Thank you very much for this opportunity to address the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.
The Arms Trade Treaty is an amazing document. It took over 10 years of campaigning and six years of UN processes to come into being. It has the potential to bring the arms trade under control and prevent the devastation wrought every day through arms-fuelled poverty, conflict, and human rights abuses. Throughout the world, both the persistence of cyclical conflicts and high levels of armed violence are hampering development, increasing human rights abuses, and exacerbating poverty.
Before the ATT, there was no global treaty regulating the trade in conventional arms and little to prevent the high number of weapons that end up in the illicit market. The ATT therefore offers an important humanitarian tool for addressing the challenges posed by the poorly regulated flow of weapons to some of the world's least developed areas and to conflict zones.
I am the director of the Control Arms coalition, which brings together hundreds of non-governmental organizations from all regions of the world and from many different fields, including human rights, poverty alleviation, conflict reduction, weapons specialists, health, youth, gender, and survivor networks, parliamentary networks, and legal expertise.
Control Arms provides evidence-based research and analysis, conducts outreach to government supporters and the public, builds capacity and expertise among both governments and civil society, and facilitates policy dialogue. We have an emphasis on support and training in the global south and in monitoring of Arms Trade Treaty implementation.
Canada's absence from the ATT was a strange exception over the last few years, and we are greatly encouraged by the current government's commitment to accede to the treaty in the near future. This presents a tremendous opportunity for a return to the leadership in disarmament and peace issues for which Canada was once renowned, for example, through the leadership which led to the Ottawa convention and subsequent mine ban treaty signed in Ottawa in 1997.
The current process toward accession also presents a great opportunity to modernize Canadian export control legislation toward high standards in transparency and accountability and with a firm basis in international human rights and humanitarian law. We welcome some of the positive considerations in Bill , such as the inclusion of brokering and the extension to extraterritorial controls on brokers. However, we share our Canadian partners' concerns on some of the flaws in the legislation, which I would encourage you to reconsider. The most important and relevant aspects of the ATT I would like to highlight in this regard are as follows.
First, there is the purpose of reducing human suffering. Central in the object and purpose of the ATT in article 1 is the purpose of reducing human suffering. This is the goal that must remain paramount in all efforts to universalize and implement the treaty. This is an instrument specifically designed to reduce the human suffering resulting from armed violence and armed conflict, not only in the direct deaths and injuries caused by weapons but also through trauma, displacement, economic impoverishment, torture, and oppression. Therefore, Canadian legislation must also be oriented toward this goal of reducing human suffering.
Second, there is the aim of the highest possible common standards, which article 1 also calls for, meaning that there should be no exemptions or exceptions. The continued exclusion of exports to the U.S., constituting as they do over 50% of Canadian arms exports, is a significant omission. Canada will be undermining common standards by excluding a major arms importer and exporter that's unlikely to become a states party in the near future. Article 2 additionally emphasizes that the treaty is applicable to all exports covered under the scope, and article 5 calls on states to implement ATT in a consistent, objective, and nondiscriminatory manner. To our knowledge, there is no other country that enables such a specific export destination to be exempted from its legislation in its ratification or accession to the ATT. To do so would be both unusual and undermining to the core principles of the treaty. The very nature of the ATT is that it is global, the first treaty to regulate the trade of conventional weapons, and therefore aims for universal adherence to high common standards.
Third is the importance of absolute prohibitions and risk assessment. The heart of the treaty is in articles 6 and 7, which cover prohibitions and risk assessments. These articles are very clear and unambiguous that a state “shall not” authorize an arms transfer where it has knowledge the arms will be used in war crimes, in violation of international agreements to which it is a party, or where a risk assessment results in overriding risk. Canadian proposed legislation, which will allow the foreign affairs minister to merely take into account such risks, sets a much lower threshold. In our view, this would mean Canada would not be in compliance with the ATT.
Additionally, I would like to encourage you to consider appropriate parliamentary structures that would enhance oversight and transparency. We have found around the world a strong correlation between active parliamentarians in both the speed of ratification and accession and effective treaty implementation. In the U.K., for example, the committee on arms export controls functions as an additional cross-party oversight mechanism, which holds ministers to account and hears evidence from expert stakeholders.
Finally, I would draw your attention to the inclusion in article 7 of specific language on “gender-based violence”, mandating the risks of gender-based violence to also be considered as part of the authorization assessment. This is the first treaty ever to include specific language on GBV and its operative provisions, and I encourage the Canadian government to explore all possible ways to ensure that this groundbreaking aspect of the treaty is implemented.
In conclusion, the two most important flaws in the proposed legislation, which I encourage you to reconsider, are, first, that Bill does not cover arms exports to the U.S. and that this therefore leaves a large percentage of exports that will be excluded from the treaty provisions, and, second, the lack of legal limits on the discretionary power available to the foreign affairs minister.
Control Arms supports the universalization and implementation of the ATT, and we believe that it can have a positive humanitarian and human rights impact. We urge you to seize this opportunity to reposition Canada once again as a leader in disarmament and peace-building and to demonstrate the highest possible standards in bringing the arms trade under control.
Ladies and gentlemen, honourable members, good morning and thank you for inviting me to speak to you today.
I'd like to take the next few minutes to give you the perspective of my industry, the Canadian defence and security industry, on the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty and the importance of raising the bar globally to a unifying standard and reducing weapons proliferation.
CADSI is the national voice of more than 800 Canadian defence and security companies that produce world-class goods, services, and technologies that are made across Canada and sought the world over. Our member companies contribute to the employment of more than 63,000 Canadians across the country, pay wages 60% higher than the average manufacturing wage, and generate $10 billion in annual revenues.
If you refer to the most recent “State of Canada's Defence Industry” report, which is from 2014, you'll notice that our industry's major segments pertaining to revenues include aircraft fabrication, structures, components, and maintenance, repair and overhaul at 31%; combat vehicles and related maintenance, repair and overhaul, and other related defence goods and services at 28%; command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, or C4ISR, including avionics and simulation systems and other electronics at 25%; naval ship fabrication, structures, components, and maintenance, repair and overhaul at 9%; firearms, ammunition, missiles, rockets, and other munitions and weapons at 4%; troop support at 2%; and live personnel and combat training services at 1%.
Our members take pride in delivering defence and security goods, services, and technologies to the Canadian Armed Forces, Coast Guard, and security service providers to keep Canadians safe and secure on a daily basis. The most relevant number to this discussion, however, is that 60% of our sector's revenues come from exports. That means our members' innovative technologies, products, and services are sought out by governments across the globe. The fact that Canadian companies are highly competitive in highly regulated and protected foreign markets suggests our industry is both innovative and productive. In other words, ours is an industry that Canadians should value. We need to recognize that defence exports are essential to maintaining leading-edge industrial capabilities, a skilled and knowledgeable workforce, and an advanced technological base here at home.
Before discussing the UN ATT specifically, I'd like to point out that the existing Canadian export control regime, which our members adhere to on a daily basis, is highly robust and rigorous. The Canadian defence export regime consists of three separate approval processes and sets of regulations: the automatic firearms country control list, the controlled goods program, and the Export and Import Permits Act. It involves multiple federal government departments, including Global Affairs Canada, Public Services and Procurement Canada, National Defence, and Justice Canada. If you haven't had a chance to peruse the depth and breadth of these documents, I actually have them here with me today.
Canada's accession to the UN ATT will further enhance our very strong defence export regime and raise the bar globally for other countries whose defence export control processes are not up to Canada's very high standards. The treaty places additional burdens on countries that export small arms and military equipment, to ensure the weapons are not diverted to third parties or misused by the actual recipients. It will also regulate the practice of brokering, where weapons are exported from one third country to another. This is in part why CADSI called on the government last year to accede to the UN ATT.
In Canada the government sets tough parameters, rules, and regulations on defence exports, and our companies follow them. In terms of the new requirements on defence exports that arise out of Canada acceding to the UN ATT, we only ask that government continue to provide a predictable and timely framework within which businesses can operate. Industry needs a process that allows our companies to fairly pursue market opportunities with the confidence that they are supported by their government.
It's important that the government communicate as early and clearly as possible regarding its comfort with exporting a particular good to a particular country and end-user. Companies do not want to invest significant resources in pursuing potential sales opportunities if the government denies them the permit at the end of the process. The export licence is the final stage in the process, not the first.
In conclusion, CADSI fully supports Canada's acceding to the UN ATT. All of our allies are signatories to this treaty, and Canada should be as well. The Canadians who work for defence and security companies care and are concerned about the world in which they live, and are proud of what they do, make, and sell. They share the same basic values that we all share.
I'd like to thank the committee for providing our industry with an opportunity to appear before you today to share this message, and I welcome any questions you may have.
My name is Thomas Woodley. I'm the president of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East.
I first wish to thank the committee for this kind opportunity to speak to you this morning. It's a privilege, of course, to be here. I look forward to a frank and honest discussion about Canada and its role in the sad realities of the international arms trade today.
CJPME is an organization, my organization, whose mission is to empower Canadians of all backgrounds to promote justice, development, and peace in the Middle East. We have about a dozen activist groups across the country, and we have approximately 125,000 Canadians who have participated in our activities and campaigns over the years. Because of the devastating role that arms have played in the Middle East over the years, my organization has become increasingly involved in attempts to limit the flow of arms to the Middle East.
CJPME was thrilled when the international Arms Trade Treaty was first concretely debated in 2012, then adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2013, and entered into force in 2014. However, despite our excitement at the adoption of the ATT by much of the world community, we were saddened and upset by the Canadian government's reluctance to consider signing the treaty for many of the past several years.
It's important to note that at the same time the ATT was creating greater hope for higher standards and greater transparency in the movement of arms around the world, Canada was negotiating one of its largest arms deals ever with a serial human rights abuser, Saudi Arabia. This arms deal has been in and out of the news over the past two or three years, as you all know, I'm sure, with two successive governments providing shifting justifications for the sale, despite the fact that Saudi Arabia regularly ranks among the worst of the worst of human rights violators.
In fact, a survey of Canadians just two months ago, in September, by Nanos Research for the The Globe and Mail found that 64% of Canadians oppose or somewhat oppose the Canadian government's decision to sell light armoured vehicles to the Saudi government. Despite the fact that it's common sense, as demonstrated by the survey results, that this sale should not have been approved, Canada's existing export controls, as embodied in the Export and Import Permits Act, EIPA, failed to prevent the sale. There is clearly much to say about this sale, but it's obvious that for a strong majority of Canadians, the current EIPA provisions did not properly function to prevent this sale.
We had high hopes that the new government would sign on to the treaty in a way that would address the long-standing shortcomings of Canada's existing arms export controls. Nevertheless, when Bill was introduced, it was immediately clear that many of the fundamental objectives of the ATT were being circumvented through the provisions of the bill, whether through omissions, through exclusions, or through deferral to regulations, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
The committee has already heard from a number of witnesses, and I believe there are important points to make regarding some of the testimony that the committee has already heard. I'll address three points.
The first is the need for a legally binding obligation in Bill on the minister. A witness for the government admitted the following:
Article 7 of the ATT requires each state party to consider a number of specific risks with respect to the items proposed for export, before authorizing the export to take place...The critical element was the need to create a legally binding obligation for the minister to take the ATT assessment considerations into account in deciding whether to issue an export permit.
First, we must be clear that the ATT establishes strict prohibitions on arms exports, depending on an objective risk assessment, and that simply requiring taking considerations into account will not satisfy Canada's obligations under the treaty.
The same witness went on to suggest that the ATT requirement was “most effectively implemented through regulation”. My organization would vigorously disagree with this conclusion. Implementation of this obligation via regulation may be the easiest or most malleable implementation, but it creates a glaring loophole that could lead to high-risk arms sales being approved. In fact, it is precisely this type of loophole that led to the $15-billion Saudi arms deals to be approved under the existing EIPA regulations, against the better judgment of the Canadian public.
As such, my organization agrees with the testimony provided by several other witnesses before this committee which asserted that in order to comply with the ATT fully, Bill must oblige the Minister of Foreign Affairs to deny exports that carry an overriding risk of contributing to undermining international peace and security, or committing or facilitating serious violations of international law.
Our recommendation would be that Bill establish an obligatory minimum threshold for export approval as per the ATT. I posit, for example, that there is no need for flexibility around the question of whether or not Canada should approve an arms sale if the arms in question risk being used in human rights violations. If, according to government witnesses, additional flexibility is required to accommodate evolving threats and new international norms, let additional regulations address this need above and beyond the minimum threshold demanded by the ATT and codified in Bill .
Regarding the need to report arms sales to the U.S. under Bill implementation of the ATT, a witness for the government suggested that accession to the ATT would not require Canada to track and report arms sales to the U.S. Nevertheless, a plain-English reading of the ATT would suggest otherwise. Article 1 of the ATT insists on the highest possible common international standards in the sale of arms, yet Canada's existing arrangement with the U.S. has neither a high standard nor a common standard.
Article 2 of the ATT makes clear that this implementation applies to all arms exports of acceding nations. Exempting Canadian arms exports to the U.S. specifically contradicts this obligation.
Finally, article 5 of the ATT calls for the treaty to be implemented in a consistent, objective, and non-discriminatory manner. A separate, less stringent process for Canadian arms exports to the U.S. clearly is not the consistent standard demanded by the ATT.
The government witness suggested that the ATT does not specify how states parties should organize their export control systems. This may be a fair statement as long as the export systems in question do not violate a nation's obligations under the ATT. However, Canada's arrangement with the U.S. under the defence production sharing agreement clearly does not meet Canada's obligation under the ATT.
For my final point I would suggest that as we consider Bill , we should try to segregate the decision between our ethics and Canadian jobs. I suspect that privately many of the committee members here are as uncomfortable as I am with Canada's $15-billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia. However, because proponents of the deal have positioned it as a choice between questionable risks on the one hand and Canadian jobs on the other, the issue becomes a political hot potato. It is not surprising that elected representatives in successive governments would take the approach they have given that the alternative would be a form of political self-flagellation.
Therefore, I would recommend that Canada's implementation of the ATT include provisions to enable lawmakers to avoid this type of catch-22. Perhaps as a result of the role of the Canadian Commercial Corporation, the Saudi arms deal from the get-go was presented as a trade-off that would jeopardize well-paid Canadian defence jobs in London, Ontario.
Under Canada's accession to the ATT, the ethical issue should be addressed much earlier in the sales process, long before people are calculating the trade-off in Canadian jobs.
Naturally, a legally binding obligation on the minister, as required by the ATT, could help prevent many morally questionable deals from even being considered, but beyond that, CJPME would recommend that lawmakers look at other ways to segregate and front-load the ethical considerations of the deal before the potential economic benefits of the deal are promoted publicly. As mentioned above, there may be implications in terms of the ongoing role attributed to the Canadian Commercial Corporation.
The above discussions highlight some of our top concerns with the pending legislation. CJPME would recommend that if they have not already done so, committee members should be sure to review a document issued by a group of Canadian NGOs, CJPME included, entitled “Bill C-47 and Canadian Accession to the Arms Trade Treaty Civil Society Concerns and Recommendations”.
This document was officially released on October 16 and was the result of deliberations between many of Canada's leading NGOs on this issue, including CJPME. It details a number of items that go beyond the scope of my presentation here today.
I believe Canada has the opportunity to prevent unnecessary misery and suffering around the world as a result of unwise or illicit arms sales. My organization and I exhort this committee to propose the amendments necessary to ensure that Canada's accession to the ATT adheres to both the letter and the spirit of the treaty.
Thank you for your attention. I welcome any comments.
Thank you very much to the three witnesses for being here.
Ms. Cianfarani, I think we really agree on the basics, including the need for a transparent and predictable process.
I have a comment for Ms. Macdonald. On two occasions, either in committee or in the House of Commons, I have recommended that Canada create a committee to examine the issue of arms exports on a recurrent basis. Unfortunately, it has not worked, but I will certainly try a third time and we will keep you informed at that time.
The bill as presented does not include a legal obligation for the to refuse to grant certain export permits. In my opinion, this places the minister, who has to make the decision, in a more difficult position owing to all kinds of domestic and international pressure. On the other hand, if the minister had a legal instrument allowing her to say to certain partners of Canada that, legally, she cannot grant that export permit, I think that would protect her.
What do you think?
My question is for Mr. Woodley and Ms. Mcdonald.
I would like to add that I would very much agree with the question, that it would be better for the minister if there were clear legal limits. I would also like to underline that in our understanding of the treaty, article 6 and article 7 are very clear on this. The language is that the government shall not authorize an arms transfer if the subsequent criteria are not met.
In article 6, if there is knowledge of the use of those weapons for war crimes or violations of international agreements, the government shall not authorize the transfer.
In article 7, if after conducting the risk assessment, it is deemed that there is an overriding risk of the use of those weapons for violations of human rights or humanitarian law or for acts of gender-based violence, the government shall not authorize.
It's a very clear, unambiguous legal obligation, and it's not one that is left to discretion. It's not the case that you consider the risk and then are entitled to make a judgment about whether you shall or shall not; if that risk exists, you shall not authorize.
In our opinion, there should be those legal limits, a clear legal obligation on the minister. Indeed, that is what exists in the other countries that have thus far ratified and acceded to the treaty. If you examine the legislation from European countries, African countries, Latin American countries, and others that have ratified the treaty, you will see that clear legal obligations exist for their ministers. We believe it should be no different for Canada.
I'd like to go to Ms. Macdonald.
In terms of some of the things we've heard, just to clarify, a lot of the Westminster Parliaments, and Mr. Butcher was quite explicit on this with regard to the U.K. and we've heard about New Zealand and Australia, a lot of Westminster democracies put a number of these things into regulation or policy, as opposed to specifically in the language of the bill. One of the things he said to us is, regardless of how a country chooses to do that, whether it's through regulation or legislation, we are legally bound. Once we accede to the treaty, that is a legally binding commitment on Canada. There's actually quite a bit of flexibility in terms of how countries do that.
In terms of the language, I know that in article 7 there are a number of places, for instance in number 1, where it says “taking into account relevant factors”. Number 2 says “shall also consider whether there are measures that could be undertaken”, and then even in the gender-based violence one, it says “shall take into account the risk”.
Given that the language of the treaty itself and the language of the bill are very similar and that the treaty, the part that you cited in paragraph 3, whether the exporting state party “shall not authorize the export”, if it doesn't meet these, Canada will have legally binding legislation we would have to comply with. Is that correct?
Yes, that's correct. You would have to comply with that, and I think article 7 is fairly unambiguous in the language there. When a certain threshold is met, then the transfer shall not be authorized.
There is, as you highlighted, a mechanism there for mitigation, which allows an exporting state or a state granting an export licence to engage in dialogue with an importing state around mitigation which could, in theory, be.... For example, if you were seeking to export to a destination where there were significant human rights concerns, you could engage with that government around measures to reduce those human rights concerns and, perhaps, return to the export in some period after standards might have improved or changed. But yes, I think the language is clear.
I would add, on your previous point around the relationship with the U.S. and the exemptions there, I think that would be contrary to the ATT to allow the continued exclusion of the U.S. from legislation because of the very clear language around highest possible common international standard, because the purpose of this treaty is very much about trying to globalize, universalize, the same standards and decision-making processes for all countries.
I don't think it affects relationships with countries. I think, as my colleague from Oxfam also highlighted, if you look at the EU, there are obviously close relationships between many countries within the EU with regard to trade, and they have slightly lighter touch processes that they therefore have for authorizations, but they are still subject to those processes. They are not excluded from them. There is no exemption from country A to country B in terms of the arms authorizations, so I see no reason why Canada would need to have a continued exemption with the U.S. Indeed, I would believe that would be contrary to the obligations in article 2 and article 5 of the treaty.