Interpretation Policy

An interpretation policy is an overarching document that outlines the commitments, practices and tools to be applied by a department or agency when providing Canadians and businesses with information and guidance on regulatory obligations to be met. It also identifies the conditions under which written responses to questions will be provided.

Departmental Context

Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD) is responsible for managing Canada's diplomatic and consular relations, encouraging the country's international trade and leading Canada’s international development and humanitarian assistance.  The majority of DFATD’s ongoing engagement and consultation with Canadian businesses during the regulatory development process is focused on the international trade aspects of the Department’s activities. While consultation with Canadian businesses is a priority for DFATD, many of the Department’s regulations are carved-out from Red Tape Reduction Action Plan requirements such as the One-for-One Rule on a case-by-case basis as they are based on non-discretionary international obligations and a commitment to ensuring the safety and security of all Canadians.


Plain language commitment

DFATD’s Trade Agreements and Negotiations Branch Units responsible for Export and Import Controls strive to ensure regulations and policies are drafted in plain language, with the exception of technical terminology which is incorporated directly from international commitments.

Providing Guidance and Building Awareness

DFATD’s Export and Import Controls Units create and post on their website: Notices to Importers and Exporters related to various regulations, policies, programs and processes; frequent updates related to regulatory changes; and various publications and reports, as part of their mechanisms for consistent internal and external communication of compliance requirements.

More information on these mechanisms can be found in the Export and Import Controls section.

Responding to Questions

Written responses to questions will be provided to stakeholders and non-governmental organizations upon request.


Service commitment

DFATD’s Export and Import Controls Units’ service commitment is to update the Export Control List on an annual basis (by December 31st of each year) and to publish Notices to Importers and Exporters in accordance with WTO requirements, allowing sufficient time for companies to complete the relevant applications.

Service Accountability

While complaints regarding regulations are rare, DFATD’s Export and Import Controls Units have in place mechanisms to track complaints/issues and address problems in an expeditious manner. The subject-matter expert in the responsible section that is best suited to address the issue is identified and tasked with ensuring that the responsible unit in the Branch correctly understands the issue in the complaint and the stakeholders’ concerns. A process to investigate and address the complaint is identified and implemented. The results of the process are evaluated and action, if necessary, is taken to address the issue.  Results are communicated to the complainant.

Staff training (how to interpret specific regulations and deliver quality professional services)

DFATD’s Export and Import Controls Units’ officers are involved in the negotiation of international agreements and in the drafting and administration of the relevant regulations. Efforts are taken to ensure that the officer responsible for a file possesses the necessary expertise in the subject matter and that a competent replacement is available in the event of an officer’s absence.

Stakeholder Engagement

Commitment to stakeholder engagement

DFATD’s Export and Import Controls Units are committed to routinely engaging industry associations with respect to upcoming regulations and the development of policies, meeting with businesses and participating in industry conferences and other fora.

Stakeholder Engagement Mechanisms

DFATD’s Export and Import Controls Units remain available to engage with stakeholders upon request, via dedicated service representatives either in person, by phone, by email or by fax, or through online consultation mechanisms. Mechanisms to engage stakeholders in the development and review of regulatory information and guidance include online consultations, pre-publication of regulations, round table discussions with interested parties, and informal consultations with stakeholders, both face-to-face and by phone.


Year One - Consult stakeholders to identify priority areas for improving regulatory service delivery

DFATD’s Export and Import Controls Units routinely engage their stakeholder community, via participation in export control conferences, stakeholder visits, communication with major trade associations and daily communications via email and telephone. During these interactions on the administration of Canada’s import and export control regime for strategic and military goods and technology, the stakeholder community has identified various priorities for improving regulatory service delivery, including: 

  • greater administrative streamlining;
  • policy process clarification and updates; and
  • increased destinations for the Automatic Firearms Country Control List (AFCCL)

With regards to greater administrative streamlining, the Export Controls Division continues to work on new General Export Permits (GEPs) and has increased the number of multi-destination permits (MDPs) issued for lower risk transactions, thereby reducing red tape for exporters and enabling the Export Controls Division to focus resources on transactions of greater concern. The implementation of these measures also provides the stakeholder community with more timely access to export markets.  The Export Controls Division has also issued Broad Based Import Permit (BBIP) and International Import Certificate (IIC) Letters to a number of Canadian importers, reducing the regulatory burden associated with the import of certain controlled items for eligible stakeholders.

On the topic of policy process clarification and updates, the Export Controls Division is nearing the completion of an update to our Export Controls Handbook.  The update of this document will address various questions raised by the stakeholder community.  The Export Controls Division will continue to update its webpage as needed, and also to publish Notice to Exporter articles on its webpage each time a new regulation or an amendment is brought into force or a regulation is repealed.

The Export Controls Division also completed destination reviews for various countries for possible inclusion on the Automatic Firearms Country Control List (AFCCL).  Furthermore, the Export Controls Division completed the regulatory process to formally add five more destinations to the AFCCL.  The addition of these destinations to the AFCCL will provide the stakeholder community with additional markets to export certain prohibited weapons.  Currently, it is not possible to add any more countries to the AFCCL. Additions to the AFCCL would require the Department of National Defence to sign more intergovernmental research, development and production agreements (IDRDPs) with specific countries, as a signed IDRDP is a legal prerequisite to adding a country to the AFCCL.  Extensive consultations within the government and with the public are also required as Canada may not add a country to the AFCCL that is not considered to be an appropriate destination for certain prohibited weapons.

Years Two and Three - Implement mechanisms for improvement and continue to monitor performance

During Years Two and Three, DFATD’s Export and Import Controls Units will endeavour to implement mechanisms for improvement and will continue to monitor their performance using metrics designed to measure the progress of administratively streamlined mechanisms (ie. GEPs, MDPs, BBIP and IIC letters), as well as progress made in adding eligible and appropriate countries to the AFCCL during the three year period defined under the current Interpretation Policy.

For GEPs, progress will be measured by the development of new GEPs that are in line with Canada’s foreign and defence policies and international commitments.  If GEPs are completed, progress could be measured by 1) the increase in the controlled goods covered under various GEPs, and 2) the types of transactions covered by various GEPs.  These measurements will be taken at the end of the third year reporting deadline of the Interpretation Policy compared with the initiation of the Interpretation Policy.

If no new GEPs are completed by the reporting deadline, progress toward development will be measured by indicating the steps taken toward the implementation of new GEPs (e.g. progress made on drafting regulations, prepublication and public consultation). 

For MDPs, progress could be measured by: 1) the percentage of eligible stakeholders issued MDPs out of the total pool of eligible stakeholders, and 2) the number of permits eliminated by MDPs at the end of the third year reporting deadline of the Interpretation Policy compared with the initiation of the Interpretation Policy.

For BBIP and IIC letters, progress could be measured by the increase in the percentage of eligible stakeholders making use of these streamlined mechanisms at the end of the third year reporting deadline of the Interpretation Policy compared with the initiation of the Interpretation Policy. 

For the AFCCL, progress could be measured by the increase in the number of appropriate and eligible destinations listed on the AFCCL at the end of the third year reporting deadline of the Interpretation Policy compared with the initiation of the Interpretation Policy.

End of Year Three – Report on Improvements

At the end of Year Three, DFATD’s Export and Import Controls Units will endeavour to report on improvements made, if any were identified, in relation to the information gathered at the end of Year One, and implemented in Years Two and Three.