Minister Dion statement on Canada's accession to Arms Trade Treaty and reform of export permit controls and reporting system


June 30, 2016 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada

The Honourable Stéphane Dion, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today issued the following statement:

“In conformity with electoral commitments, Canada will become a state party to the Arms Trade Treaty [ATT]. This is the right thing to do.

“The unregulated global trade in arms has exacerbated conflict, regional tensions and human rights abuses. The treaty entered into force in 2014. Its aim is to minimize the humanitarian impact of the global arms trade. It establishes standards for international trade in a broad range of conventional arms.

“Although the treaty does not restrict the number or type of weapons that states can import or export, its goal is to ensure that states have effective national systems to review and control trade in conventional arms, at the same time using transparency measures to combat the illicit trade, thus promoting responsibility, transparency and accountability in global arms trade.

“Today, Canada is the only NATO ally and only G7 partner not to have signed or ratified the treaty, the previous government claiming that it might affect domestic gun laws, which is completely and categorically untrue.

“Accession to the treaty will reflect Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s commitment to multilateralism. In addition to bringing Canada into line with its NATO and G7 partners, finally becoming a full participant at the ATT Meeting of States Parties will allow the government to be more effective in its quest for a more transparent and accountable arms trade, not only here in Canada but throughout the world.

“Canada already meets the vast majority of ATT obligations. In fact, the ATT was designed to bring other countries up to the type of high standard that Canada already applies through its robust export control regime:

  • We already control the export of all ATT relevant goods.
  • We have measures in place to prevent diversion of the goods transferred.
  • We comply with all explicit prohibitions listed in article 6 of the treaty.
  • We already assess for the type of risks identified in the ATT, such as that an export could be used for terrorist activities or against peace and security or international human rights law.

“In fact, Canada fully complies with all 28 articles of the treaty but two: articles 7 (about export assessment criteria and over-riding risk test) and 10 (about brokering).

“Article 7 of the ATT requires that each state party take a number of factors into consideration prior to authorizing the export of items covered by the treaty. We already take these factors into account, but this is neither explicit nor formalized in our current export criteria. The government will need to amend the Export and Import Permits Act to make explicit reference to the ATT criteria and to create a legal requirement for any minister of foreign affairs to take them into account as well as outlining a clear policy on overriding risk. We will do that.

“Article 10 of the ATT requires each state to ‘regulate brokering taking place under its jurisdiction.’ This will be a new regulatory area for Canada and is a good example of where we are adding rigour to the existing program.

“We do not currently regulate brokering in Canada, that is, when a Canadian facilitates arms transfers between countries other than Canada. Because this has never been regulated, it is unknown how many brokers there are or where they are operating. Global Affairs Canada will consult with industry and NGOs to determine how to implement brokering controls efficiently. We will do so responsibly, in order to extend the reach of our controls and ensure these activities are subject to the same rigorous risk assessment as export permits.

“After the consultations are completed, I will introduce legislation. Once the legislation and the regulations are in place, I will submit an instrument of accession to the UN secretary general. The aim is that at the same date, next year, Canada will be an ATT state party.

“In addition to ATT accession, and together with the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of International Trade, I have announced another measure to increase the rigour and transparency of Canadian export controls.

“The annual reports on export permits and controls will be clearer, more user friendly and more informative, and they will be tabled on time.

“On Friday, June 17, at the same time as the Arms Trade Treaty was tabled in the House of Commons, I tabled four additional reports related to export controls.

“These are the 2014 and 2015 reports on exports of military goods from Canada, and the 2014 and 2015 annual reports to Parliament on the administration of the Export and Import Permits Act.

“The export permit reports will now have a fixed date for publication, rather than an arbitrary date or, as in 2014, none at all.

“Last week, we cleared the decks with regard to both 2014 and 2015. Going forward, the public and other key stakeholders can rely on these reports being tabled no later than May 31 each and every year, together with the annual reports under the UN Conventional Arms Register. This will become law. No longer will the public have to search for reports or inquire as to whether they will be published at all.

“Furthermore, we have made a number of improvements to the reports we tabled last week, including making them easier to understand than in the past, showcasing the data more clearly, stripping out jargon and eliminating the need to compare disparate figures at opposite ends of the reports. For the first time, the government has also made the decision-making process we undertake explicit in these reports by reporting on the number of applications denied.

“But this is just the beginning.

“In the coming weeks, NGOs and industry will be consulted on how we can make these reports more informative, transparent and easy to understand. This means figuring out how to add additional content. We are confident that we can find the right mix of statistics that will not impact commercially confidential transactions.

“Canadians have rightly been asking questions about the arms export controls system the government inherited. Canada committed to signing the Arms Trade Treaty and will do so. Canada also committed to going further, to delivering more transparency and rigour so that an improved arms export controls system will combine national security, human rights, Canadian jobs and an industry that supports Canada’s military.

“We have much work to do to deliver on what has been set out, to live up to our commitments to improve the system and accede to the treaty. We are fully confident that this work can and will be done.”


Chantal Gagnon
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Media Relations Office
Global Affairs Canada
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