Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, for the invitation to appear today to discuss Canada's export control regime.
As you're aware, the former minister of Foreign Affairs and the directors general of trade and export controls bureau as well as the European affairs bureau at Global Affairs appeared before this committee to address the issue of the suspension of certain export permits to Turkey back in October of last year. As Minister Champagne mentioned during his appearance before the committee last November, the government will take appropriate action should credible evidence be found regarding the misuse of any controlled Canadian goods or technology.
Following allegations about controlled Canadian exports being deployed in the recent conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, a review of the allegations was conducted by Global Affairs Canada in collaboration with the Department of National Defence. The review found that Canadian technology was [Technical difficulty—Editor] in Nagorno-Karabakh and other regional conflicts and that the alleged transfer of Canadian technology to a third party may have been inconsistent with the end-use assurances provided by the Government of Turkey. Therefore, the Minister of Foreign Affairs decided yesterday to cancel the suspended permits and has directed departmental officials to initiate a dialogue with Turkey to build mutual confidence and greater co-operation on export permits to ensure consistency with end-use assurances before any further permits for military goods and technologies are issued.
Canada's export controls policy with respect to Turkey will remain in place. As indicated in Minister Garneau's statement yesterday, Turkey is an important NATO ally, and permit applications related to NATO co-operation programs will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
While the team and I will be happy to answer any questions on the review of export permits to Turkey following my presentation, I'll focus my brief remarks today on describing the process through which we assess applications for export permits, as I understand the committee had requested insight on this topic.
Canada has one of the strongest export control systems in the world, and over the last few years we have taken steps to increase the rigour and transparency of what was already a very robust system. Foremost among these steps was Canada's accession to the UN Arms Trade Treaty back in September 2019, and prior to joining the Arms Trade Treaty, or the ATT, amendments were made to Canada's Export and Import Permits Act to ensure our full compliance with the treaty.
The most significant of these amendments was the creation of a requirement to assess all permit applications for military items against their criteria outlined in the ATT. These criteria require officials to determine the risk that a proposed export can be used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international, humanitarian or human rights law or be used to commit acts of terrorism, transnational organized crime or gender-based violence.
Under the law, the minister of Foreign Affairs must deny export permit applications for military items if, after considering available mitigating measures, he determines that there is a substantial risk that the export would result in any of the negative consequences referred in the ATT criteria.
Canadians rightfully expect that our military and strategic exports will not be used to commit human rights violations abroad, and at the same time we must be cognizant of the importance of the defence industry to the Canadian economy, particularly in a time of such difficult economic hardship. In fact, our non-U.S. exports of military goods alone amounted to approximately $3.7 billion in 2019. Our export controls are not meant to unnecessarily hinder international trade but rather to ensure that controlled items are exported in a manner that is consistent with our values and interests.
I'd just like to discuss very briefly the process through which the department assesses the approximately 6,000 export permit applications [Technical difficulty—Editor]. After the export permit applications are received in our system, our engineers confirm that the items are indeed controlled for export. Thereafter, the export permit applications for military and strategic items are reviewed on a case-by-case basis against the ATT criteria and the substantial risk test. For proposed exports to low-risk destinations such as like-minded allies that are party to the same multilateral export controls regimes as Canada, a permit officer will assess the application through an analysis of the destination country against the ATT criteria. If this assessment identifies no concern, the permit will be issued at the officials level.
For exports to all other destinations, or if concerns are identified for a permit to a low-risk destination, the application is sent for wide-ranging consultations. Consultation partners include geographic, human rights. international security and defence industry experts such as Global Affairs Canada, as well as our missions abroad and also the Department of National Defence and, as necessary, other government departments and agencies.
If no concerns are raised during the consultation process, the application is subject to additional management approvals to validate compliance with the review process. Thereafter, the permit application is provided to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in a weekly report for his review and consideration.
If, however, concerns are raised by consultation partners, the application will be sent to an interdepartmental committee of senior officials for review. If the committee recommends issuing the permit, the application is sent to the minister for his final review and approval. If there is no consensus, or if the committee of experts recommends denial of the permit, the application is submitted to the minister for his final decision.
As you are aware, the minister of foreign affairs also has the power under the act to suspend, amend or cancel any issued permits in light of any evidence that the items exported are being or will be used in a manner that is not aligned with Canada's foreign policy, defence and security interests.
It should also be noted that the introduction of a more rigorous assessment framework has led to delays in the processing of applications. These delays have been noticed by industry, which has been very vocal in expressing its desire for a more transparent, timely and predictable system. We are now considering how we can streamline our assessment process while maintaining the level of rigour that is required under the law and that Canadians have come to expect.
With that, Mr. Chair, I will conclude my remarks. We are happy to take your questions today.