Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to an export control system that is rigorous, transparent, and predictable. We believe that regulating the international arms trade is essential for the protection of people and human rights. I am proud to live in a Canada that already has, by international standards, an export control regime that stringently promotes transparency and protects human rights through an assessment process.
Our existing system of export controls already meets or exceeds all but two of the 28 articles in the Arms Trade Treaty. Through this legislation, both to enhance transparency and to fully comply with the treaty, legislative amendments are being proposed to the Export and Import Permits Act and to one section of the Criminal Code.
In my view, Bill C-47 is not merely about formalizing existing practices and making policy tweaks. Rather, acceding to the Arms Trade Treaty is of normative value to Canada. It makes a statement to the world.
During the election campaign, we promised Canadians we would re-engage with the world and contribute to development, mediation, conflict prevention, and post-conflict reconstruction efforts. In the words of our foreign minister, “Peace and prosperity are every person's birthright.” Unregulated arms transfers hinder social and economic development. They intensify regional instability and prolong conflict, and ultimately, they contribute to violations of international humanitarian law and to human rights abuses.
We are once again aligning ourselves with our closest partners and allies in NATO and the G7. We are advancing Canada's engagement in the responsible trade of conventional arms in a manner that reflects our broader international security and development policies. The global Arms Trade Treaty aligns perfectly with Canada's broader international development policies.
The ATT is feminist. It is a vital component of international efforts to reduce gender-based violence, and it supports Canada's international efforts with respect to global health. The Arms Trade Treaty will reduce the risk that the trade of arms at the international level will be used to commit genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
Nations that are party to the treaty will be required to establish import and export controls on a variety of weapons, including tanks, missiles, small arms, and light weapons, something Canada already has in place. This will keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists and those who seek to do harm to Canada and its allies.
This treaty specifically recognizes the right to use conventional arms for cultural or recreational use and the rights of states to trade in conventional arms for political, commercial, or security purposes. We are the only member of NATO, and the only one of the G7 countries, that has not signed or ratified the ATT. We cannot and will not fail to act.
Given my background as a pharmacist, I am going to examine this treaty through a slightly different lens than many of my colleagues. The International Committee of the Red Cross, the World Health Organization, and other public health institutions and NGOs have all prioritized the global Arms Trade Treaty as a public health imperative. While health-focused groups may not be what first come to mind when we think of stakeholders focused on global arms, a poorly regulated arms trade fuels conflict, which in turn has devastating effects on global health.
Reducing the poorly regulated control of arms contributes to the prevention of the misuse of arms, reducing deaths and injuries as a result. Moreover, improving arms control allows for states to redirect resources currently spent on arms management, security, and defence toward the development of social services and public infrastructure. Not only will the ATT reduce the direct consequences associated with the illicit arms trade, it will help with a wide variety of secondary challenges associated with the spread of illegal arms.
Conflict spawns a myriad of other problems: health challenges, not just from injuries sustained in combat but from diseases that spring up from the unsanitary conditions that arise in war zones, diseases like cholera, dysentery, and malaria; gender-based violence and rape, which so often become used as weapons of war; and the displacement and destruction of entire communities that are forced to flee for their lives. Children are pulled out of school, losing out on their best chance to get an education. In times of war, children miss their opportunity to break the cycle of poverty. They are robbed of the chance to create a better future for themselves and their communities. These are the issues we are trying to address with this treaty.
I am not naive enough to think that one treaty will magically solve all these problems, but we have an obligation to use every opportunity to take every chance we have to take concrete and meaningful action towards tackling these issues.
Let me remind everyone that this year is the 20th anniversary of the Ottawa Treaty, a landmark international agreement to reduce some of the most devastating weapons of war, weapons that continue to kill and injure people of all ages each and every year.
I would like to take a brief moment to salute the hard work of groups like MAG and the HALO Trust, which work diligently in the field each and every day to finally rid the world of this scourge.
The ATT represents another giant step in the right direction in combatting the use of weapons for illegal and often evil means. The ATT is transformational. The inclusion of civil society in the drafting of this treaty was directly responsible for the content of the treaty and the specific language contained within it. This is the first international treaty that explicitly acknowledges the "social, economic and humanitarian consequences of the illicit and unregulated trade in conventional arms”. It is also notable that this treaty lists “reducing human suffering” as its primary goal.
Let me provide a concrete example of what can happen when weapon are in the wrong hands. I am paraphrasing a story told to delegates at the United Nations. A boy in the DRC was shot in the face by diamond thieves. He needed to go to Nairobi to receive treatment, and his successful treatment and rehabilitation came to a total cost of about $6,000 U.S. Had he not been shot, that $6,000 could have paid for one year of primary school education for 100 children. It could have provided full immunization for 250 children. It could have provided a family of six with 10 years' worth of staple meals.
Make no mistake, this is what we are talking about when we are discussing the ATT. This is what we are trying hard to prevent. This is not the time for Canada to remain on the sidelines and let others lead. This is exactly the sort of treaty that speaks to the heart of who we are as Canadians as a people, and I am proud to support this bill.