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Report on Exports of Military Goods from Canada 2007-2009

Export Controls

A key priority of Canada's foreign policy is the maintenance of peace and security. To this end, the Government of Canada strives to ensure that Canadian military exports are not prejudicial to peace, security or stability in any region of the world or within any country.

This policy is implemented primarily through Canada's system of export controls, as authorized by the Export and Import Permits Act (enacted in 1947). This law requires those who wish to export from Canada any article included in the Export Control List (ECL) to obtain, prior to shipment, an export permit issued by Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT).1 The Export Control List includes military, dual-use, and strategic goods and technology, all U.S.-origin goods and technology, and a limited number of items that are controlled for economic reasons.

The military goods and technology described in this report are included in Group 2 (“Munitions List”) of the Export Control List. Items listed in Group 2 are “specially designed or modified for military use.” Civilian goods and technology that are not covered by any group in the Export Control List are not normally subject to export controls (such as fuel and food), even if they are intended for sale to a military end-user.

Canada prohibits the export of military goods and technology to a number of countries under the authority of the Export and Import Permits Act, the United Nations Act, and the Special Economic Measures Act.2 As well, Canada maintains an Area Control List, which currently includes three countries: Myanmar (Burma), Belarus and North Korea.3 All goods and technology destined to these countries are subject to export controls.

Under current export control policy guidelines mandated by Cabinet, Canada closely controls the export of military goods and technology to countries:

  • that pose a threat to Canada and its allies;
  • that are involved in or under imminent threat of hostilities;
  • that are under United Nations Security Council sanctions; or
  • whose governments have a persistent record of serious violations of the human rights of their citizens, unless it can be demonstrated that there is no reasonable risk that the goods might be used against the civilian population.

Once an application to export goods or technology has been received, wide-ranging consultations are held among human rights, international security and defence-industry experts at DFAIT (including those residents at Canada's overseas diplomatic missions), the Department of National Defence and, as necessary, other government departments and agencies. Through such consultations, each export permit application is assessed for its consistency with Canada's foreign and defence policies. Regional peace and stability, including civil conflict and human rights, are actively considered.

A key consideration in the review of each application is the end-use of the export. Careful attention is paid to mandatory end-use documentation in an effort to ensure that the export is intended for a legitimate end-user and will not be diverted to ends that could threaten the security of Canada, its allies, or other countries or people. Military goods and technology are generally exported for one of the following purposes:

  • sales to military and, in some cases, police forces or other government agencies;
  • sales of parts and components for the production of new goods;
  • repairs of military equipment in Canada for foreign customers, and shipments of spare parts;
  • sales to private individuals (especially sales of firearms).

Canada's defence industry makes a valuable contribution to the nation's prosperity. It develops high-technology products and is closely integrated with counterparts in allied countries. Export controls are not meant to hinder international trade unnecessarily but to regulate and impose certain restrictions on exports in response to clear policy objectives, described above. Canada's defence industry provides the Canadian Forces, as well as the armed forces of our allies, with the equipment, munitions and spare parts necessary to meet operational needs, including requirements for combat and peacekeeping missions. As stated in the United Nations Charter, all states share a right to legitimate self-defence.

Exports of Firearms

Most firearms exports from Canada are intended for sporting or other recreational use and not for military use. Since a large volume of Canadian firearms exports go to private end-users, steps are taken to ensure items are not diverted into the illegal arms trade or used to fuel local violence. As part of this process, the bona fides of the end-users are thoroughly investigated. Canadian diplomatic missions and other sources may provide information about destination countries' firearms control laws, procedures and enforcement practices.

Certain prohibited firearms, weapons, devices, or components thereof that are included on the Export Control List may be exported following the issuance of an export permit only to destinations on the Automatic Firearms Country Control List and only to consignees that are government or authorized by government.4 Canada has inter-governmental defence, research, development, and production arrangements with countries on the Automatic Firearms Country Control List (these countries are listed in Table 6).

International Cooperation on Military Trade

Multilateral action is an important means of promoting international peace and security. Canada supports and participates in a range of arms control and non-proliferation activities, working closely with like-minded countries.5

Wassenaar Arrangement

Most items have been included in the Export Control List because of Canada's commit-ments to like-minded countries that participate in multilateral export-control regimes or because of Canada's obligations as a signatory to international agreements that seek to control and monitor the movement of sensitive goods and technology.

The control regime that deals with the military goods and technology covered in Group 2 of the Export Control List is the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies.6 Founded in 1996, the Initial Elements define the objectives of the Arrangement as, inter alia:

“to contribute to regional and international security and stability, by promoting transparency and greater responsibility in transfers of conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies, thus preventing destabilising accumulations.”

Through national policies, the 40 Participating States seek to ensure that transfers of items covered by the common export control lists created in meetings of the Wassenaar Arrangement do not contribute to the development or enhancement of military capabilities that have the potential to undermine regional and global security and stability. Participating States also take every precaution to ensure that such goods and technologies are not diverted to illegitimate end-uses.

United Nations Register of Conventional Arms

Canada continues to actively promote greater transparency in the trade of conventional weapons. In 1991, Canada was a founding contributor to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, to which governments voluntarily supply data on their imports and exports of seven major categories of conventional weapons systems.7 The annually updated Register makes a significant contribution to transparency, confidence-building and enhanced global security. Each year since the inception of the Register, more than 90 governments on average have made submissions to it; of these, about 70 have done so consistently, including Canada. Currently, there is reasonable representation from most geographic regions, capturing over 95 percent of the international trade in major conventional weapons. As a result, the Register has become an important and authoritative source of information.

Canada is also one of a growing number of countries that voluntarily submit data to the Register on military holdings and on procurement through national production. This information goes beyond the minimum currently required by the United Nations and makes an important contribution to global transparency on military capabilities.

Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons

Resolving the global small-arms problem is seen as an integral aspect of conflict prevention and management, peacemaking and post-conflict reconstruction. In support of this, Canada, in cooperation with like-minded partners, is looking at ways to address the problem of small-arms proliferation, which can undermine security and development efforts and contribute to human suffering. Canada has adopted an integrated approach, addressing the arms-control, crime-prevention and peace-building dimensions of the issue at the global, regional and national levels. Such an approach targets supply-side and transit issues, and seeks to cope with post-conflict surplus stocks and reduce the demand for weapons.

With respect to arms controls, Canada promotes measures designed to achieve greater restraint and transparency in legal transfers of small arms and light weapons. Aspects under review include codes of conduct, transparency and registry initiatives, as well as consciousness-raising activities in security-related bodies such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and the Wassenaar Arrangement. Canada's own procedures are strict and seek to ensure a high level of control over exports of small arms.

Military Export Statistics

As part of Canada's effort to encourage greater transparency on military exports, DFAIT has published periodic reports on annual exports of military goods and technology since 1990.

Statistics are obtained from utilization reports which must be provided to DFAIT as a condition of using export permits for military goods and technology. These reports include the country of destination, a description of the goods exported, their quantity and their value in Canadian dollars. Details of export transactions are protected due to the commercially confidential nature of such information and restrictions under the Privacy Act.

Export controls apply to all foreign destinations. However, due to close and long-standing military cooperation with the United States, including the integrated nature of North America's defence industry, permit exceptions apply to most Group 2 exports destined for final use in that country. Exports of military goods and technology to the United States are therefore not reported here.

Certain statistics on Canadian exports to U.S. military users may be available from other sources, such as Statistics Canada or the Canadian Commercial Corporation, but these figures may include non-military goods such as commercial computers, civil-certified aircraft or other civilian equipment. Since there is no direct correlation between the commodity codes used by Statistics Canada and the Export Control List numbers, and because each source uses different methods of data collection, a meaningful evaluation of the information from these two sources is extremely difficult.

The internationally accepted standard for statistics on worldwide military trade is the previously mentioned United Nations Register of Conventional Arms. However, the Register limits itself to precise categories of weapons systems and does not include parts, components or the wide assortment of non-lethal support systems (such as radar equipment, simulators and software designed for military use) that make up the majority of Canada's military exports.

Between 2007 and 2009, Canada's total exports of military goods and technology amounted to $1.4 billion. The major share ($737 million or 52%) went to member countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The United Kingdom, the largest single destination of Canadian military exports each year, received $296 million in military exports, accounting for 40% of NATO's share and 21% of all Canadian military exports. Four other NATO countries were also in the top ten destinations for the same period: Belgium, France, Germany, and Norway. Three of the top ten destinations were not NATO members but were included on the Automatic Firearms Country Control List (AFCCL); Australia, New Zealand, and Saudi Arabia received a combined $305.7 million in military exports, or 21% of the total. Malaysia and South Korea, the eighth-largest and ninth-largest destinations for military exports respectively, were the only non-NATO and non-AFCCL countries. Military exports to Participating States of the Wassenaar Arrangement accounted for $1.1 billion, or 80% of the total military exports. Exports to countries ranked as having a low human development index by the United Nations Development Programme were negligible, accounting for $0.5 million, or less than 1% of total exports.

Data Interpretation Notes

The following data interpretation notes apply to Tables 2, 4, and 5:

i) Since procurement contracts awarded by governments may have very high values and extended delivery schedules, a single supply contract by a single exporter may account for a large share of total military exports in a given year or number of years. Major changes in totals from one year to another may be explained by the beginning or end of a small number of large contracts.

ii) The tables do not report exports to the United States, which are estimated to account for over half of Canada's exports of military goods and technology.

iii) The Export Control List (ECL) item numbers used in Tables 4 and 5 are explained with illustrative examples in Table 3. The full ECL, which consists of detailed technical descriptions of all controlled goods and technology, can be found in “A Guide to Canada's Export Controls”, which is available on the Internet at: www.exportcontrols.gc.ca

iv) Table 2 reports annual values of total exports of military goods and technology, including exports to individual countries. Table 5 breaks down the value of exports to individual countries according to the ECL item number assigned to those exports. However, the sum total of exports by ECL item number to an individual country calculated from Table 5 might not equal the total value of exports to that destination reported in Table 2. Since goods or technology included in a single export permit may be classified under several ECL item numbers, Tables 4 and 5 contain some double-counting.


1 More information about Canada's export controls, including the publication A Guide to Canada's Export Controls, which contains the Export Control List, can be found on the Internet at www.exportcontrols.gc.ca.

2 More information about economic sanctions imposed by Canada, including arms embargoes against a number of countries, can be found on the Internet at www.international.gc.ca/sanctions/index.aspx?lang=eng.

3 Under the authority of Section 6 of the Export and Import Permits Act, the Governor-in-Council added Myanmar to the Area Control List effective August 5, 1997, Belarus on December 14, 2006, and North Korea on July 13, 2010.

4 Subsection 84(1) of the Criminal Code provides definitions of “prohibited firearm”, prohibited weaspon” and “prohibited device”.

5 More information about Canada's non-proliferation policies can be found on the Internet at www.international.gc.ca/arms-armes/index.aspx?lang=eng.

6 More information about the Wassenaar Arrangement can be found on the Internet at www.wassenaar.org.

7 More information about the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms can be found on the Internet at http://www.un.org/disarmament/convarms/Register/HTML/RegisterIndex.shtml.