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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

4 p.m.

Senior Export Control Officer, Export Controls Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Paul Galveias

We envision it having very little impact on our relationship with the United States. Currently, as you mentioned, very few items from Canada require an export permit to the U.S. There's more than one approach that may be taken in evaluating an export, whether an individual permit is required, or an open licence, or a general licence, or even a licensing exemption.

As my colleague has stated, the ATT is seeking, in our understanding, to define what will be controlled, not necessarily how you will go about controlling it. The aspect of national discretion is very important to us in this regard and in our ability to seek to continue in the mutually advantageous and long-standing relationship we've had with the United States.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

I see.

As Canadian practice now stands, Canada would not meet expected arms treaty standards with regard to the treaty's scope because most Canada-U.S. transfer transactions are currently exempted from authorization and are not mentioned. As deputy director of the non-proliferation and disarmament division, what concerns would you advise this government to have in regard to treaty implementation? What position do you expect the United States to take in the negotiations?

4 p.m.

Deputy Director, Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Habib Massoud

The United States has been very supportive of the ATT. It sees, as well as anyone, the need for common international standards.

Really, the goal here is to try to promote greater transparency and confidence among major exporters—that we all try to achieve the same goals. One of the key components, then, is going to be on reporting and transparency so that we can all be confident that we are all fulfilling these obligations we undertake. Therefore, reporting is going to be very important.

However, reporting must also be realistic and practical. For example, under the chairman's text, the chairman seems to believe that we can report in incredible detail about each and every transaction. What we have said in the PrepCom, and others have agreed with us, is that to be realistic and practical, we cannot report in such great detail. Our trade with the U.S. is the classic example of that, where, by all means, we would want to be transparent and open, but the number of transactions between Canada and the U.S. is such that we won't be able to report on each and every transaction.

In any case, there are certain limitations that we and everyone else are going to have in how much and what we can report, including, for example, national security. We don't necessarily want to be able to report in intimate detail how much the Canadian or the American armed forces are buying or selling.

There's corporate confidentiality. We shouldn't ask companies to provide such intimate details about their business transactions. We have to be realistic.

Finally, in the case of Canada, we have the Privacy Act. There's some information that, for private citizens, we just cannot give out, and we don't want to give out.

All that being said, there's still a way of being open and transparent in giving the kind of information that will promote confidence and transparency among the partners of an ATT, and this we would support.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

You have one minute.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Nina Grewal Conservative Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

I'll pass my time to Mr. Van Kesteren.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Thank you, Chair.

I wasn't expecting to ask a question, but in just listening to the conversation the thing that struck my mind was, when we talk about non-state entities, what happens in the case of rebel groups? I'm thinking specifically of the Afghans. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, I don't think Canada was a big participant. The United States obviously was, and I think the rest of the world thought that was probably a pretty good idea at that time. What about in cases like that?

4:05 p.m.

Deputy Director, Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Habib Massoud

That's going to be an interesting dilemma.

Certainly one of the driving factors in this was to ensure that weapons are not going to fuel the types of conflicts we see in Africa, for example. Clearly this has a devastating effect, which we don't want to see encouraged.

We say clearly that we want to be sure that weapons are not going into the hands of terrorists. The reality is that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. How do we make that distinction? Do we make that distinction? Should we make that distinction? All excellent questions. I don't have an answer.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Mr. Van Kesteren, that's all the time.

Do you have a final comment?

4:05 p.m.

Senior Export Control Officer, Export Controls Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Paul Galveias

If I may, just in response to your question, sir, under our principal objectives of export controls and trying to balance trade and security, the first criteria that we look at in evaluating any proposed military export is this: does or will this export cause harm to Canada or her allies? The inverse of that is whether this export is a benefit to Canada or her allies.

As my colleague has said, when you look at a situation, it's not just what will be done in terms of international security and whether it will contribute to national or regional security, stability, or conflict. It's also what Canada's wider role is in that particular question.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Thank you very much.

We're going to move over to Madam Laverdière for five minutes, please.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you again to the two of you.

Mr. Massoud, when my colleague Mr. LeBlanc raised the issue of the delegation, I was particularly interested to hear you say that the minister was the one who decided who would be in the delegation for the last negotiations. It's interesting. The minister was here a few months ago and I asked him who had decided on the delegation; he said he didn't know. I don't know if he forgot that he had made the decision. Anyway, it was an interesting comment, and I think it furthered our understanding of the file, so I thank you for that.

At the same time, you mentioned that you did consult quite a few groups, but I understand that you consult the people in the delegation by e-mail and that kind of thing, so the consultations are relatively restricted.

I remember some years ago that we used to do large-scale consultations on that whole range of issues, most notably on human security issues. There were very formal, open consultations in which people would come to DFAIT or communicate—it was not Skype at the time, but by some other technology.

Have you seen a change towards fewer consultations in recent years?

4:10 p.m.

Deputy Director, Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Habib Massoud

It really varies by issue, by forum, by personality, and by interest. It's very difficult to make such a broad generalization. It depends on how much interest there is on the subject. It depends upon who wishes to be consulted. It depends upon personalities. It depends upon ministers, and it depends upon the forum. I find it very difficult to make that kind of generalization.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

I remember also—I'm sorry to talk so much about my memories, but they are fond memories—that we used to invite a large group when there were discussions or meetings about small arms control, discussions at the UN. There was quite a large éventail of NGOs, including Project Ploughshares, I remember, and people like that who we haven't seen in the latest negotiations.

Do we know who from outside of government is going to participate in the upcoming round of negotiations in July?

4:10 p.m.

Deputy Director, Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Habib Massoud

I can only speak for the Canadian delegation. I can't speak for anyone else who is going to be in the room.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

You mean you don't know? I'm talking about part of the Canadian delegation. You had the Canadian Shooting Sports Association in past delegations. Do you know if they are going to be there again, or if other organizations are going to be part of the Canadian delegation?

4:10 p.m.

Deputy Director, Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Habib Massoud

We haven't yet received the minister's decision on who will be in the delegation. I hope we'll be hearing from the minister soon.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Hélène Laverdière NDP Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Okay. Thank you.

Finally, I have to say that we welcome the decision to move back from asking for an exemption for hunting and sporting firearms, because we heard from a number of people about how this would create a problem, particularly with other countries and particularly because there is not even a definition of a hunting or sporting firearm.

Do you expect that the language you want to put in the preamble now won't necessitate the same type of reaction, and will be admitted easily by other countries?

4:10 p.m.

Deputy Director, Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Division, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Habib Massoud

Our goal has never changed. Our goal has always been to protect responsible, law-abiding firearms owners from any impact from ATT. We're simply trying to find the best approach to doing so.

We've changed the approach from trying to define a specific class of weapons to defining a specific class of people. Therefore, the wording we are presenting would indicate that the target of this treaty is criminals, terrorists, human rights violators, and those under security council sanctions. Those who are not to be targeted are legitimate, responsible private firearms owners such as hunters and sports shooters.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Thank you very much.

That's all the time we have. I'm going to ask that we suspend our meeting for five minutes.

To our witnesses, thank you very much for taking the time to be here. We'll get our witnesses changed out and we'll come right back with our second round.

Thank you very much.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Thank you.

I want to welcome our guests here as we look at the second hour of our hearings today.

From the Control Arms Coalition, we have Lina Holguin, member, policy director from Oxfam Canada; Kenneth Epps, member, senior program officer from Project Ploughshares; Mark Fried, member, policy coordinator from Oxfam Canada; and Hilary Homes, member, campaigner for international justice, security, and human rights at Amnesty International.

From the Canadian Shooting Sports Association, we have Steve Torino, president, along with Tony Bernardo, executive director.

As well, as an individual, we have Solomon Friedman, lawyer.

Welcome to you all.

I believe you have a well-coordinated strategy in terms of how you will deliver your message. I'd like to see this. This is going to be good.

Mark Fried, you're going to start off, sir, and you're going to pass it over to Hilary Homes. From there it's going to go to Lina Holguin, and then Kenneth Epps will finish.

Mr. Fried, we'll start with you, sir.

4:20 p.m.

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

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Bonjour, tout le monde.

On behalf of the Canadian members of the Control Arms Coalition, first let me thank you for taking up this issue and for inviting us to appear as witnesses today.

Oxfam works in 95 countries around the world. We've seen over the decades, particularly in the last 20 years, a marked increase in the number and the severity of armed conflicts and incidents of criminal violence. Disputes that might once have been resolved with fists or sticks are now fought with automatic rifles, bazookas, and grenades. This is feeding a death toll that now stands at about 2,000 people every day dying from armed violence.

We find it outrageous that countries continue selling weapons and ammunition to known human rights abusers, sometimes in violation of UN embargoes, or to countries where corruption and incompetence allow weapons to fall into the hands of terrorists and criminals.

We can do something to rein in this tragedy. With the arms trade treaty we have the opportunity to bring the world up to Canada's high standards for export controls of weapons. We can do so, as was said earlier, in a way that protects the rights of lawful gun owners.

I hope this is an issue that all parties can get behind. A robust arms trade treaty would cover all weapons, ammunition, and components. It would require governments to make a judgment call as to whether a shipment of weapons would likely lead to violations of human rights law or international humanitarian law, or would increase corruption or poverty. If the answer is yes, that shipment should not go forward.

I appreciate your interest in the details and look forward to answering your questions, but let's not lose sight of the big picture. It took over a decade of lobbying by Nobel peace laureates and by our organizations before the United Nations began these negotiations in 2009. We're now in the final stages.

Canada has been a quiet but steady supporter of the arms trade treaty. Some countries will try to water it down or tie it up in endless debate. We need Canada to be a vocal champion of the arms trade treaty.

My colleagues will answer the details. I look forward to your questions.

June 11th, 2012 / 4:25 p.m.

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

Thanks, Mark.

I'm going to speak briefly on why we need an arms trade treaty and provide a contemporary example of a situation that we hope will be addressed by an effective arms trade treaty.

What exists now in terms of regulating conventional arms is a patchwork of national, regional, and international rules and principles involving few common standards or obligations. There are significant gaps through which too many weapons simply end up in the wrong hands.

States are playing by different rules. Some states like Canada have comparatively tight export controls; others have practically none. Some states abide by arms embargoes, while others seek to get around them for political reasons or simply greed. Some states blatantly back one side in a conflict and sell arms accordingly, regardless of how they will be used.

An arms trade treaty should embrace one simple idea: if there is a substantial risk that arms exported to another country will contribute to serious human rights abuses, those arms transfers must be stopped. We need only look to Syria for evidence of how badly the current system can fail.

Despite an ongoing and serious human rights crisis in Syria over the past year, in which thousands have been killed, arrested, tortured, and many more have fled over the borders looking for safety, the UN Security Council has been unable to impose an arms embargo. Some governments, including Canada, took independent measures to impose sanctions and prohibit arms transfers. Canada's response was in fact very robust, including some seven rounds of sanctions.

For others, however, notably Russia—Russia is, of course, one of the permanent five Security Council members—it remained business as usual. The prevailing attitude can be found in the words of the general director of the Russian state-owned arms manufacturer, Rosoboronexport:

As long as no sanctions have been declared yet and as long as there have been no instructions and directives from the government, we are obliged to comply with our contractual obligations, which we are doing now.

However, you'll notice in that quote it says “as long as no sanctions have been declared”.

Russia has played a central role in preventing a wide range of sanctions. It has exercised two vetoes to block UN Security Council resolutions. Russia also voted against a recent UN Human Rights Council resolution condemning the killing of some 108 people, including 50 children, in Houla. Despite being Syria's main weapons supplier, Russian President Putin said on June 1, right after the Human Rights Council vote that “Russia does not provide weapons that could be used in a civil conflict.” No information, however, was offered to substantiate that claim.

There are many other cases, many other clear cases, where populations suffer from irresponsible arms transfers, including, notably, Sudan. I would welcome further discussion of these following our presentation.

I'll turn it over to Lina.

4:25 p.m.

Lina Holguin Policy Director, Oxfam-Québec, and Member, Control Arms Coalition

Thank you very much for having us here today.

Oxfam-Québec and the members of the Control Arms Coalition think that the UN Diplomatic Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty, in July 2012, represents an unprecedented opportunity to greatly reduce the human cost associated with the irresponsible transfer of arms.

An effective ATT must cover the import, export and transit of all types of conventional weapons, their ammunition and related equipment. It must be legally binding and stop the transfer of arms that could be used to violate international human rights and humanitarian law. We are pleased that Canada supports these criteria.

However, the ATT must also prevent arms transfers by states when there is a substantial risk of undermining sustainable development. Unfortunately, Canada no longer supports the inclusion of a socio-economic development criterion in the treaty's parameters. Many civil society organizations, including Oxfam, and states, including the UK, believe that this criterion must absolutely appear in the treaty, since armed violence constitutes a direct obstacle to development. For instance, it has been shown that armed conflicts cost Africa $18 billion each year. I could also share with you other statistics that are in a new report that we are going to publish this week.

We believe that an arms trade treaty will help create the necessary conditions for true economic and social development, while also controlling the flow of arms that have precisely impeded this development in the past. I am speaking to you as a representative of Oxfam-Québec, but also as a Colombian. I grew up in Colombia, and I know what I am talking about when I say that the resources have been used for war and not for development.

Our position is clear: a weak treaty would be worse than no treaty at all. A weak treaty would simply legitimize the existing system, which is deficient.

Thank you.

4:30 p.m.

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

We know that treaty negotiations next month will be challenging. All key elements of the treaty are contested, even its scope. For example, from their recent experience, many states in Latin America and Africa insist that small arms and light weapons must be in the treaty. Yet some states, including China in particular, want small arms omitted from the scope.

Similarly, the majority of states recognize that transfer authorization criteria should be based on international commitments. Some, particularly the U.S., argue that these criteria should be taken into account during transfer authorizations but that states should not be held to a “states shall not” wording in the text. The problem, of course, is that some states will interpret “take into account” as “choose to ignore”.

Two challenges stand out for treaty negotiations. First, the closest document to a draft text is a paper prepared by the chair of the ATT process at the UN, Ambassador Moritán of Argentina. It has wide support and includes all the fundamentals of a strong treaty, but the paper has formal approval only as a background document. The second and perhaps greatest challenge is that the final treaty text must be approved by consensus. This was a condition required for the U.S. to join the ATT process, and it may well become the greatest impediment to effective negotiations.

Nevertheless, we believe Canada can play a significant and supportive role to assist negotiations towards a robust and comprehensive ATT. Canada was an early advocate, co-sponsoring resolutions on the ATT at the UN General Assembly. Canada's national record on export authorization, including its case-by-case assessment of arms export requests and its use of human rights and conflict criteria suggest that Canada can bring substance and comparatively high standards to the negotiation table. A Canadian proposal for preamble language, as we heard earlier, to acknowledge the legitimate use and transfer of firearms for recreational purposes helps to clarify that the ATT is not intended to affect domestic firearms regulation.

In our view, however, Canada should also, first, demonstrate high-level support for an effective treaty via a public statement by the Prime Minister and participation by Foreign Minister Baird in the opening ministerial segment of the diplomatic conference. Second, Canada should return to its earlier support for a strong treaty criterion on sustainable development. And third, Canada should consider including other stakeholders in the conference national delegation, such as parliamentarians and representatives of the broad range of civil society groups that have worked for a robust treaty.

In addition, we call on Canadian parliamentarians to sign the global parliamentarian declaration advocating a strong and effective ATT. To date, the document has been signed by over 80 Canadian MPs and senators from all official parties.

To conclude, civil society groups like ours across the globe are convinced the arms trade treaty is an unprecedented opportunity to reduce the human cost associated with inadequate controls on arms transfers. It can make important contributions to improved safety and security for the countless communities affected by conflict and armed violence. It is an opportunity that Canada and other UN member states should seize.

Thank you for your attention.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Thank you all very much.

We're now going to move over to Mr. Torino, who I believe has some opening remarks, and then Mr. Bernardo is going to finish off the intervention.