A bill to enhance transparency and accountability in Canada’s export controls and allow accession to the Arms Trade Treaty


Canada’s existing system of export controls meets or exceeds the majority of ATT provisions, but to both enhance transparency and fully comply with the treaty, legislative amendments are proposed to the Export and Import Permits Act (EIPA) and one section of the Criminal Code of Canada that will:

  1. establish controls over brokering in military goods between two countries outside of Canada;
  2. create a legal obligation for the Minister of Foreign Affairs to consider certain assessment criteria before authorizing permits; and
  3. increase the maximum fine under the EIPA from $25,000 to $250,000 for summary conviction offences.

A short description of the legislative amendments required to accede to the ATT follows.

A new system to regulate arms brokering

To meet its obligations under article 10 of the ATT, Canada is required to implement brokering controls. Under the proposed bill, brokering is defined as arranging or negotiating a transaction that relates to the movement of goods or technology (on a new Brokering Control List) from a foreign country to another foreign country.

The bill will amend the EIPA to prohibit brokering transactions involving the movement of arms from one foreign country to another foreign country, without a permit; this applies to any person or organization in Canada, as well as to any Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or Canadian organization abroad.

Canada’s brokering controls will exceed the ATT requirements by covering more goods and technology, by controlling brokering by Canadians abroad, and by weighing brokering transactions against the ATT’s assessment factors.

This legislation will be further specified through a series of regulations. These regulations will set out: the scope of items and activities captured by brokering controls; specific requirements when applying for a brokering permit; and expedited measures for lower-risk transfers.

Mandatory assessment factors for permits

Article 7 of the ATT requires that each state party take several factors into consideration before authorizing the export of items covered by the treaty. While Canada already considers most of these factors, some are not explicitly considered, and the bill formalizes this accountability process by establishing a new legal obligation for the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The factors that the Minister must take into account, under the ATT, will be listed in a new regulation, which will be enacted following Royal Assent. This regulation will include the specific obligations contained in article 7 of the ATT, notably the risk that the specific good or technology would be used to contribute to or undermine peace and security, or that it could be used to commit or facilitate:

  • a serious violation of international humanitarian law or international human rights law;
  • an act of terrorism or an act relating to transnational organized crime; or
  • a serious act of either gender-based violence or violence against women and children.

Canada will accede to the ATT after the bill receives Royal Assent and the necessary regulations that flow from it are implemented.

Stronger export controls and transparency in Canada

The bill also introduces other changes, indirectly related to the ATT, which will directly strengthen Canada’s export control system. It designates, by law, an annual May 31 deadline for the federal government to table two reports in Parliament: the Report on the Administration of the Export and Import Permits Act, and the Report on Exports of Military Goods from Canada. The government is also working with interested stakeholders to enhance transparency by making these reports clearer and more user-friendly.

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.

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