Evidence of meeting #77 for Foreign Affairs and International Development in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was nato.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Ojars Eriks Kalninš  Chairman, Foreign Affairs Committee, Parliament of the Republic of Latvia (Saiema)
Alex Neve  Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada
Peggy Mason  President, Rideau Institute on International Affairs

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Jati Sidhu Liberal Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We had a good conversation last night.

As we all know, CETA came into effect last year with the European Union. We as Canadians are a trading nation. We are trading with Latvia, but it's a very small amount. In 2015, it was 0.17% that came in and 0.16% that went out of Canada. You touched on maple syrup last night, and this morning you touched on Bombardier.

How can we enhance the trade relationship? What's the mindset of your government? Is it closer for you to deal with the European countries because of the freight, or do you have a particular mindset to deal with Canada in the future?

11:50 a.m.

Chairman, Foreign Affairs Committee, Parliament of the Republic of Latvia (Saiema)

Ojars Eriks Kalninš

I think the government is totally committed to expanding trade ties with Canada. The geographic location isn't the only factor. Yes, the European countries are closer, but one of the countries we've expanded trade ties with is China. We're exporting dairy products to China, and also fish. China is looking to expand that trade, so I think distance isn't necessarily the issue. Our companies have to find joint interest.

Canada has a great reputation internationally. I used to deal a lot in nation branding and studied this. Canada always came in number one as one of the most favoured countries in the world in terms of symbolism and just your good reputation. I think for Latvians the idea of Canadian products would be positive. They just need to learn more about them and what they can be.

We're also looking at maybe exports to here. We're very high on IT. We have some very qualified people and we do a lot of electrical parts and machinery. We just have to find the niche areas we can fit in to.

I remember many years ago that a big deal was made over the fact that some Latvian investors bought a Canadian company called Aerodium. If you're not familiar with Aerodium, they were the people who invented the turbines that allow people to do parachuting. They're the wind turbines that raise people up in the air. It was a Canadian inventor who created them.

Some of our engineers worked with him and developed them further, and when the company was ready to sell, they decided to sell to these Latvians. They've been exporting this product to countries throughout the world. I guess some countries use them to train their paratroopers. Others use them in amusement parks. If we can find these niche areas of co-operation, it's definitely a growth area.

I'm not a businessman. I know less about the subject, but I know that at least psychologically, people are really open to it, because Canada has a great reputation.

Also, we can promote tourism more. Flying here—

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Jati Sidhu Liberal Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon, BC

We're open, by the way.

11:55 a.m.

Chairman, Foreign Affairs Committee, Parliament of the Republic of Latvia (Saiema)

Ojars Eriks Kalninš

Yes, and you have mountains, you have skiing, you have a lot of the same kind of climate situations that we have, but I think it's much bigger.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Jati Sidhu Liberal Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon, BC

To take it back to trade, In Canada we have the best agricultural products and agricultural practices. That's known around the world. That's something to look at. We have the best beef, the best grains.

You mentioned that you have enough wood in your country. Another thing we have in our country is softwood lumber. Since America is playing a little funny, it gives us the opportunity to go to other parts of the world. We're very open when it comes to trade.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Nault

Thank you, Mr. Sidhu. We're going to have to wrap this up.

I want to thank Mr. Kalninš for his presentation and his answers to the good questions from our colleagues. As you can tell, our relationship with Latvia is very strong, and there's a lot more work to be done. We're looking forward to more encounters like this, both abroad and here in Canada. On behalf of the committee, I give you our thanks.

Colleagues, we're going to take a five-minute break. That will give us a chance to do what we always want to do, which is get our picture taken with foreign dignitaries. Then we'll go to the next hour and presentations on Bill C-47.

Thank you very much, Mr. Kalninš.

11:55 a.m.

Chairman, Foreign Affairs Committee, Parliament of the Republic of Latvia (Saiema)

Ojars Eriks Kalninš

Merci, and thank you.

Noon

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Nault

Colleagues, I want to bring this meeting back to order. This is pursuant to the order of reference of Tuesday, October 3, 2017, 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).

This afternoon, we have from the Rideau Institute on International Affairs, Peggy Mason, president, and from Amnesty International Canada, Alex Neve, secretary general.

We welcome both of you. As usual, we'll allow you to make a presentation, and then we'll go straight to questions.

Alex, the floor is yours.

October 31st, 2017 / noon

Alex Neve Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada

Thank you so much, Mr. Chair.

Good afternoon, members of the committee.

Two years ago I was on the ground in the isolated Sudanese state of South Kordofan, where civilians have been cut off from the world since 2011 while the Sudanese Armed Forces carry out an unrelenting campaign of aerial bombardment, rolling unguided barrel bombs indiscriminately out of the backs of Antonov aircraft, killing and maiming thousands of civilians, forcing hundreds of thousands to flee their homes, and provoking a terrible food crisis, as farmers have been too terrified to plant or harvest their crops.

One elderly woman, describing to me a terrible attack that had killed several members of her family, asked me a simple, heartbreaking, glaringly obvious question, to which, sadly, there was absolutely no reassuring, obvious answer: “Who keeps giving them the bombs, and why?”

That is why we are here today, of course. Amnesty International welcomes this opportunity to appear as part of your deliberations regarding Bill C-47, intended to lay the ground for Canadian accession to the UN Arms Trade Treaty.

Let me state at the outset—I'm sure it's obvious, but it's worth repeating—that Amnesty International is a strong proponent and supporter of Canadian accession to the Arms Trade Treaty, a welcome promise, we note, that Canada repeated before the UN General Assembly's first committee just 10 days ago.

For decades Amnesty International has been documenting massive human rights violations around the world associated with the arms trade, which we have often called the world's most deadly commerce. That is why we and countless other organizations campaigned for years for the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty: to establish a vital global principle that no state can be permitted to transfer to another state arms that will be used to commit genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes.

We enthusiastically welcomed the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty in 2013 and have pressed governments since then to ratify and accede to this important new international human rights treaty and to adopt laws to fully implement its terms. In four and a half years, 92 states, nearly one-half of the world's nations—and that's pretty fast in UN speed—have become parties to the treaty, including many of our closest allies. Canada's accession matters very much for two key reasons.

First, we have a significant arms industry. I don't think many Canadians realize this. Recent high-profile cases have demonstrated, however, that it includes deals with countries in which concerns about serious human rights violations are very real. Witness the General Dynamics deal to sell 15 billion dollars' worth of light armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia, and the Streit Group's sales of armoured cars to South Sudan, Libya, and Sudan through its operation offshore in the United Arab Emirates.

Second, Canada's accession is crucial in generally shoring up respect for this important treaty. In situations of armed conflict and mass human rights violations around the world, we continue to document a virtual flood of arms from outside the country concerned, Myanmar's Rohingya crisis, Yemen, South Sudan, Iraq, Syria being some of the most obvious contemporary examples. There is no global arms embargo in place for any of those countries, which is absurd and outrageous. It would require a UN Security Council resolution, and we of course all understand the politics of the Security Council in action.

A well-supported ATT with global reach, therefore, is what we truly need. That is why Canada needs to be on board.

Being on board, however, means enacting legislation that fully complies with the ATT's obligations, and we are concerned that Bill C-47 fails to meet the requirements of the ATT in several crucial respects. We have joined with nine other organizations, including the Rideau Institute, in highlighting 10 areas that urgently need to be addressed before Bill C-47 is adopted and Canada moves to accession. I know that either earlier or soon you will have received copies of this joint brief. I would like to highlight two of the areas of concern in the paper.

First, Canadian arms controls do not apply to transfers to the United States. Second, provisions governing the possibility that arms transfers to any country will be diverted to a third country are weak. In many respects, the two points are interrelated, as Canadian transfers to the United States frequently involve parts, which may be incorporated into weapons that are then fully assembled and transferred to another country.

The fact that the United States is exempted is not of passing concern. The U.S. exemption effectively guts Canadian compliance with the ATT. Consider the following: one, over one half of Canadian arms sales are to the United States; two, while the U.S. has signed the ATT under the previous administration, there is no realistic prospect that the U.S. will take the further step of ratifying the treaty at any foreseeable point, and therefore one half of Canadian arms sales go to a country that is not bound by the treaty; and, three, there are very real concerns about U.S. arms transfers.

Here are just two examples from our work. In May, the United States announced 110 billion dollars' worth of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, including $4.6 billion's worth of guided air-to-ground munitions. In the war in Yemen, where we have documented extensive war crimes, 104,000 of those types of bombs have been used routinely by Saudi forces.

Also in May, we released a report highlighting a U.S. Department of Defense audit which revealed that the United States was not able to account for $1 billion's worth of weapons that had been transferred to Iraq and Kuwait, including tens of thousands of assault rifles, hundreds of mortar rounds, and hundreds of Humvee armoured vehicles. We have documented how, in the face of these lax controls and deficient record-keeping, arms manufactured in the United States regularly wind up in the hands of armed groups, paramilitary militias, and even the Islamic State, throughout Iraq.

The fourth reason we need to be concerned about the United States is in simply considering the numbers. In 2015 Canada exported just over $51 million U.S. in parts and components for small arms and light weapons to the United States This is not pocket change. We have no way of knowing what happened to those parts. Did they remain in U.S. hands or were they re-exported in fully assembled weapons to some other country?

This is a very real concern with arms transfers anywhere in the world, and it's why there's a specific provision in the ATT—article 11—requiring states to take measures to prevent what's known as diversion. Canadian law requires that the possibility of unauthorized transfer or diversion to another country be considered, but does not contain any clear prohibitions, and Bill C-47 does not remedy that shortcoming.

In short, Amnesty International urges this committee to propose amendments that will ensure Canadian arms controls do apply to sales and transfers to the United States, and that Bill C-47 incorporate measures that will fully comply with ATT article 10 dealing with diversion. We also urge amendments to address other concerns highlighted in our joint briefing paper, including the need to ensure Bill C-47 will apply to the Department of National Defence and to the Canadian Commercial Corporation, and that existing provisions giving cabinet broad powers to authorize any arms transfer, regardless of human rights concerns, be strictly limited.

Finally, you will note that many of our concerns relate to vital matters going to the heart of our ability to meet ATT obligations, but which are not addressed in the terms of Bill C-47 and are left for regulations to be adopted at a later stage. That includes the absolutely central matter of what factors will be taken into account when assessing the risk that a particular arms transfer may violate the ATT. Those factors, we would suggest to you, are too important to be left to regulation. They require and deserve your attention and scrutiny as parliamentarians and should be part of the act itself.

Who keeps giving them the bombs?

Canadian accession to the ATT is a step we look forward to celebrating at an early date. It will be welcomed around the world. It must, however, be on the basis of a legal framework that demonstrates full compliance with ATT obligations. We are certainly ready to work with you and with government officials to make the changes that will ensure that is the case.

Thank you very much.

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Nault

Thank you, Mr. Neve.

Ms. Mason, please.

12:10 p.m.

Peggy Mason President, Rideau Institute on International Affairs

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to address the committee on this most important legislation.

I fully support the comments just made by Alex Neve and will pick up from where he left off.

My work toward achieving robust Canadian and international standards for the export of military equipment started with my time as an international security policy adviser on the staff of then foreign affairs minister Joe Clark when he was shepherding through cabinet new guidelines for Canada's military exports, which became known as the “1986 policy guidelines”. They are still in effect today and can be found in the regulations to the Export and Import Permits Act—which I'll call EIPA from now on to save time—conveniently collated in the “Export Controls Handbook”.

Let me quote the human rights criteria in those guidelines:

Under present policy guidelines set out by Cabinet in 1986, Canada closely controls the export of military items to: ...countries whose governments have a persistent record of serious violations of the human rights of their citizens, unless it can be demonstrated that there is no reasonable risk that the goods might be used against the civilian population.

We had high hopes when the 1986 guidelines were established that Canada would set a global standard for responsible arms exports. Beginning in the 1990s, however, the human rights guideline became more honoured in the breach than in its observation, with more and more military equipment going to Saudi Arabia, precisely the destination the 1986 guidelines were meant to avoid. So what went wrong?

The answer is very simple and equally easy to fix. The 1986 guidelines, like other criteria in the EIPA itself, are not mandatory, but are, as the name implies, guidelines. This became painfully clear when the Federal Court considered a challenge to the $15-billion Saudi arms deal launched by McGill law professor and former MP Daniel Turp.

Before turning to that court decision, we need to consider, in addition to the policy guidelines—because they're of course not the only criteria, and they're contained in the regulations—the relevant section of EIPA itself, since Bill C-47 leaves this section almost entirely unchanged. Subsection 7(1.01) of the EIPA identifies the factors to be taken into account by the minister in deciding to issue an export permit, in addition to the guidelines I mentioned. I quote:

In deciding whether to issue a permit under subsection (1), the Minister may, in addition to any other matter that the Minister may consider,

—like the policy guidelines—

have regard to whether the goods or technology...may be used for a purpose prejudicial to...the safety or interests of the State...or...peace, security or stability in any region of the world or within any country.

The relevant language there is “may have regard to”. The language used in subsection 7(1.01) is extremely permissive, and there are no legal limits placed on the foreign minister's discretion to approve arms exports.

Now, turning to the Federal Court decision on the legality of the Saudi arms deal, in approving the six export permits in April 2016, Minister Dion, then the foreign affairs minister, relied on a memorandum prepared by officials in Global Affairs.

The memorandum acknowledged serious concerns about Saudi Arabia's human rights record; however, the memorandum affirmed that Global Affairs Canada was “not aware of any reports linking violations of civil or political rights in the kingdom with the proposed military exports.” I hasten to add that, since that statement and that ruling, which is now being appealed, ample evidence of such misuse with Canadian equipment has come forward.

The government argued that the EIPA includes guidelines and policies that “provide for strict controls over the export of goods such as [light armoured vehicles], but contain no prohibitions.” The minister's “sole obligation” is “to take into account all the relevant factors having regard to the existing legislative framework...”.

The court ruled in favour of the government—as I noted, it's under appeal now—declaring:

These factors guide the Minister. It is for him to decide how to assess them and how much weight to give to each, as long as he exercises his power in accordance with the object and in the spirit of the EIPA....

The court observed that even a “plain reading of the language chosen in the EIPA”—language not being changed by Bill C-47—“indicates that the Minister has broad discretion in issuing permits for controlled goods.”

The ruling of the court concluded:

The role of the Court is not to pass moral judgment on the Minister's decision to issue the export permits but only to make sure of the legality of such a decision. Of course, his broad discretion would have allowed him to deny the permits.

The Federal Court's judgment that the minister acted within his discretion demonstrates that the discretionary power under the EIPA is too broad and that there is a need for hard legal limits on that power. This conclusion is highly relevant in the context of Canada's planned accession to the ATT, since both the EIPA, as it now stands, and the Saudi arms deal are inconsistent with that treaty.

Let me now turn to article 7 of the Arms Trade Treaty, which reads:

If the export is not prohibited under Article 6,

—and Alex Neve has already referenced that provision that prohibits exports if you have knowledge that they're going to be used to commit genocide or other war crimes—

each exporting State Party, prior to authorization of the export of conventional arms

—or components—

...shall, in an objective and non-discriminatory manner, taking into account relative factors...assess the potential that the conventional arms...would contribute to or undermine peace and security...[or] could be used to...commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian...[or] human rights law....

Here's the relevant part of the Arms Trade Treaty:

If, after conducting this assessment and considering available mitigating measures, the exporting...Party determines that there is an overriding risk of any of the negative consequences

—undermining peace and security or committing or facilitating serious violations of human rights—

the exporting...Party shall not authorize the export.

The words “shall not authorize the export” in article 7(3) of the Arms Trade Treaty must therefore be given their full and intended effect. This requires hard legal limits on the discretion of the minister of foreign affairs, limits that we left out of the original policy guidelines and limits that are absent from Bill C-47.

Again, with the Federal Court having ruled that it is currently within the discretionary power of the minister of foreign affairs to approve arms exports to countries that are undermining international peace and security or engaging in serious violations of international human rights or international or international humanitarian law, a key step in bringing Canada into line with the ATT involves placing hard limits on this discretion. If Canada is to comply with this treaty fully and truly set a global standard, the minister must be legally obligated under Canada's implementing legislation to deny exports that carry an “overriding risk” of contributing to undermining international peace and security or committing or facilitating serious violations of international human rights or international humanitarian law.

Bill C-47 contains no new provisions in the EIPA proper, the actual legislation, to limit ministerial discretion; however, as Alex Neve also alluded to, Bill C-47 proposes to amend the EIPA to “authorize the making of regulations that set out mandatory considerations that the Minister is required to take into account before issuing an export permit...”. Note that the bill does not establish any mandatory considerations; it only authorizes the making of regulations that will include them.

Even the idea of mandatory considerations at the regulatory stage, however, is misleading, since the considerations will not actually be mandatory or prohibitive, but only “mandatory...to take into account”, which is what we have right now in the EIPA and which the Federal Court has ruled does not fetter the minister's discretion in any way. This amendment does not result, therefore, in any change in the scope of the minister's discretion.

The absence of any real substance to these mandatory considerations “to take into account” renders Bill C-47 incompatible with the Arms Trade Treaty. Under article 7 of the treaty, Canada will be obligated to “assess the potential that the conventional arms...could be used to...commit...a serious violation of international human rights” and if there is an “overriding risk of any of the negative consequences”, it “shall not authorize the export”. That's the requirement under the ATT.

The legal obligation under the ATT goes far beyond the consideration of certain factors. It is an obligation to refuse permits in certain high-risk circumstances.

By leaving the decision to approve or disapprove a permit to the minister's discretion as opposed to creating hard legal limits on that discretion, Bill C-47 is, in terms of ATT implementation, a failure.

I end with a point of comparison with respect to a model law which the Government of New Zealand developed and enacted. I end with this one section, subsection 5(3) of the model ATT implementation law. It reads in part:

If on the basis of the assessment conducted under subsection (2) the Authority

—because it need not be the minister in some cases—

determines that there is a substantial risk that the conventional arms, ammunition, or parts and components: (a) would undermine peace and security; or (b) could be used to commit or facilitate: i. a serious violation of international humanitarian law; ii. a serious violation of international human rights law;... and the risk cannot be mitigated, the Authority shall refuse the application for an export licence.

The key language here is “shall refuse”, firm and binding language of the kind that is strikingly and fatally missing from Bill C-47. I associate myself with the comments that Alex Neve made about how anything to do with mandatory consideration of factors should not be in the regulations because it deprives you, the committee and other parliamentarians, from knowing and impacting on the content of those regulations.

Accordingly, the Rideau Institute recommends that hard legal limits, based on the risk assessment criteria set out in article 7 of the ATT, be imposed on the foreign affairs minister's discretionary power to approve arms exports, and that these hard legal limits be set out in a statute and not in regulations.

Thank you very much.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Nault

Thank you, Ms. Mason.

We're going to go straight to questions.

Mr. Aboultaif, and then I think it's Mr. Levitt.

12:25 p.m.

An hon. member

No, it would be [Inaudible--Editor]

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Nault

Okay, well let's just start with Mr. Aboultaif and then we'll sort it out, because that's not what it says here.

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ziad Aboultaif Conservative Edmonton Manning, AB

Good afternoon, and thanks for appearing before the committee.

I hear that we have a 1986 policy guideline under the Joe Clark government. We have the current regime, and I am led to believe that our current regime about export and import control is quite ahead of the game on many fronts: regulations and control, and keeping things in place. Then, we have Bill C-47 and we have the ATT. My understanding from Mr. Neve is that there are 10 areas where Bill C-47 falls short in order to comply with, or at least to achieve, the satisfactory level in terms of arms control.

The whole conversation is on the effectiveness of the ATT, specifically where three out of the six major exporters of arms are not part of it. I mean, we can have all the regulations in the world, and it's nice to have the regulations, but if the main players are not in, you can say maybe 70% or 80% of the arms traded in the world are out of control.

Could you please comment on that?

12:25 p.m.

Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada

Alex Neve

That's a very good question.

As much as we wish that the arms trade treaty would have been adopted in April 2013 and that the entire world would have been on board within a few months after that, we recognize that in any area of international law, and certainly with areas affecting international human rights, that's never the case. It's always a long-term evolutionary process. We need to continue to work towards what would be the ultimate goal with any international human rights treaty, which is eventual universal support for the treaty.

You're quite right to highlight that there are some very key players who are not on board at this time and are certainly not sending any signals of an intention to be on board in the near future. I think there are three responses to that.

Number one, the rest of the world still matters. Even if we don't have those states on board, even if the treaty will only effectively be applicable to 40% of the world's arms trade, that's 40% which in 2012 didn't have any kind of international governance and was contributing to serious, grave human rights violations.

Number two, we continue, as campaigning organizations, for instance, and, I would assume as governments that are concerned about the global arms trade, to put pressure on the recalcitrant governments that aren't enthusiastically embracing the arms trade treaty at the starting point, so that we bit by bit build towards that sense of wider and wider support.

Number three, I think it's important to recognize that it's only by continued momentum that we build the pressure to hopefully eventually reach a point where we only have three or four key governments that are the outliers on this and, by that point, that the pressure on them to get on board becomes almost impossible to resist.

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ziad Aboultaif Conservative Edmonton Manning, AB

I would like Ms. Mason to comment on the same question.

12:30 p.m.

President, Rideau Institute on International Affairs

Peggy Mason

I'll pick up on the comment about it being a process of building momentum. I would just refer to the land mines treaty as a very good example. The main producers of land mines, the United States among them, were outside the treaty, but eventually they saw the wisdom of it. They saw the momentum and they are acting in accordance with that treaty. Canada has always been dedicated to strengthening international law. The first step has to be to set the example ourselves, and then to work with others to bring as many as possible into the regime.

I just want to make one quick little comment. Perhaps I misunderstood your opening comment, but I just want to note that the 1986 guidelines aren't ancient history. They are in the regulations. They are part of the current regime, in fact the only part of the current regime that actually has human rights criteria.

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ziad Aboultaif Conservative Edmonton Manning, AB

I'd be very interested to hear a comparison between the current regime and Bill C-47. It seems, if I understood correctly, that in your opinion Bill C-47 is a step back, not a step forward. Is that correct?

12:30 p.m.

Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada

Alex Neve

I don't think we would say it's a step back, but we would say that in the critical aspects where we need strengthening, it is not a step forward. The U.S. is already exempted. The U.S. will remain exempted. Our provisions to guard against diversions from one state to another are weak now. They will continue to be weak.

There is some potential that once the regulations are adopted, perhaps some of those regulations will be stronger than the existing regulations we have now, but you don't know that. You have no way of assessing that yourselves. There won't an open parliamentary process in which citizens can actively engage around the fundamental concerns that Ms. Mason has highlighted, this notion that right now we have a process that just keeps these as discretionary factors to be taken into account. That's not good enough, in our view. Obviously, we would work towards those regulations being as strong as they possibly could be, but we fundamentally are of the view that they need to be in legislation.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bob Nault

Thank you.

Ms. Vandenbeld, please.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Thank you very much.

I'd like to thank both of you for your advocacy over the years on Canada acceding to the Arms Trade Treaty. I had an experience in DRC that was similar to what Mr. Neve described. Women there who had been violated at gunpoint were saying to me that Congo doesn't manufacture weapons, so every gun that was used against them came from somewhere else. I am very pleased that we are now putting forth the legislation that will allow Canada to accede to the treaty.

I'd like to address a couple of the issues you mentioned. I saw the letter that was written by civil society organizations to the committee. Last week our committee actually had the opportunity to be in Washington at the Department of State, and because of those concerns I wanted to ask those questions, to raise them. We met with the office of defence trade control policy and the office of regional security and arms transfers in the Department of State.

When I put to them the questions about the diversion, they outlined the very comprehensive blue lantern program they have, which is about end-user controls. They told us that the brokering controls they have are actually put in place with the anticipation that it will be compatible with a future signing of the ATT. In fact they're working with Global Affairs Canada to revise their brokering controls and make sure it's improved within the next 18 months so that it's compatible. In some areas they in fact go beyond; in mergers, acquisitions, and sales of foreign companies they're even ahead of us. When I specifically asked them about the fears that civil society has, they said that their controls in many ways are even stricter than most countries', including what they call “see-through” rules, which are the dual-use technologies that are meant for civilian purposes and that then get used for military purposes.

I guess, having heard that, I myself am more convinced. I think it would probably be, in the end, more useful, rather than talking about exemptions, to work with the Americans and make sure that we are constantly improving and working together to make sure that this kind of diversion doesn't happen.

Would you comment on that?

12:35 p.m.

Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada

Alex Neve

I think we would simply say that, from a human rights research perspective, sadly the U.S. record speaks for itself.

Those are commendable things that you heard in your briefing, but I also shared with you recent research that we've carried out that documents flagrant disregard for crucial standards regarding international human rights and international humanitarian law.

We have documented the fact that weapons from the United States are being used by Saudi forces to commit war crimes in Yemen, for instance. It was the U.S. Department of Defense's own audit, which we then dug into in greater detail, that revealed these recent concerns. A full $1 billion's worth of weapons transferred to Iraq and Kuwait, a very volatile part of the world—Iraq most obviously an area where there is a multiplicity of parties responsible for grave human rights violations and abuses—cannot be accounted for. That's $1 billion's worth of weapons.

Provisions that may be in place are certainly not delivering the goods when it comes to guaranteeing to the international community—but in our particular context, Canada, an actual arms trade partner with the United States—that it won't lead to those kind of violations. That's why we say that more than one-half of our arms transfers cannot be exempted from this legislation and from the scope of the treaty. In many respects—I'll use strong language here—in our view, to exempt one-half of Canada's arms trade from the legislation and application of the treaty makes a mockery of our accession.

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

I think one of the reasons we are signing is so that we can provide the leadership in the world. Working together, in the way that we are, to strengthen...is one of those areas.

I'd like to go to the second point, which is the regulation versus legislation. When we had the government officials here and we heard from the minister, it was very clear that everything in article 7 of the ATT is going to be in the regulations, and in many cases possibly exceed what is in article 7, where currently some of them do.

One of the reasons I like it in regulation is that we're seeing a very, very quick expansion of the kinds of threats that are out there, and also in terms of rights. Gender rights and gender-based violence were not included in many of the multilateral treaties previously, and they are today. When we look at the future, you look at technology, at the possibility of lethal autonomous weapons, and AI and cyberwarfare, by having it in regulation, it allows the government to be more nimble and quick in responding to those kinds of threats, in terms of expanding the regulations.

I also noted when we had the officials here, they said there will be strong consultative process with civil society, and there will be reporting to Parliament.

Could you comment on that, in terms of the regulations themselves and making sure that they're strong?

12:35 p.m.

President, Rideau Institute on International Affairs

Peggy Mason

I'd like to quickly go back to the original question to note that it's not just a matter of the strength of the end-user certificates, and so on, that the U.S. has. It's the fact that they have quite different criteria for determining whether an export should be allowed. A very obvious example is Pakistan. We haven't exported any military equipment directly to Pakistan since they tested nuclear weapons using our technology. However, the United States has no compunction in that regard. Similarly, there was recent export of fighter aircraft to Nigeria where Canada I think wouldn't agree with that.

We're surrendering. We're surrendering our judgment as to where the goods should go if the United States is not part of our implementation of the ATT.

With respect to all of article 7 being in the regulations, that's wonderful, except for the government's own description of those regulations, which is in the summary at the beginning of Bill C-47. It says:

This enactment amends the Export and Import Permits Act to (b) authorize the making of regulations that set out mandatory considerations that the Minister is required to take into account

Presumably they mean the article 7 considerations, except that is not sufficient. Under the ATT they're not just to be taken into account; they shall be applied. That's the problem. The problem is not that they're not going to list all the items in article 7 of the ATT; it's what the minister has to do with them, how his discretion is or is not fettered.

The final point with respect to regulations, because I think a very important point was brought up, is flexibility. Why do we have regulations? We want to be flexible. I would argue that the appropriate procedure would be to have what is required. We know now that the article 7 criteria are required. They're obligatory under the Arms Trade Treaty. Put those in the act, in Bill C-47, but, of course, allow for regulations to update, to refine, in all of the areas that were mentioned. That way, you have the core in the act, and then you have flexibility for adding new items as required.