Mr. Speaker, our government believes that regulating the international arms trade is essential for the protection of people and human rights. This is especially true for control and regulation that aim to prevent the illicit trade of arms.
The Arms Trade Treaty is about protecting people. It ensures countries effectively regulate the international trade of arms so that they are not used to support terrorism, international organized crime, gender-based violence, human rights abuses, or violations of international humanitarian law. Our government is committed to advancing export controls as a means of reducing the risks that come from the illicit trade in conventional arms. Joining the ATT, which calls on all of its state parties to set up effective export controls, is the next important step in advancing these export controls and reducing these risks.
Joining the Arms Trade Treaty will put Canada back on the same page as its closest partners and allies. Canada is the only NATO ally and the only G7 partner that has not signed or ratified the ATT.
The Arms Trade Treaty was negotiated in response to growing international concern about the direct and indirect consequences of the global arms trade on conflict, human rights, and development.
The goal is to ensure that all states take responsibility and rigorously assess arms exports. States must also regulate the legal arms trade and use transparent measures to combat illicit trade.
We recognize that unregulated or illicit arms transfers intensify and prolong conflict, lead to regional instability, contribute to violations of international humanitarian law and humans rights abuses, and hinder social and economic development.
Indeed, the proliferation of weapons, and particularly of small arms and light weapons, is one of the greatest security challenges faced by the international community. Armed conflicts affect civilians. Women and children are too frequently targeted or are innocent victims.
The consequences of illicit or irresponsible flows of conventional arms also go beyond the immediate threat of death, injury, or violence. Proliferation and illicit weapons trade contribute to a climate of persistent fear and insecurity, which undermines socio-economic growth and stability.
The Arms Trade Treaty has an important role to play in addressing these issues. Canada must be a leader in this effort, and we must lead by example.
The ATT represents the first time that the international community has agreed to a legally binding and global commitment to control exports of conventional arms. It sets a high common standard for export of arms, and seeks to eliminate illicit trade and diversion of conventional arms.
States acceding to the ATT must assess the risk that an export might be used negatively, including for human rights abuses or to contribute to organized crime. This is not always black and white. It requires looking not only at the state as a whole but also at who will take possession of the weapon, their track record, the risk that the weapon could be diverted from the purpose intended when it was exported, and other similar factors.
The ATT also requires states to consider mitigation measures to address identified risks. This treaty is very clear. If there is no way to ensure that a given export will not pose a serious threat to human rights or be used to violate international humanitarian laws or perpetrate international terrorism or crime, it must be forbidden.
Therefore, Bill would further strengthen Canada's existing processes in relation to the global movement of arms. Our changes, including those to accede to the Arms Trade Treaty, will make Canada's export control system even more robust, and will ensure a continued high standard for addressing the pressing issue of arms proliferation around the globe.
Canada’s existing export control system complies with 26 of the 28 provisions of the Arms Trade Treaty. In that sense, some changes are needed to bring Canada into full compliance with the two articles of the treaty where we fall short, namely, article 7, export and export assessment, and article 10, brokering.
One of the things the bill before us does is introduce the necessary legislative changes to ensure that we meet our ATT obligations.
Article 7 of the Arms Trade Treaty establishes common, clear, and rigorous standards regarding the factors that states must take into account before authorizing the export of any items subject to the ATT. These factors include an assessment of the potential that Canadian exports could be used to commit serious violations of human rights law or international humanitarian law, as well as the potential that the exports could fall into the hands of criminals or terrorists.
The ATT is the first arms control treaty that focuses specifically on the issue of gender-based violence and violence against women and children, issues that are very important to our government. These criteria are designed to ensure that Canada assesses the risks associated with the export of a given product or piece of technology regarding the intended end use and end user.
Bill will also ensure that Canada can fulfill the stipulations of article 10 of the ATT, which requires that every state regulate brokering. Brokering captures the transfer of arms without an export permit. The provisions of the bill ensure that Canadians who arrange the transfer of arms between a second and a third country follow the same rules as those who export arms outside Canada.
Regulating brokering activities will give our government the ability to monitor the activities of individuals and organizations that serve as intermediaries between arms dealers and the end users of military goods.
Moreover, these brokering permit requirements would also apply extraterritorially, meaning they would apply to Canadians engaged in brokering activities abroad. This additional capability will allow us to have a better idea of the types of brokering control list transfers involving Canadians that occur globally and to bring a greater level of visibility on potentially high-risk transactions brokered by Canadians.
Our government intends to go beyond the standards set by the Arms Trade Treaty and ensure that brokering regulations cover not only the conventional weapons covered by the ATT but also military articles and dual-use items that are likely destined to a weapon of mass destruction end use.
Requiring permits for brokering would ensure that comparable levels of scrutiny would also be applied to brokering activities. As a result, Canadian export permit authorities can better assess the risks of potential arms transfers before they occur to determine their suitability, and to deny a permit for such transfers where there is an overriding risk of the negative consequences of one of the export permit criteria, including the risk of serious violation of international human rights law or international humanitarian law.
I would like to point out that there is a legitimate role for brokers who arrange or facilitate sales for reputable arms manufacturers. Unfortunately, there are also those who do not act responsibly and who choose instead to profit from the sales of arms, even though they know that they will fall into the wrong hands.
Internationally, there are far too many cases where unscrupulous arms dealers put profits ahead of human life. Transactions facilitated by those dealers have given rise to the transfer of firearms to conflict zones, in direct violation of United Nations firearms embargoes, and to terrorist or criminal groups. This legislation will make it possible for responsible Canadian dealers to hold permits and conduct legal activities. It will ensure that those who choose to act unethically will also end up acting illegally.
Beyond the changes required by the ATT, the bill will enhance Canada's export and import controls by addressing the issue of penalties imposed on individuals who try to circumvent Canadian law and regulations. The bill will increase the maximum fine for a summary conviction offence from $25,000 to $250,000 for any offence under the Export and Import Permits Act. Increasing the maximum penalty underscores the seriousness of these offences that contribute directly to destabilizing accumulations of weapons and technologies in conflict zones around the world.
Let me reiterate that these new measures would ensure that our government will be better able to pursue bad-faith actors and hold them to account. At the same time, Canada would be in a better position to review bona fide arms transfers to legitimate end-users. Canada would also be able to effectively penalize those who would try to circumvent these processes.
I would like to make it clear that Canada's accession to the Arms Trade Treaty does not and would not affect domestic ownership of firearms or Canada's domestic firearms laws and policies. The ATT would govern the import and export of conventional arms, not the trade in sporting and hunting firearms owned and used by law-abiding Canadian citizens.
However, the ATT does not limit the number or type of arms a country can sell. The ATT simply requires states to establish rigorous export controls of the kind that Canada already has in place to ensure that exports are not put to unforeseen harmful use.
The ATT is not a one-size-fits-all system. It recognizes that states' export control systems must meet their national needs. It does not prevent states from including expedited processes in their export control systems, as Canada does for close allies, such as the United States.
The government will ensure that exports are assessed in accordance with the criteria set out in the ATT and that they do not violate the prohibitions in the treaty.
Turning now to the Export and Import Permits Act and to the Criminal Code, we have indicated to Canadians that our government is committed to strengthening Canada's export controls with respect to military and strategic goods and technology. This bill and our commitment to accede to the Arms Trade Treaty are part of our promise to increase the rigour of Canada's export-control system. As members are aware, Canada already has a robust export control system. We are a key member of a number of export control and non-proliferation regimes that allow us to exchange information on trends in arms movement and on best practices with our allies.
In addition, Canada has a strong sanctions regime that includes sanctions related to the export or sale of arms. Canadian sanctions are part of a multilateral action. They reflect the work we do in concert with our allies. Sanctions are implemented in Canada through the United Nations Act or the Special Economic Measures Act.
Canada has its own financial intelligence unit with respect to illicit financing of arms. The mandate of the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada is to facilitate the detection, prevention, and deterrence of money laundering and the financing of terrorist activities. Our government is taking steps to ensure that these new obligations do not unduly hinder or restrict legitimate transfers of military, dual-use, and other strategic items that are aligned with our national interests and do not pose undue risk.
It is the government's intention to apply the ATT assessment criteria not only to those goods specifically outlined in the ATT, but also to all dual-use, military, and strategic goods. Our government will also apply the ATT assessment criteria to both export and brokering permit applications. We will thus exceed the standards set by the ATT, and strengthen our export control system at the same time. Indeed, our government intends to see Canada establish a particularly high standard when it comes to gender-based violence and violence against women and children. The fact that this issue was included in the treaty is a clear sign of the power of advocacy by states like Canada who are determined to address gender-based violence.
While this is given less attention and consideration in the ATT than other criteria, Canada intends to propose including gender-based violence in the regulations, applying a higher standard, and assessing the risks related to gender-based violence to a broader set of exports than those defined within the ATT. These new measures would ensure that our government is better able to pursue bad-faith actors and hold them to account. Canada would also be better able to effectively penalize those who would try to circumvent these processes.
Canadian businesses would still be able to conduct legitimate transactions in pursuit of Canadian strategic and defence interests and the strategic interests of our allies.
Finally, these changes would allow Canada to meet its international obligations and accede to the ATT. I encourage all my colleagues here today to seek to advance this bill rapidly so that Canada can once again take its rightful place with its international partners as a state party to the Arms Trade Treaty.
Madam Speaker, it is my honour to rise today to debate Bill , particularly after the speech from the parliamentary secretary, which ended with incorrect information to this place in response to the question from the member for the NDP. Actually, Canada would be worse off than it was before. He said that this would send Canada ahead with respect to the aims of the treaty. That is not only incorrect on the factual review of the treaty itself, but it shows the parliamentary secretary's lack of understanding of our current arms control regime in Canada.
Therefore, for his benefit, and for the benefit of the few of my Liberal friends listening, I will take him through that.
The 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, has been brought forward, and signed by some countries but not by others.
My remarks will focus on four key points. Three of those go to the inferior nature of the ATT when compared, side by side, with what Canada does now, and did do under the previous Conservative government, the Liberal government previous to that, and so on, back to the 1940s. I will give three points on how it is inferior and a final point on its inherent unfairness, lack of clarity, and over breadth.
First, this is inferior to what Canada does now under the Export and Import Permits Act and the regulations and orders in council that can be brought forward by government under that legislation. I hope the parliamentary secretary will take notes, because he will need to research this after I go through some of it.
The first point I make is on the Trade Controls Bureau.
We empower a department of the government, and have since the 1940s, to ensure that military equipment sales, issues related to security, crypto logical equipment, and nuclear biological risks are not only governed and tracked but are controlled. We have a bureau already, not in New York, in Ottawa, that has been doing this very effectively for many years. The Trade Controls Bureau has been empowered and does this for each Parliament. I would invite the member to look at the Trade Controls Bureau and see how we specifically address, track, and control trade in military equipment, other items of security, or other interests. All Parliaments have done it. Both Liberal and Conservative governments have done it.
My second point is that we specifically name, from a Canadian point of view, items for export that need to be tracked and controlled. I will review what those are for the member because they are called out specifically.
Military or strategic dual use goods, so some goods that can be used for a military or civilian purpose, are specifically tracked. Other items are nuclear energy materials and technology; missile related technology; chemical or biological goods; and crypto logical equipment and code breaking, particularly in the age of the Internet. Many companies in Canada are world leaders in this technology, like SecureKey and others. We already monitor, control, and, in many cases, restrict export of these technologies.
One problem in the past that we know of was that a previous government, the government of Pierre Trudeau, had some issues when nuclear technology was traded for peaceful use and was tracked, but unfortunately may have been used to develop capabilities with respect to weaponized use of that technology.
I use that as a point of reference to show how, over many Parliaments, Canada has done this. We did not wait for the United Nations. Had we done that, it would have been a bit of a lawless west. As a responsible parliamentary democracy, Canada has been doing this.
I invite the member to review the specific items controlled under the Export and Import Permits Act that we charge the Trade Controls Bureau to monitor.
My third point on how our existing system is superior to an inferior UN treaty is the tracking.
The items I just outlined, including military equipment, cryptological, nuclear, and biological, are tracked by both the Canada Border Services Agency and by Statistics Canada, and not just under our own reference points. We use the World Customs Organization tracking figures for these items. We track and limit the trade in these items far more than what the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty does.
An article in Ceasefire magazine calls the UN's ATT a failure. The third item it tracked was its lack of transparency. There is no tracking internationally under this treaty. Canada already does it.
I hope the parliamentary secretary rewrites the notes the government has been passing around on the bill, because they do not accord with our legislative record or Canada's responsible treatment of controlled technologies, including not only military but nuclear technology as well.
Canada was the fourth country to have controlled nuclear fission. We have 70,000 people in Canada that work in this area. Our CANDU technology is the best in the world in capability and its safety record. We have taken this very seriously since the 1940s and we track according to the World Customs Organization tracking codes for each of those items.
I have a fourth point at which I would invite the Liberals to look.
Right now, we have what is called an area of control list under the Export and Import Permits Act. That empowerment in the bill, through an order in council, can specifically limit sales of anything to a country. Right now the only country on the area control list is North Korea, and it is probably very good it is on there. I would agree with the government if it wants to keep that country on the list. In the past, the area control list has included Belarus and Myanmar.
Not only do we already have a system of controls, tracking, and itemization that is far superior to what is proposed in the bill, our legislation as it stands in Canada can ban a country entirely. That is a tool the government can use if it is about control of anything, not just our controlled items that I have said are tracked.
The cabinet is charged with making decisions on why countries should be removed from that list. As Myanmar opened up, it was removed from that list. It was the same with Belarus. However, we still have to track. We see problems in Myanmar right now with respect to Rohingya. Perhaps the civilian oversight of the miliary is not quite as it would seem.
The Liberal government has within its power now, not by the United Nations treaty, to limit entirely sales to a country. I would invite the parliamentary secretary to review that.
Finally, like many UN treaties, the main players are not part of the treaty. In global arms trade, there are six countries called the “big six”. Three of those countries are not part of this treaty. I am not worried, because Canada's regime, as I have been describing to the House, is superior to this treaty.
The treaty came as an election promise by the Liberals, but I want them to see that what Canada is doing now, and has been doing responsibly, is superior. If we want the UN to have the tracking, to have the transparency, we should be pushing to have these discussions before a treaty is brought forward. Many MPs on both sides of the House want to ensure that Canada adheres to its Export and Import Permits Act, so they need to know what a good job it is already doing.
Finally, another inferior and quite frankly short-sighted part of the UN ATT is article 5, which would suddenly include the Department of National Defence into the military equipment provisions of that treaty, preventing, or in some cases limiting, government-to-government transfers. We have never had to catch DND within our own export and import permits regime, because DND is the government. It is a crown ministry. It is part of the crown.
Therefore, if we want to do military-to-military aid, perhaps sending training materials to the peshmerga that our special forces are working with and training, this measure would encumber that process. I am quite sure that most Canadians believe that DND is responsible for its own equipment. Why then would we catch them in a treaty that most groups are calling a failure anyway, which does not involve three of the big six players in terms of the global arms trade?
Finally, I have listed five or six items demonstrating that what Bill proposes is actually inferior to what Canada is already doing.
The last item is about unfairness, and this where the politics of it come in. Just as we are seeing with small business, there is no consultation on concerns about overbreadth or the fact that hunters, sport shooters, or recreational users under a regulated regime of lawful firearm use could be caught within the confines of the measures in this bill. I have placed this last because, while the parliamentary secretary insists it is not the case, all industry groups insist it is, but without consultation, how does the parliamentary secretary know?
It is clear that he does not understand the export and import permit regime. Maybe he knows a little more about it now, which I think is part of why we have debate now in the House of Commons. It is to show that regulation in Canada is in many ways superior to what is done anywhere else in the world, including the United Nations. Before we even talk about what the UNATT does, we should talk about what Canada is doing already, and whether it is insufficient to limit and track items that we consider potentially dangerous: military equipment, nuclear technology, chemicals, biologicals, cryptology, or anything that could adversely impact our national interest.
On the last point, the cryptological sales, we have seen the current government green-light sales to China of pretty much any technology out there. I would suggest that some of these technology trades occurred without the proper oversight, without the full review that is normally done. For some reason those reviews were waived in the case of one of the most recent sales to China. Those reviews are important, because technology is actually the threat of the future to the public safety and security of Canada and our allies, and Bill does not address that.
As I have said, particularly on my third point on transparency, this treaty is inferior. Civil society groups out there have called this treaty a failure, particularly because of its lack of transparency, and as I said, our Trade Controls Bureau has been empowered for two generations to track the sale and control of goods that Canadians deem important.
On that final note, this hearkens back for me, as a member of Parliament for a suburban riding that has a rural element, to the lack of consultation on the last element, on which Canadians have genuine concerns about whether their lawful and regulated use of a firearm for hunting or sport shooting could be impacted. The parliamentary secretary uses the words “phony argument” when we suggest that. I would invite him to go hunting with someone outside of Fredericton and see if they are being phony about their concerns. What we need is consultation to see if my concerns are overinflated or if the parliamentary secretary is being dismissive. I am not suggesting that I know, but as a lawyer, I will tell members that overbreadth or lack of clarity in law is a failure in itself.
The last government made interventions with respect to the negotiation of this treaty on many fronts, and one was a simple and reasonable carve-out of regulated civilian firearms use. I do not know why that was not pursued by the UN when there is zero transparency. However, as I said, fortunately our existing regime has transparency, while this treaty has zero.
While things were watered down as this was negotiated by the United Nations, while three of the big countries that are actual players in global trade are not part of this regime, while those issues were going through the negotiations, a simple and effective carve-out of the legitimate, historical, and cultural use of firearms was not carved out, for whatever reason.
Some of the cases before the Supreme Court of Canada on inherent rights of our indigenous peoples relate to hunting and fishing. This is as cultural as the earliest peoples of this land. Certainly, most people in this House think of the hunter in the duck blind and that sort of consideration, but the inherent right for our first nations to hunt, in both modern and traditional ways, is a constitutional protection.
Would it not be reasonable to carve that out in a treaty that on many fronts is inferior to what Canada is already doing? I really hope the parliamentary secretary and other members of his caucus refrain from that divisive language suggesting that even having a reasonable concern is somehow phony. The last time I saw that degree of arrogance in the Liberal Party, it was from a member from Toronto named Allan Rock, who polarized Canadians by suggesting that people who were law-abiding hunters or sport shooters were somehow a public safety hazard for Canada.
I know some of my Liberal friends, including from rural parts like Yukon and Labrador, know how much it hurt Canadians for the government to suggest that bringing in a licensing and registry system for people who were already trained and responsible was going to have an impact on crime. It became a divisive, rural-urban issue. This Parliament, as much as it can, should try to have debates that do not quickly revert to that approach.
I have been hard on my friend, the parliamentary secretary. I know in Fredericton, especially with the base there—and I know he supports our men and women in uniform—he knows that culturally a lot of people find hunting and fishing to be a way of life, so if they have a concern, I think it is valid to consider that concern.
It is also a valid question to ask the United Nations why, when transparency provisions were wiped out in the negotiations over the ATT, a simple reference providing explicit exclusion for law-abiding and regulated use by hunters and sport shooters, as we do in Canada very effectively, was not provided for. That is a failure of this treaty. Certainly groups out there that still have this concern want to know that the government is at least hearing them and is not suggesting that it is a phony argument. I am hoping, as we debate this bill over the coming days, that we can talk about it in those terms, and that we can talk about it from a starting point of what Canada is doing now.
As a parliamentary purist, I have great respect for our parliamentary democracy, in both Houses and on both sides. This is where we debate the laws and regulations that govern Canadians. When we can work with our allies at NATO or the United Nations to help limit arms sales to North Korea or to places where there is conflict or so that we do not exacerbate someone's pursuit of technology that could be harmful, of course we would do that. We always have. However, we should also make sure, as parliamentarians, to remind Canadians that the starting point for Canada with respect to regulating, tracking, and limiting the export of military equipment and biological-chemical dangerous items is already superior to most of the world. If we do not start from that basis, I do not think we are being fair in this debate.
The final point I will make before I close is that it is not elevating debate in this House to suggest that if the Canadian Shooting Sports Association has a concern about overbreadth, their concern is somehow phony. I hope we have a debate that is better than that, and that we have the context of the Export and Import Permits Act regime to underline a debate on Bill .
Madam Speaker, today marks the International Day of Peace. Canada often holds itself out as a peacemaker. However, if we truly want peace, we need to stop the proliferation of arms, particularly in areas troubled by unrest, in war-torn countries where human rights mean nothing.
However, Canada's recent track record in this respect is rather troubling. Many Canadians would be troubled to learn that in the last 10 years Canadian arms exports have nearly doubled. Moreover, Canada is the second most important arms exporter in the Middle East after the United States. Therefore, we are certainly heavily involved there.
Yes, Canada is now the second-biggest exporter of arms to the Middle East, after the United States. No one would certainly describe the Middle East as a calm, stable region.
Our arms used to be exported mainly to NATO countries. Now they often go to countries whose human rights records are questionable, to say the least. Saudi Arabia is the second-biggest buyer of Canadian arms and the second-biggest export destination for our weapons.
I am always troubled to see this kind of behaviour from a government that calls itself feminist, and I am not alone. Canadians do not support this.
The government has said that it has good measures in place to control its arms exports, and that it already has strong regulations. However, again, if we look at Saudi Arabia, the regulations state that we should not export arms to a country if there is reasonable doubt and risk that these arms will be used to commit human rights abuses. Although there is ample evidence for that being currently the case, the government is blind to it. Certainly, there is an investigation, but the Saudis have admitted that they want to repress people. The government is not only blind but seemingly deaf, on top of blind.
In August we learned that Canada watered down its own criteria for arms exports to countries with bad human rights records, and the government did this after pledging that Canada would accede to the Arms Trade Treaty, and after saying at that time that it would respect both the spirit and the letter of the treaty. Typically, the Liberals say that but do quite the opposite by watering down our criteria.
The best way to illustrate what I am talking about is to look at the number of export permit applications. Canada is exporting more and more to countries that do not respect human rights. How many of these export permit applications is Canada rejecting?
L'Actualité investigated and found that, of the 7,310 export permit applications submitted, only 10 were rejected. Ten. That says it all.
Most of our exports go to Saudi Arabia, which has been mentioned, China, Algeria, and other countries. That is why the government's decision to finally sign the Arms Trade Treaty gave people so much hope. This is something people have been calling for for years. We know that the Conservatives, for reasons that make no sense to most observers, steadfastly refused to sign the treaty. The NDP felt certain that the government would finally do something and that Canada would join the Arms Trade Treaty. Unfortunately, in typical Liberal fashion, the government has introduced a bill to implement the treaty. I know a lot of people were very anxious to see this bill.
This is another example of a typical Liberal bill. In other words, it is all talk and no action, nothing but a hollow shell.
First, the bill does not address at all the issue of our exports to the U.S., which is half of our exports. Therefore, all of these exports will continue to fall outside the scope of this law and outside the scope of the treaty. This in itself, to start with, is a breach of articles 1, 2, and 5 of the Arms Trade Treaty, so one of the first things we are doing is breaching three of the key articles of the treaty. It does matter beyond breaching the articles of the treaty. First, there is the matter of transparency. When we get the annual reports on arms exports—and I hope we will get them sooner and that they will be clearer, more transparent, and understandable—half of our exports remain unreported. Is that transparent? I am listening to my colleagues here, and they do not think it is.
Also, when we talk about meeting the letter and spirit of the ATT, it means that arms or armament parts can be exported from Canada to the U.S. and then exported elsewhere. President Obama put a ban on exporting arms from the U.S. to Nigeria because of human rights concerns. President Trump made a deal—the art of the deal—with Nigerian authorities and lifted this ban, and now the U.S. is exporting planes and armaments to Nigeria made of components coming from which country, do members think? They come from Canada. It would be important to cover our exports to Canada.
The government will probably say that it is too difficult to do, because half of our exports go to the United States, and yet other countries manage to do it, including Australia and even Great Britain, one of our NATO partners. They have systems in place to track exports to the U.S.
We cannot say that we will respect the spirit and the letter of the treaty, and then violate specific articles or disregard the spirit and the letter of the treaty because it is too difficult. It has to be one or the other. Canada either complies with the treaty or it does not. Obviously, the government has no intention of complying with it.
Another huge problem is that the bill does not say anything about the assessment criteria that will be used for exports. That is rather strange, for this kind of bill.
That is a huge problem.
One expert asked me, after looking at the bill, where the meat is. The meat will be in regulations. The concrete criteria to oversee arms exports will be put in those regulations, regulations that do not have to be debated in the House, that will not be discussed among representatives of Canadians across the country, regulations that can be changed at any time by the current government or any subsequent government. This is very weak.
This is just smoke and mirrors.
On top of all that, there is another problem. In the briefing documents we received from Global Affairs Canada, it says that the regulations will set out the criteria the minister will take into account before issuing export permits.
We already have criteria in place that the minister must take into account when evaluating export permits and as a result we are selling arms to Saudi Arabia. The Arms Trade Treaty makes no mention of the criteria that must be taken into account. It talks about obligations and specific and serious restrictions. It provides a clear limit. Such and such is prohibited, the other is allowed. However, in the departmental information it says “must take into account”.
Obviously, this will be clarified in the regulations, the very regulations that no one in the House can debate. What is more, those regulations will be drafted behind closed doors.
There is another problem. Actually, there are quite a few, so I have to choose which ones to mention. According to the information in the briefing note provided by Global Affairs Canada, the Department of National Defence will have its own system for implementing the legislation or the treaty. I do not get it. The left hand will do one thing and the right hand will do another.
How does that work?
Is there a chance that this creates some sort of loophole?
How will this work?
As far as I can tell, there is no plan here.
What the government is basically telling Canadians and the world is to just trust them. However, in matters of disarmament, I am sorry to say that I do not think the Liberal government can be trusted.
The NDP have tried to enhance transparency and oversight. We tried to create a committee that would, on an ongoing basis, study this issue of arms exports. This is something that Canadians care about. What did the Liberals say? It is no surprise that they said no.
When we asked the government to show the same kind of courage Canada has shown with regard to land mines and participate in the efforts of over 120 countries in the UN to work on nuclear disarmament, it said that maybe it would not work and that it was too difficult, as if it could not walk and chew gum at the same time.
Let us come back to Saudi Arabia. We are selling arms to a country that abuses human rights, despite our feminist foreign policy. The minister first told us that we could not do anything because it was a done deal. I happen to disagree with this, because a minister can suspend an export permit. We then learned that he signed the export permits after he and the had told us that it was a done deal. As I said, Canada should only export arms to a country if there is no reasonable risk that these arms will be used against civilians or to commit war crimes.
The Liberal government is not even respecting that. How can we trust the regulations it will put in someday once the bill passes, or how it is going to respect those regulations?
Again, with respect to Saudi Arabia, when I asked the government yesterday about the arms deal with Saudi Arabia, I was basically told that the government had asked the Saudis to respect human rights. While I am very pleased that the government did that, I am somewhat skeptical about the efficiency of the manoeuvre.
Nonetheless, we are going to support this bill because we have been asking for a bill on this issue for such a long time. We really want to see Canada truly accede to and abide by the Arms Trade Treaty.
I hope that the government will show good faith and agree to make amendments in committee. That is why we are going to vote in favour of this bill. However, this so-called implementation bill must be improved because right now it is not very effective. Canada and the entire world expect nothing less.
I said at the beginning of my speech that today is International Peace Day. We know that the illicit and irresponsible transfer of conventional weapons is a major cause of suffering in the world because it leads to all kinds of violence.
We want to put an end to that through the Arms Trade Treaty. We want to put and end to situations where companies based in Canada or third countries can sell weapons to South Sudan. We want to put an end to situations where Canada officially laments the tragedy in Yemen, which is currently experiencing a major humanitarian crisis, but continues to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, which leads the very coalition alleged to be committing war crimes in that country.
We need to clean up our arms export system, and unfortunately, this bill does not do that.
Madam Speaker, I am wondering about one very particular point. Since the Liberals have taken power here in Canada, there has been a transition in the United States to the administration of President Trump.
There is one aspect of the ATT that I think should concern all of us, and certainly my Liberal colleagues, particularly those who have said they stand up for human rights and want to raise Canada's reputation in the world. The exclusion of armament exports by Canada to the United States in the ATT is almost like a money laundering scheme, or an ethics or conscience laundering scheme.
Armaments can be produced in Canada, exported to the U.S., and be included in some armaments export deal to countries that are known human rights abusers—I think the member raised the case of Nigeria earlier, on which Canada has raised concerns about its human rights record.
Canada can say that we will not directly export arms to Nigeria, but in fact through the current bill, as proposed now, we can manufacture those same armaments in Canada, send them to the United States, where President Trump has said that he has no problem with Nigeria's human rights record, assemble the weapons there and send them on to Nigeria where they are then used to suppress human rights activities, to suppress minority groups within that country. That is one example, and there are other examples that we could call forward.
We would then condemn the Americans and say it is not right that they are sending those weapons to that country and killing people, including human rights activists.
The is at the United Nations today, making a declaration. In fact, in some ways I think he is counterposing his views to what President Trump said earlier to the in his bellicose statements encouraging more war, more conflict, and less peace. I encourage the Prime Minister to make those statements, and I am sure he will.
However, is there not some hypocrisy in then putting forward an Arms Trade Treaty here in Parliament that essentially attempts to wash Canada's hands of any involvement in any weapons sale to countries that we publicly condemn, yet privately allow our weapons to continue to be exported, allowing our manufacturing to contribute to our involvement in human rights abuse?
I am not sure how the Liberal government can countenance this level of hypocrisy. Or, it could just make the change and say we will not exclude the United States from the ATT. I am sure my colleague from Toronto would raise his constituents' concerns about this. I am sure my colleague from Winnipeg, who will speak on this later, would also do so. We should be saying that we will not sell weapons to that country. We cannot do indirectly what we are not willing to do directly.
If we are not willing to sell weapons to Nigeria because of human rights concerns, then how, for heaven's sake, can we sell them to the United States, which is willing to do the exact same thing in a more direct fashion?
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to address this important issue. Many Canadians have taken a great deal of interest in this because they expect the Government of Canada to demonstrate leadership on the world scene on important issues.
I take exception to some of the comments made by my colleagues across the way, especially when they use the word “hypocrisy” with respect to this issue. The member for brought up a wonderful example. Let me put it in the clearest fashion I can.
The New Democrats take the high ground, or try to be the moral authority on a particular issue, and use the word hypocrisy. Let me remind my friends that the leader of the New Democratic Party, in the last federal election, said to workers, unions, and anyone else who would listen that the NDP would honour and respect the agreement with Saudi Arabia. Today we have heard members across the way talk about how bad it is and that the government should not honour it, yet their very leader committed his party to honouring it. There is a consistency problem within the NDP ranks and we hope that over the coming months they can deal with that, but we will have to wait to find out what their actual position is on issues such as this.
Getting back on track, I want to focus my attention on what we are debating today and how it came to be.
The Conservative Party should be familiar with what we are talking about today. There are a number of new Conservative members in the House, and I recognize that. However, when Stephen Harper was prime minister, he had delegates at the UN discussions. They were a part of the discussions in 2012 that ultimately led to the agreement. For whatever reason, and I do not quite understand why, they never signed that agreement. A member has said that he knows why they never signed it. Would that member please tell us why? Would that member please share with Canadians why the Conservatives refused to sign off on the agreement even though they participated in the discussions? Every G-7 country, with the exception of Canada, along with our NATO partners, have signed the agreement. I do not know why Stephen Harper was against it at the time, nor why the Conservatives still are to this day.
Our government is quite different, thank goodness, than the previous government. We recognize that there is a role for Canada to play on the international scene, and it is expected of us. In fact, today the is making his second address to the UN today.
This is important. These treaties are about making the world a safer place. Good, solid, responsible governments around the world understand and appreciate the importance of getting engaged in these things. A the end of the day, why would we not make the best efforts we can to make our world a safer place?
When Lloyd Axworthy was a minister a number of years ago, he played an important role in signing off on the land mine treaty. Canada led the way in dealing with land mines. Far too often, we hear the horror stories of land mines that are still there today. At least Canada, as one of many nations, recognized it was the right thing to do.
Once again, we have a treaty that was negotiated back in 2012 and then entered into force in 2014. However, we cannot thank the previous government for that. It chose not to be one of the countries to ensure it became enforced. Instead of having a desire to show leadership on the issue, the Conservatives felt it was more appropriate to sit back and take no action on this front.
Within two years, we have seen many things take place since the change of government. My favourite was our first piece of legislation, which was all about giving that tax break to Canada's middle class and having the 1% of Canada's wealthiest pay a little more in order for those in our middle class to have more money in their pockets. Whether it is that initiative, the infrastructure initiatives, senior benefit programs, the Canada child program, or the assisted dying legislation, so much other business of the House has been dealt with in two years. This treaty is also one of those priority issues. Within two years, we have have had the department go through what has taken place, and now we have are in a position to debate it today.
My gut feel is that the Conservative Party does not necessarily understand what we are actually debating, or at the very least the principle of what we are debating today. If we listen to the questions of Conservative members, they are more interested in trying to relive an old argument about the gun registry, which was brought up in the 1990s and is something on which the has been very clear. They are regurgitating it. They are the Conservatives/Reformers of the past. They have completely lost touch with what Canadians expect of an official opposition, and I am okay with that to a certain degree.
We just had a break, which was a wonderful opportunity to go into their constituencies and listen to what Canadians had to say. However, obviously, the Conservative Party has lost touch with what Canadians truly expect of government. We are having this debate, but they want to change the scope. They want to go back to the past. Therefore, I will tell them what we are actually talking about, and it is not domestic gun registry policy.
We respect gun owners in Canada, and we have been very clear on that. We have had clear answers even to those unrelated questions or concerns, which I believe the Conservative Party is just trying to stir up for political purposes, possibly trying to create a wedge issue. As opposed to trying to demonstrate that there is strong leadership within the Conservative Party on this file, they are trying to change or go outside of the scope of the legislation.
What is the scope? It is all about conventional weaponry. If members read the bill, this is what we are talking about. Listen to some of the Conservative members who have already spoken. They who are talking about nuclear weapons, biochemical weapons, and we all know about the gun registry and issues of that nature.
However, this is actually the core of the treaty which states:
This Treaty shall apply to all conventional arms within the following categories:
(b) Armoured combat vehicles;
(c) Large-calibre artillery systems;
(g) Missiles and missile launchers; and
(h) Small arms and light weapons.
That is what the treaty is all about.
One of the Conservative MPs, I think it was the member for asked, why are we agreeing to this treaty when we have already things in place to do it? The member and the Conservatives are missing the point here. Number one is to understand what the treaty is all about, and get a sense of why it is being debated here today and where it is actually coming from. The United Nations, all other G7 countries, and all other NATO countries have already accepted it.
In fact, one of my New Democratic friends, just the other day, said there are different types of legislation, and that some legislation is fairly straightforward and should receive quick passage. I would suggest this is one of those pieces of legislation. At least, we can have it go to committee, and let committee deal with it. If anything, this government has demonstrated very clearly that, where committees do good work and are prepared to come up with ideas that can improve legislation in a very real and tangible way, and have been able to demonstrate that at the committee, we are open to those types of amendments.
This legislation should not be all that controversial. It is actually fairly straightforward. We could be doing a great service, I would suggest to look at the scope of the legislation, and accept it for what it is, as opposed to just opposing for the sake of opposing, and then trying to generate ideas as to why one is opposing it. Let us just move forward with it.
I am not trying to limit debate in any fashion. If people want to get engaged, such as I do, and talk about the importance of the treaty, that is great. I would ultimately argue, especially when we get treaties that are coming from the UN, and we have such wide support from all the G7 and NATO countries, our allies, that this is a very strong positive.
I look forward to the legislation ultimately passing. Through its passage, we would send a very important message, that at the end of the day, we recognize there is weaponry distributed throughout the world, manufactured in many parts of the world, but circulated in every region of the world.
Unfortunately and sadly, there are far too many cases that countries get this weaponry from wherever it originates. Obviously, we are most concerned about Canada, but we are not just limited to Canada. If it falls into the wrong hands, and at times it might end up doing so, we need to put up safeguards to minimize that risk.
That is really what this treaty to me is all about. It is minimizing the risk. If those responsible countries around the world choose to do nothing, we will have more terrorism and more violations of human rights.
When we have treaties of this nature, and this particular treaty dealing with those items I have listed, there will be a responsibility. It has often been said that Canada has a population of 35 million or 36 million people and, looking at the world population versus the population of Canada, we would wonder how much clout do we really have.
I have heard member after member on all sides of the House, New Democrats, Conservatives, and Liberals, talk about how Canada, even as a country with 35 million people, carries an incredible amount of influence around the world. Something that is earned, I would argue.
It is earned by the actions we take, and not just parliamentarians but Canadians in every region of our country demonstrate that concern. When a massive flood, earthquake, whatever it might be, takes place anywhere in the world, Canadians are the very first to participate, individuals, non-profit groups, governments, just name it, because we are not only very concerned about Canada but the impact of all the things around us.
Through the years, we have developed a very strong international reputation, a reputation of which I am extremely proud. Like many members, I have travelled outside of Canada and often people commend our country as being a fantastic place, and thank us. I had the privilege of serving in the Canadian Forces. I understand the carnage that can be caused by some of the weapons I have listed. I have marched and participated in Remembrance Day celebrations and recognitions of the achievements of our forces, the current and past members of the Canadian Forces.
I had those second-hand experiences by listening to those who had first-hand experiences and from what little first-hand experience I have, I have a basic understanding of the type of weaponry we are talking about in this treaty. Liberals want the treaty to pass, for Canada to join the G7 and NATO countries. We support this legislation and, ultimately, the treaty itself.
Let me highlight the important messages that need to be emphasized. The government is committed to taking a comprehensive, compassionate, and evidence-based approach on this issue. This was brought forward to us.
The summary of the bill states:
This enactment amends the Export and Import Permits Act to
(a) define the term “broker” and to establish a framework to control brokering that takes place in Canada and that is undertaken by Canadians outside Canada;
(b) authorize the making of regulations that set out mandatory considerations that the Minister is required to take into account before issuing an export permit or a brokering permit;
(c) set May 31 as the date by which the Minister must table in both Houses of Parliament a report of the operations under the Act in the preceding year and a report on military exports in the preceding year;
(d) increase the maximum fine for a summary conviction offence to $250,000;...
There is so much more that is happening. I want to very briefly comment on how important that industry is to Canada. It would be a huge mistake for us to ignore that, and perhaps I will have the opportunity to expand on that if a question is posed to me.
Mr. Speaker, I rose several times before, and was not able to be recognized. I probably was not quick enough to get up to be recognized. Before I begin with my remarks, I notice that the theme of the Liberal Party platform is hypocrisy. I would never accuse my New Democratic colleagues of that. I, at least, know that they believe in something.
We often disagree, but on the Liberals' side it is all about power and how to use it. We can see it right here in the legislation and the treaty itself. They say one thing but the law says something completely different. Through talking points, press releases, and carefully scripted exempt-staffer-written speeches on that side, they are saying the truth is that they are not creating a registry when they actually are.
We heard the mention that the G7 and NATO have signed on and are abiding by it. One of the biggest arms manufacturers and biggest military equipment manufacturers, the United States, signed it but did not ratify it. That is a factual error that the parliamentary secretary committed in this House.
There is a Yiddish proverb that says that half an answer also says something. We are hearing half answers a lot on that side. They are not saying the full thing. I wanted to repeatedly rise in the House and ask them to show me in this legislation and the treaty where sharpshooters, hunters, and sports shooters will not be affected by a gun registry. That is exactly what is going to happen. My remarks will be principally demonstrating how, in fact, this creates such a system, not one run necessarily directly by the federal government, but one through the collection and amalgamation of information that will do exactly that.
This morning, we heard the present this bill and make a big deal about how no lawful gun owner would be affected by this. He is carrying the water today for his . I know that. What is the clause? Why did he not mention in this House what clause it was that protects gun owners, law-abiding, family-oriented people who just enjoy hunting or sport shooting on weekends with their friends? Where is the section in the legislation that specifically speaks to them and exempts them from sections of this bill? Why did they not choose to add perhaps something in the preamble to the amended legislation that would say that they believe Canadians have a right to lawfully own firearms for lawful purpose? Why did they not provide a greater clarity clause, as it is called here?
Why did the Liberals not express their reservations through that mechanism? If it is not in the arms treaty that the United Nations has, why did they not go ahead and just write it in? They could have done that. It would have been a drafting mechanism to demonstrate to lawful gun owners in Canada that the government has their backs and is actually listening.
The best I could find was a press release on the Government of Canada's website that states:
The proposed legislation is consistent with Canada’s existing export controls and system of assessing export permit applications. The proposed changes will not impact the legitimate and lawful use of sporting firearms.
They could have put that into a preamble. Instead, they chose to put it into a press release, which really has no force of law or effect to it. Why did they not do that?
When the member for spoke, he basically explained exactly what Canada has been doing up to this point. He covered it all, from the 1940s to today: the export control system that Canada has for military manufactured equipment and its export and import controls.
When we speak about the treaty, article 10 talks about the brokering, how it is going to be controlled now, how people will need to get permits, and that there will be certification of documents that will need to be created. It even says that it may include requiring brokers to register or obtain written authorization before engaging in brokering. This is for military equipment.
The parliamentary secretary went through the list in article 2, the scope of the treaty. I will go through it too. Before I do, I want to mention the record-keeping aspect of it, which is what many gun owners are concerned about in Canada. This is article 12 of the treaty, which goes through details such as:
Each State Party shall maintain national records, pursuant to its national laws and regulations, of its issuance of export authorizations or its actual exports....
It then goes into further details, such as “transit or trans-ship territory under its jurisdiction”. It also talks about conventional arms actually transferred. It then goes into certification details such as what type of registry this will be and how it shall be kept.
In the law, we see that they are amending the section on keeping of records, which is 10.3(1). Then they are amending sections 10.3(4), (5), and (6), but in there, the minister can already direct individuals and organizations to keep records in a specified manner and for a specified purpose. The minister can tell them what to do with it.
I know that the parliamentary secretary talked about scope, and started reading off all of them. I am going to do it, too, just to refresh the memory of this House.
Article 2 is about scope: battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large-calibre artillery systems—we can all agree the average Canadian should not own any of these things—combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers, and small arms and light weapons.
I have an electronic version of the Merriam-Webster dictionary. The definition of “small arms” is “weapons (such as handguns and rifles) that are fired while being held in one hand or both hands”. That could mean civilian or military use. There are many firearms that have a dual use, that are used by military forces across the world, even our allies, for training purposes, for cadet programs and that also have a secondary use.
Lots of times the same manufacturer will make two versions of the same firearm, one for civilian use and one for military use. It is military equipment that the member says the treaty is concerned with and the law is concerned with. However, it actually covers everybody, because it covers all the manufacturers. That is where there is a problem.
Even though he said that the previous Conservative government of the time had participated in negotiations of a treaty, governments participate in negotiations of treaties all the time. Sometimes when a government has a losing hand or it does not get what it wants in a treaty, then the government does not accede to that treaty, regardless of whether it is about firearms, military equipment export controls, or financial regulations. Governments choose at the time of signing whether they agree with the principles within the treaty and whether they can actually get it ratified by their parliaments, hopefully. One would hope that they would then turn to their parliament for that second step.
I want to give an example. If, for our anniversary—and we have tried to do this before and ran out of time—I go out and buy a Beretta shotgun, a very specific one, an A400 Xtreme 12 gauge semi-automatic shotgun at Cabela's in Calgary, for $2,200, and we decide we would like to go for a weekend of duck hunting, I would become the end user, as covered by the treaty and by this legislation.
The government would then keep a record of me, having purchased this firearm, and would then notify the Italian government about my purchase. Now, that is a gun registry. Where is the concern for privacy laws? Why does the Italian government need to know whether I own that particular Beretta shotgun? I would like to know. Where is the concern about the privacy of Canadian gun owners, when their information will be transferred in that fashion to another government? I know that NATO countries are participating in this. I will mention that afterwards.
What we are seeing through this Arms Trade Treaty, and specifically this legislation, is a two-tier system. There is one for the despots and tyrants of the world, and one for law-abiding democracies of the world.
Let us remember the earlier debate just a few days on Bill , when we talked about privacy rights and customs control with the United States. One party was particularly worried on this side of the House, the New Democratic Party. It was extremely worried about privacy rights of Canadians.
What about the privacy rights of lawful gun owners in Canada? What about them? What about when we transfer this information on specifically what they own, how they purchased it, their MasterCard or Visa information, to another government? Why does it need to know?
The shop owner needs to know, of course, for warranty purposes. If something happens and it is defective, I need to take it back to the shop owner so the manufacturer can fix it.
That is an example. That is also a dual-use weapon. There could be a military version that is used for training purposes. It could be used for target shooting. Beretta is a manufacturer of a lot of military equipment, and some of it does have a dual use. One purpose is military; one purpose is civilian. I do not see a difference being made here.
I talked about these two worlds that we are basically creating. Russia and China are not parties to the ATT. Russia is one of the largest exporters in the world, and it did not sign. It exports 39% of its military equipment to India, 11% to China, and 11% to Vietnam, its top three markets. None of those three are signatories to this treaty.
In the total take of what China exports in military equipment, 35% goes to Pakistan, 20% to Bangladesh, and 16% to Myanmar. Pakistan is not a signatory to this treaty. Bangladesh is a signatory but has not ratified it, so the rules do not apply to it. However, it intends to sign it. Myanmar has not done so either.
This creates two worlds. One is that in the western world the democracies agree that the arms control should exist and we should know who the end-user is. On principle, I do not disagree with that. It is an important goal to track sales and understand where weapons go, with military equipment being whatever it is on the list, which is why the Canadian government has been doing it, as the member for said, through the Export and Import Permits Act. We have known about this and have been doing it since the 1940s. Therefore, we already know that we track all exports of military equipment using categories negotiated by the World Customs Organization. We have been tracking it with that organization. We have been doing our part and doing what we expect other countries to do now.
The blanket ban option, as the member for mentioned, is available through the area controls. He mentioned North Korea and Iran, and we can add others to that list. We could add regions to it if that is the desire of the government. It already has that option and mechanism to do so.
There are also drafting issues with the legislation itself. This is from the Rideau Institute. I know it may seem odd that a Conservative reads something from the Rideau Institute, but I do like to see both sides and the problems that people on the left and the right have with particular legislation. It mentions a drafting issue in proposed section 7 of this legislation, asking why the government is relegating a central provision of the enabling legislation, namely, the legal obligation of the when assessing export permits, to the regulations. All of those criteria are in the law right now, but they are being moved into the regulations.
I mentioned this before at committee in regard to other pieces of legislation. I was on the foreign affairs committee, but I have moved to the Standing Committee on Finance. At many of the committees I have been substituted in, I have mentioned that more should be in statute than in regulation and that more should be decided by the House and that other place than by government ministers sitting around a small table. More voices, not less, should have a say on what the categories and the criteria should be, especially for something like the export and import of military equipment. That is a drafting issue that I have, and I have mentioned the others that I have.
If the government wants to say it is on the side of lawful gun owners, it could have introduced a greater clarity clause, amended the preamble, and written it into law. However, it chose not to. That was a choice it made. The government could issue as many news releases, make as many speeches, and make as many Facebook posts as it wants, but it does not change the fact that there is no difference made between the manufacturer of equipment for military and civilian purposes in the law. The manufacturer is the same. The equipment is made in the same place.
It is not the principle of arms control we disagree with. Of course, people agree with controlling the movement of military equipment to other countries. That is why we have been doing it since the 1940s. What the Conservatives fervently disagree with is that there is no protection for lawful gun owners in the legislation or in the treaty itself. Those are serious issues.
The summary provided for this legislation talks about fines being increased, about the term “broker” and how brokers will now have to get permission to be the in-between in the sales of military equipment. It talks about a report having to be tabled in the House that will define the military exports in the previous year. However, as the New Democrats have suggested, the United States will not be included in it because it is a trusted ally. I agree that it is a trusted ally; it is the second greatest democracy in the world after our own here in Canada. The government replaced some of the requirements that only countries that Canada has an intergovernmental arrangement with may be added to the automatic firearms country control list. By a requirement, a country may be added to this list only on the recommendation of the minister after consultation with the . Again we have more ministers deciding things and Parliament finding out afterward what is going on. I would much rather that we found out first and decide in the House first what the rules will be and how things should be.
After having returned from the summer recess, it was interesting for me to realize when the was speaking that I missed this part of my day and debating him in the House, where he usually brings his A game.
I enjoyed campaigning in Winnipeg over the summer and hearing from the constituents in the different ridings. The mentioned that he is open to debate and continuing this. However, just before we returned, the government House leader threatened during a CTV or CBC interview to move more time allocation in this session to achieve its mandate, but the is saying something else. I would assume that the member talks to the government House leader on a regular basis. Therefore, I wonder if the government will move time allocation on this a piece of legislation if more members rise in the House to have a say and represent lawful gun owners, hunters, and those who enjoy sports shooting. I met many of them in my riding during the last election. I always tell my campaign volunteers that if a garage door is open and they see someone fixing or cleaning his or her lawfully owned firearm to leave them alone, as it is not the best time to approach someone. It is is better to come back to those houses later on.
Treaties alone do nothing. They are just pieces of paper. One of the problems with the ratification of the ATT by the government is that the Liberals will push it through because they have the votes. At the end of the day, they will have their way and the lawful gun owners across Canada, who have legitimate concerns, will be the losers.
I want to ask these questions of the who presented this bill in the House on behalf of his . How many gun owners did he or the department speak with? How many associations did they speak to and consult with? How many people said it was a great idea, and how many said it was a bad idea, and why? I did not have an opportunity to do ask these questions earlier, because so many members were standing to speak that I was not noticed.
As the member for so eloquently stated, we already have an effective system for the control of exports and imports of military equipment. Therefore, the main concern on this side of the House is the rights and privileges of lawful gun owners. It is not just the rural members; it is also the urban members. I represent an urban riding. There are a lot of sports shooters in my riding. The Shooting Edge is located across the river just over the edge of my riding in the riding of the member for . It is always packed. There are a lot of people who enjoy the sport and the challenge. However, this treaty will create a registry system. In the example I gave previously, the manufacturer and the government where that manufacturer is based will know that I had purchased a Beretta shotgun from Cabela's at a certain price, what it is, and what it does. However, it also applies to ammunition. Therefore, when the member opposite said that the treaty talks about scopes and small arms, he should look at the definition in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, which includes handguns, rifles, or a firearm being held in one or both hands. That is extremely broad.
Gun owners, who are not dumb and can read legislation, figured out long ago that the Liberal Party of Canada is not on the side of lawful gun owners. The gun registry has cemented that idea. Therefore, I do not understand how the Liberals can defend this piece of legislation and the implementation of a national treaty and say that lawful gun-owning Canadians, who go home every day to their family, will not be impacted by this at all. There is no way they can say that.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to Bill , an issue that is important bill to members on all sides of the House.
The Arms Trade Treaty holds the record for the quickest entry into force of any arms control treaty. It is a sign of the great importance that the international community attaches to this treaty that it reached the required number of ratifications required to enter into force so quickly.
The ATT now has 91 state parties and a further 42 states have signed on but have not yet ratified the treaty. It is now time to add Canada to the number of state parties. Canada has long sought to advance export controls as a means of reducing the risks that can come from illicit trade in conventional arms. Joining the ATT, which calls on all state parties to set up effective export controls, is a natural step. Canada's accession to the ATT would further demonstrate to all Canadians, from coast to coast to coast, and to the international community our commitment to tackle the risks associated with irresponsible and illicit trade in conventional weapons.
Canada, however, cannot fulfill the global aims of the ATT alone. Universalization of the ATT is essential to its success. The ATT, if broadly adopted internationally, can contribute substantially to global peace and security.
Terrorists rely on access to arms largely from illicit or poorly controlled sources. Transnational crime both uses and profits from illicit arms trade. Conflict and instability is fuelled by easy access to conventional weapons. All of these scenarios can and will be reduced, if not stopped, by preventing these weapons from being illegally traded or diverted. This is what the ATT aims to achieve. Ensuring that the treaty fulfills its promise requires the widest possible adherence and effective implementation around the world.
It is important to note that properly regulated arms trade does not prevent states from meeting their legitimate defence and security needs. The treaty recognizes there is a legitimate place for international arms trade when it is undertaken responsibly and with carefully crafted controls. In accepting international norms for the transfer of arms, ATT state parties have struck a balance between national security interests, including legitimate uses of weapons, and the need to address the consequences of unregulated trade in conventional weapons.
Canada has a role to play in advancing the universalization of the Arms Trade Treaty. We have already begun to do so by participating as an observer in meetings of ATT state parties and by supporting multilateral efforts to encourage states to ratify or accede to the ATT.
Our work here today helps set an example for other states considering accession to the ATT.
First and foremost, we are demonstrating our commitment to full implementation of the treaty. Accession to the ATT is a relatively straightforward process for Canada. We already conform to the spirit of the treaty and have strong export controls in place. However, our government realizes we need to do more. There are elements of the ATT that Canada does not yet fully meet, notably, in regulating brokering, and we have taken a firm position that we will not accede to the ATT until we are fully compliant with it.
Second, we are committed to implementing the ATT in a manner that not only meets but exceeds the requirements of the treaty. Bill would further strengthen the rigour of our export controls to meet and, indeed, seek to exceed the obligations of the ATT. We intend to share this experience with other states in forthcoming meetings of the ATT.
However, leading by example is not enough. All ATT state parties must establish a national system for the control of arms. They must strengthen their laws, regulations, and enforcement mechanisms. Our government recognizes that implementing new legislative systems and export controls can be difficult, particularly for states that may not have significant previous experience in this field.
We are therefore committed to assisting other states that wish to join the ATT, or that have become state parties or are unable to fully implement the treaty. The government has therefore contributed $1 million to the UN Trust Facility Supporting Cooperation on Arms Regulation. The UNSCAR is a multi-donor flexible-funding mechanism to provide focused and effective support for the implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty and the UN program of action on small arms and light weapons. Through this trust facility, Canada is working with other international partners and with the UN to help states accede to and effectively implement the ATT.
It is unfortunate that, to date, in several regions of the world where flows of conventional weapons contribute to high levels of conflict, there is still a low number of ATT state parties. The UN trust facility can also help these states improve their legislation, end-user controls, and management of weapon stockpiles. Its focus on gender and children further supports the goals of the ATT and can make a real contribution to those who are too often the victims of illicit trade in conventional weapons.
Of course, accession to the ATT alone cannot stop illicit weapons flows, which is why our government has also partnered with the international NGO small arms survey, contributing $224,000 to survey a list of weapons flow in the key region of the Libya-Chad-Sudan triangle. This survey is a starting point to implement concrete follow-on actions to reduce illicit arms flows along the pathways identified by the small arms survey. In doing so, we will contribute concretely to reducing access to weapons in a region where these conventional arms undermine security and socio-economic development. We will also promote international security by cutting out flows of arms to terrorists and criminal groups in the region.
Canada can play an important role in promoting the universalization of the ATT. However, we can only do so if we take a leadership role, which our government is doing on a number of fronts, in countering the proliferation of conventional weapons and promoting strong export controls as a means of ensuring that legitimate trade in conventional arms is conducted responsibly, something I am sure all members of the House desire. It is therefore essential that we rejoin our international partners and allies in their collective effort through the Arms Trade Treaty. Canada needs to be at the table.
It is time for Canada to promote internationally agreed standards for the arms trade that will reduce human suffering, help prevent arms from being used in serious violations and abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law, and combat terrorism and organized crime.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Peace River, who will be speaking after me.
It is an honour to rise in this place to speak on Bill . As the government has signed the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, this bill takes steps to meet its obligations.
The Arms Trade Treaty is very broad in scope. It governs the trade in everything from small arms to main battle tanks, as well as combat aircraft. In fact, article 5 of the treaty explicitly requests that the treaty be applied to “the broadest range of conventional arms.” Why illegal hunting rifles should be regulated by the same treaty as an attack helicopter is still a little unclear to me, but perhaps the hon. members opposite have figured it out.
Given the treaty's unfortunately broad scope, the process of meeting Canada's obligations under this treaty deserves close scrutiny. We need to ensure that law-abiding firearms owners are not negatively impacted.
To its credit, the Arms Trade Treaty is a treaty with laudable objectives. Preventing and eradicating the illicit trade in conventional arms is undoubtedly an admirable goal. Canada must not stand idly by as weapons flow to conflict zones, where they may be used to inflict horrific abuses on civilian populations and fuel terrorist organizations.
Conservatives have always been supportive of measures to establish international arms control standards. However, the government's own former minister, the hon. member for Saint-Laurent at the time, stated in June 2016 that “Canada already meets the vast majority of Arms Trade Treaty obligations." He also said, “In fact, the Arms Trade Treaty was designed to bring other countries up to the type of high standard that Canada already applies through its robust export control regime”.
These remarks do make me wonder at the wisdom of subjecting the arms industry to regulatory upheaval by signing the Arms Trade Treaty and introducing this bill. Apparently Canada was already more than compliant. It is important to remember that major arms exporters such as Pakistan, Russia, and China are not party to the treaty, which will limit its effectiveness in actually controlling the global arms trade.
It is also notable that contrary to the Liberals' talking points, Canada was not the only holdout on the bill in G7. Our closest trading partner and ally, the United States, has not ratified it, so we are far from alone in abstaining.
It is also troubling that the treaty's scope is extremely broad. It does not acknowledge the legitimate, lawful ownership of firearms for personal and recreational use. What is in the preamble is not in the treaty.
Nevertheless, I respect that the government at least has good intentions in contributing to the treaty's stated purposes of international peace, stability, and reducing human suffering.
With that said, I am the representative of a riding with a large rural population. I must question how lawful firearms could be affected by amendments this bill makes to the Export and Import Permits Act. Legal firearms in Canada are subject to an extensive, strict regulatory regime. The Firearms Act regulates the transportation, storage, and display of legal firearms by individuals. It also mandates the possession and acquisition licence. Further, firearms are currently listed in the Export and Import Permits Act as a controlled import.
Despite the government's assurance that the proposed changes will not impact the legitimate and lawful use of sporting firearms, the implementation of brokering controls and permits is yet another addition to the substantial regulatory system already in place. The new brokering permits seem to cover everything related to firearms, including accessories such as optics.
The first question that this bill raises is this: what additional bureaucratic burden might the brokering permit application place on the Canadian firearms industry?
It remains unclear what specific documentation will be required to apply for the permit. As a first step, the government should provide assurances to firms that are compliant with the existing regulations. They need to know that the new brokering permit requirement will not render them unable to continue their businesses.
Also notable is the government's commitment to establishing a brokering control list that exceeds the Arms Trade Treaty requirements by covering more goods and technology.
I assume this promise is an indication of the government's earnest desire to contribute to the Arms Trade Treaty objectives. However, the government should be aware that this promise raises yet more questions for lawful Canadian firearms owners and organizations who are unclear on what the ultimate result of a more expansive list might be.
Bill would also require that all documentation pertaining to the application for a brokering permit be retained for six years, yet again the bill leaves the question unanswered as to what documentation will be required.
We only recently removed the wasteful debacle that was the long-gun registry. I am sure the government can understand that the lawful firearms community is wary of any provision that mandates data collection without giving any indication of what data will actually be collected.
For example, will any consumer data form part of the documentation required to obtain a permit? Here, too, there is an opportunity for the government to provide some assurance to the lawful firearms community. The government should give us some sense of how the bill meets the Arms Trade Treaty obligations while still respecting legitimate trade and use of legal hunting and sporting firearms.
As the bill stands, we do not know what documentation will be required to obtain a brokering permit under the new system. We do not know what goods or technology might be added to the brokering control list at the minister's discretion. We do not know what documentation will need to be retained for the mandated six year period. This makes it difficult to appraise its potential impact on the lawful firearms community.
The government's former minister of foreign affairs stated that brokering controls would be a new regulatory area for Canada, and a good example of where we are adding rigour to the existing system. The rigorous new regulatory area being added to the existing program needs far more explanation.
With all of these questions up in the air, it is incredible the Liberals conducted little or no consultation with the lawful Canadian firearms community before introducing this legislation.
Beyond the unanswered questions I have already asked, does the government know the cost to the firearms industry of adapting to the new brokering control permits? There is a serious potential for the loss of jobs as manufacturers and importers transition to the new regulations.
If the government had consulted with lawful firearms community stakeholders, it would know that the questions I pose in my remarks are important to that community. It is a large Canadian demographic already subject to a strict regulatory environment.
Our former Conservative government declined to sign the Arms Trade Treaty specifically because there were concerns about how it might affect lawful and responsible firearms owners. The United Nations refused to exempt civilian firearms from the treaty. The government's own assessment found that Canada was already meeting the vast majority of Arms Trade Treaty obligations, but still the Liberals have opted to sign on.
The government likes to say the treaty will have no impact on law-abiding civilian firearms usage. Why then are civilian firearms even included in the treaty? Why was the United Nations against exempting them? It makes one wonder.
As a result of the Arms Trade Treaty not explicitly protecting the rights of law-abiding firearms owners, it is the responsibility of the government to provide assurance it will meet its obligations without overly impinging on the lawful Canadian firearms community. I look forward to the government doing the right thing, and demonstrating some openness to working with lawful firearms community stakeholders.
This legislation is designed to meet the obligations of a treaty that has lumped in hunting rifles with large calibre artillery systems. The government needs to listen to lawful firearm owners to mitigate the potential damage the bill might do.
Mr. Speaker, I had a private member's motion in the last Parliament. It specifically addressed the ATT and our not signing on to the particular agreement, and not being a part of it in the form that it was currently in. It was Motion No. 589 which stated:
That, in the opinion of the House: (a) Canada already exceeds all the standards listed in United Nations resolution 55/255 concerning firearms (the resolution); (b) the regulations envisioned in the resolution would do nothing to enhance public safety, and would serve only to burden the law-abiding firearms community; and therefore, the government has already surpassed its obligations with respect to the resolution and is not required to take any further steps.
I mention that today because the same problems that existed when I presented my private member's motion in the last Parliament still exist to this very day. What needs to be understood by a couple of our friends who maybe are not part of the firearms community out in Canada today, and they are watching, is that Canada already has an extremely good system in terms of monitoring the sales and permitting sales of military equipment around the world.
The trade controls bureau regulates the Export and Import Permits Act, which, since 1947, has allowed the minister to prevent the supply of military equipment to countries for a variety of reasons, including security threats, internal and external conflicts, or sanctions by the United Nations. That is already in place, and Canada already abides by that and uses it effectively.
I will bring the question back to the firearms community. Why not exclude the firearms community from this particular Arms Trade Treaty? We would maybe have broad agreement throughout the firearms community that it would not be such a bad thing, but since it is not exempted, it would become a big problem for firearms owners.
I will bring this all back to pre-election 2015. The Liberal Party promised it would not reinstitute a firearms registry in Canada. It was a very hot topic for the Liberals. There were many rural Canadians who were upset by a firearms registry, and it was a big problem for the government because the prior Liberal government was the one that brought it in.
It was not a very popular piece of legislation. Pre-election, the Liberals said they were not going to do this again. The minister, by all his actions, is showing the exact opposite. He is just trying to do it through the back door, and we have mentioned it many times. My colleague from and I mentioned this before when this was brought forward in the House. With Bill , there is a real desire to bring in a back door registry without saying so.
I will read out some of the parts of what this bill would actually require. This is Bill for all those in Canada watching. They can see the actual act. I am going to read what it would require of business owners who sell long guns and firearms. It would require them to keep records.
Every person or organization that applies for a permit, import allocation, export allocation, certificate or other authorization under this Act shall keep all records that are necessary to determine whether they have complied with this Act.
If company X is a company that sells firearms, it might export and sell them to somebody from the U.S. who buys them. This would then apply to that company's database. I might go in and buy a firearm from this particular company, and this is a question that some have asked. What limitations are there to access the records of that particular company? Are all records accessible? For every firearm that was bought and sold, is the record accessible? Because the bill does not exclude firearms owners or long-gun owners, it really says that all databases would be made available to the minister.
I will talk about some more things in the actual act, and why we have problems with it. Under electronic records, the bill states:
Every person or organization that is required to keep a record and that does so electronically shall ensure that all equipment and software necessary to make the record intelligible are available during the retention period required for the record.
Those are computers, so they need to be accessible. Under inadequate records, the bill states:
If a person or organization fails to keep adequate records for the purposes of this Act, the Minister may, in writing, require them to keep any records that the Minister may specify, and they shall keep the records specified by the Minister.
Those are not some records; those are any records.
The period for retention is another issue with firearms communities. Is it just for a week? Is it just for a certain period of time? It is actually much longer than a week. The bill states:
Every person or organization that is required to keep records shall retain them until the expiry of six years after the end of the year to which they relate or for any other period that may be prescribed by regulation.
It could be up to seven years. Firearms companies such as a little local firearms store in my community's backcountry, like Corlanes in Dawson Creek, because they are exporters and importers, would be required by the minister of public safety and this Parliament to have accessible records of those sales. It sure sounds like a firearms registry to me.
Let us get to the bottom of it, where this is all coming from is demand by the minister. The bill states:
If the Minister is of the opinion that it is necessary for the administration or enforcement of this Act, the Minister may, by a demand served personally or sent by mail, require any person or organization that is required to keep records to retain those records for any period that is specified in the demand, and the person or organization shall comply with the demand.
There it is. There is the back door registry. The minister has already talked about, in another piece of legislation that is coming before us very soon, handing over the previous firearms registry data to a province in this country. It seems that on one hand he reassured his electorate, especially those in Saskatchewan who sent him back to Ottawa, that there would never be a firearms registry brought forward again by a Liberal government, but here we have two examples—today, in Bill and next in Bill —of doing the exact opposite. That is why our firearms community is so concerned.
We saw it was ineffective the last time it was brought in. It was very expensive and it was putting the focus on the wrong individuals. I am a firearms owner myself. I do it lawfully. I have been trained in how to safely fire and handle restricted firearms, non-restricted firearms, etc. For people who obey the law and do it properly, this is unneeded attention on a community of people who safely and lawfully buy and sell firearms and do it as part of our history.
I have a pin on my lapel. I am co-chair of the parliamentary outdoor caucus. I do that with my colleague across the way. We support hunters, anglers, outfitters, trappers, etc. We support the historic events that really started this country. It started with the fur trade. A lot of my constituents still hunt, trap, and fish. I like to do that when I have time to get out there. These kinds of laws have a negative effect on those communities, because we put the focus on them as if they are criminals already, when they have done nothing wrong. All they have done is chosen to buy a firearm to go hunt and provide food for their family.
The crux of my argument today is that the Liberal government said it was not going to bring in a firearms registry. The Liberals said it over and over again, because it was a big deal to a lot of their constituents. A lot of rural folks elected Liberal members of Parliament with the reassurance that it would not happen, and here we have a minister and a government that is trying to do that. From one back door or another, it is determined to get a firearms registry re-established in the country.
We need to come into this with our eyes wide open. Voters who are watching this today need to understand this is a big deal. This is why we did not accede to the Arms Trade Treaty when we were in government. It was because it did not have exclusions for firearm owners written within our particular act. My private member's bill spoke to that. It was one more reason why we did not accede to it.
I challenge the government to have a sober second thought and look at this again. We implore the government not to accede to the ATT. We already have enough regulations and laws that get to the same end the ATT is trying to get to in terms of selling military equipment across the world. The Liberals should especially think about the firearm owners to whom they promised they would not start a registry. Hopefully, the government will not support this legislation today.
Mr. Speaker, I, too, thought what I had to say was very interesting. I appreciate the fact that you have brought attention to that.
Bill would also allow governments to create regulations that would demand firearm importers to report and keep all their import registry data for at least six years and have it available to government. In its simplest form, this is the start of a backdoor firearms registry. It would force the information of individuals to be registered with importers and sellers and be available to government. It sounds pretty much like a registry to me.
Moreover, these proposals will add costs onto the manufacturers and distributors of legal firearms, which will ultimately be passed down to the consumers, the purchasers of firearms. Somebody has to pay for this extra cost that will be incurred with Bill .
When our previous Conservative government was in office, we listened to Canadians and eliminated the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry. Instead of treating law-abiding firearms owners like criminals, we repealed the requirement to register non-restricted fire arms, long guns, rifles, shotguns, and provided for the destruction of all records pertaining to that registry held by the Canadian Firearms Registry under the control of the chief firearms officer.
While we removed the need to hold a registration certificate for non-restricted firearms, this did not change the requirement for individuals to hold a valid firearms licence in order to acquire or possess a firearm. They also had to pass the required Canadian firearms safety course, undergo a screening process, and obtain a registration certificate for restricted and prohibited firearms such as handguns. Through these changes, we recognized that recreational firearms users were not criminals. At the same time, we ensured that appropriate measures were taken to maintain public safety through licensing and gun safety education.
Acceding to the ATT could impose another burdensome bureaucracy on Canada that would mirror the wasteful and ineffective long-gun registry our previous Conservative government eliminated. The same problems that we had with the gun registry, the lack of accountability, the immense costs, and the overall uselessness of it, are highly likely again under the ATT regime, unless amendments are made to it.
Interestingly, through Bill , the Liberals are trying to bring back the registry through the backdoor with as little attention as possible.
The Liberals have a tendency to do this, introduce proposals they know will not be accepted by Canadians at a time when they hope it will go unnoticed. Take their recent massive tax hikes on local small businesses, farmers, and professionals as an example. The Liberals waited until the middle of the summer to sprinkle out these proposals when they figured Canadians were enjoying time with family and friends or perhaps were out of town on vacation. Of course, they made the consultation period run right through the fall harvest season, which would severely impact the ability of farmers to interact and contribute to the discussion on this very important proposal before us.
In a similar fashion, when this backdoor gun registry bill was introduced, the Liberals hoped that no one would hear about it. They introduced it at the same time as their marijuana legislation, both Bill and Bill , the day before the Easter long weekend. The expectation here was clearly that this bill would fall under the radar while the marijuana bills dominated the discussion and the news cycle.
Whenever the Liberals insist on pushing forward with an agenda they know Canadians will not stand behind, this is their standard way of going about it. However, if they know Canadians do not support this legislation, as evidenced by the fact they are trying to keep it as low profile as possible, why are they trying to pass it at all?
Canada's export regime as it stands today is already among the strongest in the world. I think the Liberals would agree on that point. Canadian governments of all political stripes have always ensured Canadian values are reflected in export decisions and have taken steps to prevent illicit transfers that fuel conflict, encourage terrorism, or organized crime. It seems to me this is another Liberal solution in search of a problem. If it were benign, it would be one thing, but because it has the potential to negatively impact law-abiding Canadian farmers and hunters, we as Conservatives must speak out against this.
The Conservatives have taken a clear and principled stand. We believe that any arms trade treaty should recognize and acknowledge the legitimacy of lawful ownership of firearms by responsible citizens for their personal and recreational use. This includes Canadian heritage activities, such as hunting, sport shooting, and collecting. More than that, the legitimacy of these activities are recognized around the world, including those state parties to the ATT. Our previous Conservative government insisted that this be a part of any serious treaty on this subject.
For the Liberals to move ahead with this legislation without having received such a basic concession is disappointing. The may believe it will help him secure the United Nations Security Council seat that he wants so badly, but to do so would be at the expense of the rights of Canadian gun owners.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise to speak to Bill . In essence, what Bill C-47 would do is implement the Arms Trade Treaty, which was signed by the government.
Without more, I oppose Bill for two broad reasons.
First, I am not satisfied that the Arms Trade Treaty and Bill C-47, the implementation of that treaty, would actually strengthen Canada's arms control regime.
Second, I oppose the bill because of serious concerns and questions that have been asked by law-abiding firearms owners and users in our country, concerns and questions that the Liberal government has refused to answer with respect to whether the legislation would result in a backdoor gun registry.
I will first address the issue about whether the bill would actually strengthens Canada's arms control regime. The fact is that Canada has long had a very strong arms control regime. It is a regime that has been in place for about 70 years. It is a regime that is robust. Canada is a leader when it comes to arms control with respect to our export regime.
As the hon. member for highlighted in some detail, the scope of the that regime includes the Trade Controls Bureau, which has operated since 1947. What does the Trade Controls Bureau do? It governs, tracks, and controls the export of military weapons and arms out of Canada. It has worked very well. Under the import and export regime that Canada has with respect to arms control, the items subject to control are listed. They include military weapons, nuclear, chemical, biological materials, among other things. Canada does not just list those items subject to control; it tracks the export of controlled items. We track it by way of the CBSA, through Statistics Canada, and we track it in a very robust way, one that is consistent with international standards, including the World Customs Organization. That is the standard by which Canada tracks. While Canada tracks, one of the things lacking in the Arms Trade Treaty, as the member for correctly pointed out, is transparency and tracking.
We then not only have the Trade Controls Bureau, we also have what is called an “Area Control List” that, by way of order in council, can block the export of not only weapons but anything from Canada to another country. Right now, North Korea is on that list.
What we have is again a very strong and very robust regime. It is one that has worked and is working. There are questions about whether this bill would in fact improve upon what Canada has. However, in some respects it would water it down. I cannot support a piece of legislation that arguably would weaken the very good regime that Canada already has.
As has been raised by a number of hon. members in the House, there are serious questions about whether this bill would, through the back door, re-establish a gun registry. We know of course what a disaster the long-gun registry was, as introduced by the previous Liberal government. It was a registry that targeted law-abiding firearms owners, cost the taxpayers of Canada some $2 billion, and did absolutely nothing to prevent firearms from getting into the hands of criminals. On the contrary, it in fact made the situation worse by creating a black market for various firearms. When the firearms community, every firearms organization in Canada, unanimously raises questions about whether this bill would impede law-abiding firearms owners by way of a back-door firearms registry, those concerns have to be taken seriously. However, instead of listening to the firearms community, instead of consulting with law-abiding firearms owners, the current government would prefer just to dismiss them out of hand.
I heard my friend, the , the member for , when he stood up in the House. I respect that hon. member, but he asserted that the claim that acceding to the treaty would create a back-door gun registry was phony and bogus. I say let us look at the language of the Arms Trade Treaty and Bill . Let us start with article 2.
Article 2 states:
This Treaty shall apply to all conventional arms within the following categories
It then lists a whole series of categories. At the end, article 2.1(h) refers to small arms. Small arms include any firearm that could be operated and used by an individual, so it would include a rifle or any number of firearms that are lawfully used by Canadians for civilian recreational purposes every single day.
We then go to article 12, which says:
Each State Party shall maintain national records, pursuant to its national laws and regulations...[in terms of] conventional arms covered under Article 2.
As I mentioned, article 2 includes small arms.
We then go to Bill and look at the substance of it, and we see, among other sections of this bill, proposed subsection 10.3(6), which says that every person or organization under the act, which would include a broker, is required to retain records for a period of some six years.
Bill goes a lot further than that because it provides for the specific manner in which those electronic records must be kept by way of an electronic database.
I see I am out of time, but it raises very serious questions about this issue. I would be happy to pick up from where I left off in questions and answers.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with the member for .
I am happy to rise here today to speak in this debate on Bill , the legislation that is meant to meet Canada's obligation to ratify the Arms Trade Treaty.
This treaty came into force in 2014. The previous Conservative government refused to join the majority of countries around the world and sign this treaty. Indeed, it was the only government within NATO and the G7 to refuse to do so. I and my colleagues within the NDP are happy to see the government now move ahead to join most of the civilized world in acceding to the Arms Trade Treaty. Therefore, we will support sending Bill on to committee. We have several concerns about the bill that I hope will be fixed with amendments in committee, and I will expand on a couple of those concerns.
I represent the riding of South Okanagan—West Kootenay, which has a long history of pacifism. Part of that history involves the strong Doukhobor communities in parts of the West Kootenay and Kootenay Boundary regions. The Doukhobors came to Canada in the early 1900s, seeking a refuge to practise their belief in pacifism and living their motto of “peace and toil”. In the 1960s, another wave of pacifists came to southern B.C. in the form of American draft dodgers, who left their homes and families to avoid conscription into the Vietnam War.
This history has created several very active, key groups promoting peace in my riding. There is the Boundary Peace Initiative, and the Kootenay region branch of the United Nations Association. Another peace initiative in my riding is the Mir Centre for Peace at Selkirk College in Castlegar, which provides a diploma program in peace and justice studies, as well as an international program in unarmed civilian peacekeeping. These groups and others like them are celebrating the International Day of Peace today across Canada. While I wish I could be with them in person in the riding, I am happy to celebrate the day with this debate. I am proud to represent a riding with such strong interest in peaceful solutions to world conflicts and to speak here today about efforts to regulate the trade in military material.
However, residents of my riding are not alone in their concern about arms trade. Polls show that the majority of Canadians do not want our country to export military equipment to countries with a history of human rights abuses. Many Canadians would be surprised to learn that our country has almost doubled its military exports in the last 10 years and that we are the world's second-largest arms dealer to the Middle East. This kind of involvement in such an explosive region makes it difficult to increase our role as a trusted peacemaker anywhere in the world.
Where does Bill fall short?
First of all, exports from Canada to the United States would be exempt from the Export and Import Permits Act as amended by the bill. This is contrary to the letter and spirit of the Arms Trade Treaty, which calls for a complete and transparent coverage of all military exports. Fully half of our military exports go to the United States. The government has argued that the U.S. is a trusted ally and we should not need to regulate arms trade to our neighbour, but I see two problems with that stance. First, the U.S. has not ratified this Arms Trade Treaty and so has no obligation to track trade in military products. Second, the present administration in the U.S., I think it is fair to say, has a very different stance on trade with a number of countries that Canada has expressed concerns about. Therefore, material and parts for military systems sold by Canadian companies to the U.S. could be incorporated into equipment there and sold anywhere in the world without it being tracked through the Arms Trade Treaty.
Another concern we have is that important parts of our legal obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty will only be enacted through regulation. These include the legal obligation of the to assess permits using certain criteria.
Unfortunately, these criteria will only be revealed through regulation after the bill receives royal assent. In other words, we here in this place will not have any role in debating those criteria, and they could arguably be an important part of the law.
As I said at the beginning, the NDP supports the bill at this stage. Any efforts to control, regulate, and monitor the export of military equipment can only be a step forward to a more peaceful world.
The NDP has a strong history of supporting and promoting initiatives for peace around the world, and we were very disappointed when the Liberal government refused to take part in the recent UN negotiations toward a nuclear weapons ban treaty.
The said in question period earlier this week that the NDP is always ready with “well-meaning platitudes”, or at least that is how it was translated in Hansard. In the verbal translation we heard here, that came out as “we were ready with lovely words”. What the NDP is concerned about with respect to Bill is that it is in fact just lovely words. It does not fully meet the Arms Trade Treaty obligations.
We hope that the government will seriously consider amendments at committee stage to fix these problems so that Canada can fully live up to its agreements on the world stage and truly make the world a more peaceful place.