr. Bernardo and Mr. Torino. You answered my colleague Mr. LeBlanc earlier, saying that you have met just once with the foreign affairs minister on this issue. Just to follow up on that, how often have you met with ministerial staff on this issue?

5:25 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Shooting Sports Association

Tony Bernardo

We have not met with ministerial staff on this issue. The minister we met with before was Minister Bernier, for a very brief time. We have not had meetings with ministerial staff since then.

I think you have to remember that many Canadians are very worried about this because of the last round.

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

We just want to understand the process, really. So I was wondering, who invited you to be part of the Canadian delegation at the talks in July and February?

5:25 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Shooting Sports Association

Tony Bernardo

I am not part of the delegation.

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

You're not part.

5:25 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Shooting Sports Association

Tony Bernardo

No, I'm not.

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Torino?

5:25 p.m.

President, Canadian Shooting Sports Association

Steve Torino

I was part of the delegation. I don't know who invites. Normally I get a phone call or an e-mail from Habib, asking if I'd like to be part of the delegation as an advisor. That's about it. Otherwise, there is absolutely nothing going on there.

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Thank you very much. That's all the time.

Mr. Williamson, we probably won't get a full round in, but let's give you a couple of minutes.

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

John Williamson Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Okay, thank you.

I want to follow up on a line of questioning Mr. Dechert was on. When the fighting began in Libya, as I understand it—and correct me if I'm wrong—some of the sanctions that were in place prevented western nations from helping groups that we called rebels. Could such a treaty, as you envision it, result in the same thing happening if there were vetos at the Security Council, for example, preventing Canada doing what it thinks is the morally correct thing to do in terms of its foreign affairs position?

5:25 p.m.

Campaigner, International Justice, Security and Human Rights, Amnesty International, and Member, Control Arms Coalition

Hilary Homes

I think we have to acknowledge that the Security Council is a very political place. Sometimes it votes one way, sometimes it votes another. Putting the criteria into a treaty hopefully takes some of the politics out of it. I don't think you can ever take the politics completely out, but that's our goal.

So what would then be assessed in a conflict like Libya is who were the arms being sold to, and what is their conduct? There would be this set of criteria that would interact, and that would be the judgment. So it's not merely.... An embargo often picks one side or another, sometimes both. What we're trying to do here is say look at the situation, look at what's going on, and who is the end user of whatever it is you are trying to sell? That's the fundamental difference that would happen in a treaty setting.

Ken may want to add to that.

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

John Williamson Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Well, let me ask a follow-up question, then. Does that mean, then, that you might have a case where the Canadian government is being sanctioned for providing aid to a group that it considers to be an ally or a friend or...?

5:25 p.m.

Campaigner, International Justice, Security and Human Rights, Amnesty International, and Member, Control Arms Coalition

Hilary Homes

Again, from our point of view, it's the conduct, and it's the risk that the end user will use the weapons for human rights abuses. That's what we're trying to measure, so we were trying to take some of the politics out of it.

But I think Ken wants to add to this.

5:30 p.m.

Senior Program Officer, Project Ploughshares, and Member, Control Arms Coalition

Kenneth Epps

I just want to note the distinction between a UN Security Council embargo and the ATT, because I think there is a fundamental distinction. One is the action of the Security Council that is then binding on all UN member states, so in a sense it's a collective process settled by the Security Council, but it then becomes a requirement of all states. The ATT will require each national government to interpret the treaty in making its decisions about national transfers, and the states will be held to account for those decisions. So it will depend, I think, on how egregious the situation may be to determine how other states react to national decisions about transfers.

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

John Williamson Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Do I have time for another one?

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Sure—a quick question.

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

John Williamson Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Friedman, I'm curious about your comments with respect to how such a treaty might impact domestic law here in Canada and the influence that lawmakers or courts take or read in from these treaties.

5:30 p.m.

Lawyer, As an Individual

Solomon Friedman

Sure, and I think it's very clear to emphasize that this isn't a matter of having a direct binding effect on either courts or lawmakers, right? Of course, every nation state within its own realm of affairs is supreme and sovereign, but at the same time, these are interpretive aids to courts and lawmakers.

My comments simply reflect the need to proceed with caution so that we don't stumble into the law of unintended consequences and, down the road, bind ourselves in a direction that could not necessarily be anticipated today, but because of the interpretive use of international law, may bind courts or may bind parliaments in future law reform.

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

John Williamson Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Thank you.

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Thank you very much.

To our witnesses, thank you very much for coming out today.

To the committee, I don't know when votes are going to happen in terms of all the massive ones. I'm hoping that we're still going to be on for Wednesday. In the event that we aren't, I'd like to look at the possibility of trying to meet on Thursday for an hour or so, if that's possible, and trying to reschedule the witnesses. I'm going to look at trying to deal with 3:30 as an option, but we're still hopeful that we'll be meeting on Wednesday at 3:30. Okay? We'll see what happens.

To our guests, thank you very much again for being here.

With that, the meeting is adjourned.