Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-47. This bill is part of the Liberals' election promise to implement the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, the ATT, which has been debated in the UN, brought forward, and signed by some countries.
It is significant to note that some major countries, Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea, have not signed-on. The United States has not ratified and will not likely ratify this treaty. Like many ineffective international treaties, many key participants in the trade are not part of this treaty.
The Conservatives have always supported efforts to establish international standards that help to prevent illicit transfers that fuel conflict and encourage terrorism or organized crime. In actuality, Canada already has a responsible internal system to monitor, and control the export of military and security equipment that meets or exceeds the UN treaty. In other words, the ATT is actually inferior when compared with what Canada already has in place, and has been implementing effectively since the 1940s.
First, we have the Trade Controls Bureau, a department of our own sovereign government that is empowered to make sure the military equipment sales, issues related to security, cryptological equipment, and nuclear and biological risks are not only governed and tracked but controlled.
The Trade Controls Bureau, here in Ottawa not in New York, has been empowered and serving Canadian parliaments, regardless of which political party is in power, for decades. We already specifically name, from a Canadian point of view, items for export that need to be tracked and controlled under the Export and Import Permits Act, which the Trade Controls Bureau is charged to monitor.
Specifically, military or strategic dual-use goods; that is, some goods that can be used for a military or civilian purpose are specifically tracked. Also tracked are nuclear-energy materials and technology, missile-related technology, chemical and biological goods, cryptological equipment, and code breaking, the latter being so important to national security with the onset of the Internet.
Canada is a world leader in this technology, and our government was sensitive and responsible in controlling and, in many cases, restricting export of these technologies. An area of great concern to Canadians is that the current government has a willingness to see this type of asset sold to China without proper oversight. I have no confidence that Bill C-47 would in any way change the government's turning of a blind eye to the concerns from Canadians in this area.
It is also important to note that our existing system is superior to the UN treaty in the tracking of these goods, equipment and materials, and technologies by the Canada Border Services Agency and by Statistics Canada, using World Customs Organization tracking figures, and not just our own reference points.
We already track and limit the trade in these items far more than what the UN Arms Trade Treaty does. Why would we choose to sign-on to an agreement that is inferior to what we already have in place. Canada is already ahead of the curve and, doing so, leading as a sovereign nation on the world stage. Under the Export and Import Permits Act, through an order in council, Canada can limit sales of anything to another country. Canada can ban a country. As an example, North Korea is currently banned entirely through this area control list. The government already has within its power, without the UN treaty, the ability to limit entirely any sales to another country.
The current government is recording a huge deficit, well beyond its election promise of $10 billion. Yesterday, we learned it has already imposed higher taxes to the tune of $800-plus per year on middle-income earners. It has mandated a carbon tax with a compounded GST component already in some provinces that is adding to those people's taxes, hurting everyone and everything.
It is on a collision course to initiate higher, punitive taxes on small businesses, including agriculture, retail, tourism, manufacturing, small businesses, and young entrepreneurs just starting out as well. That is all to deal with the government's already out-of-control spending.
Canadians are tired, angry, and disillusioned with the current Liberal government's inability to manage its own house. Perhaps it is time to start taking care of things at home, and not try to fix something that not only is not broken but actually meets and exceeds the UN Arms Trade Treaty standards.
Another concern is that article 5 of the ATT seeks to include the Department of National Defence in the military equipment provisions of that treaty, preventing or, in some cases, limiting government-to-government transfers.
DND is government. It is a crown ministry. DND is responsible for its own equipment. Military-to-military aid and training materials are an important component of the mandate of our Armed Forces regarding training and assisting others. This would complicate and encumber that process. It is another bureaucratic challenge they do not need added on to complicate fulfilling their missions.
I want to echo one more concern of a significant cohort of Canadians the current government is ignoring. The UN Arms Trade Treaty must recognize and acknowledge the legitimacy of lawful ownership of firearms by responsible citizens for their personal and recreational use, including sport shooting, hunting, and collecting.
The Canadian Shooting Sports Association made the following statement to the Liberal government in September 2016:
Canada, under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, requested that civilian firearms specifically be removed from the treaty in order to protect the interests of Canada’s lawful firearms community. The UN ignored our nation’s request to respect the interests of Canadians and refused to remove civilian firearms from the language of the treaty. So the Harper government did what was right: it stood up for Canadian sovereignty and Canadian gun owners and refused to sign the treaty...The CSSA calls upon the Hon. Stéphane Dion [then Minister of Foreign Foreign Affairs] and the Trudeau government to re-examine, re-evaluate and to re-think the decision to sign this oppressive treaty.
The government has a responsibility to ensure there is absolute clarity on the legitimacy of lawful trade and ownership of firearms by responsible citizens for their own use within the Arms Trade Treaty before moving forward to ratify it. The government would be wise to heed this challenge.
Liberal members of Parliament who are currently representing law-abiding gun owners must respectfully and genuinely consult with their constituents, and do their best to be heard by their cabinet and their Prime Minister. They must know they have significant numbers of Canadians in their ridings who have expressed legitimate concerns that their lawful and regulated use of firearms for hunting or sport shooting could be impacted. They must be having some degree of apprehensive déjà vu here.
They would be wise to determine which is more important: aspirations for a UN seat, or standing up for the legitimate concerns of Canadians.