Memorandum for Action dated October 10, 2017: Export Permit Suspension

Excerpt from the Speech by the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development on February 8, 2018:

“Last summer, we became aware of media reports of the possible misuse of Canadian-made vehicles in security operations in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province.

At that time, I asked officials at Global Affairs Canada to conduct a full and thorough investigation of these reports.

Today, I can confirm that officials at Global Affairs Canada found no conclusive evidence that Canadian-made vehicles were used in human rights violations. That was the independent, objective opinion of our public service and the advice given to me as minister.

This experience did, however, cause me to pause and reexamine Canada’s export permit system.

My conclusion was that Canada can do better.

Canada is not alone in the world in taking stock of how we allow and monitor the export of arms, and of the considerations that go into those decisions. I have spoken with my counterparts in Germany, Sweden and The Netherlands, for example, whose countries have all recently—in one way or another—questioned how arms are exported.

I am proud of the important commitment that our government made with Bill C-47, which would amend the Export and Import Permits Act to allow Canada to accede to the Arms Trade Treaty [ATT]. This is the first treaty to tackle the illicit trade in conventional weapons, and it sets an essential standard for the international community.

It is long overdue that Canada joins many of our NATO and G7 partners by acceding to the ATT.

We have heard support for the Arms Trade Treaty from civil society, from NGOs, and from Canadians. We also heard the clear desire to do better. We need to be ambitious and strengthen Bill C-47.

We had originally planned to place the criteria by which exports are judged, including human rights, into regulation. But we heard from committee members and civil society that they would like to see the Arms Trade Treaty criteria placed directly into legislation. This would include the consideration of peace and security, human rights and gender-based violence. I can say today that this is something we would welcome.

Going further than that, our government is today announcing its support for the inclusion of a substantial risk clause in the law.

Such a clause would mean that our government, and indeed future governments, would not allow the export of a controlled good if there were a substantial risk that it could be used to commit human rights violations.

A substantial risk clause would mean that Global Affairs Canada would need to ensure—before the export of controlled goods—that we have a high level of confidence that controlled exports will not be used to commit human rights abuses.

This is a significant decision. It will mean changes in how Canada regulates selling weapons. This is the right thing to do. Canadians fundamentally care about human rights for all, and Canadians rightly expect that exports are not used to violate human rights…

These two amendments will also provide clarity to industry, by laying out the government’s, and Canadians’, expectations for our export control process. We will work with Canadian industry to continue to provide it with appropriate guidance.”

Link: Speech by the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development

A copy of the document, redacted in accordance with the provisions of the Canada Evidence Act, is available at the link below. The document, classified as “secret” is now considered “unclassified with redactions”.

Link: Memo (.PDF - 9.82 MB)