RP Note: Because that’s what the world need, is more weapons..smh
Recently announced consultations to add Israel and the United Arab Emirates to a list of countries eligible for exports of prohibited Canadian small-arms are part of growing trend that has seen the number of markets for domestically produced guns double over the last decade.
First introduced in 1991, the Automatic Firearms Country Control List has grown from an initial roster of 10 Canadian allies to a 37-member list that includes all NATO members, as well as a handful of countries that have been criticized for alleged human rights abuses.
Canadian producers of Criminal Code-prohibited firearms and other weapons can bid on contracts to supply these arms abroad, so long as the importing country is on the AFCCL. The Criminal Code strictly regulates a wide range of automatic and semi-automatic firearms, including assault rifles like the M-16 and the AK-47. It also restricts the cartridges and ammunition used in such firearms.
Israel and the UAE are the latest candidates for inclusion on the AFCCL. Foreign Affairs began a month-long consultation period on the addition of the two Middle Eastern countries on Nov. 7, one day after South Korea became the 37th AFCCL-listed country.
“The proposed regulation, if ultimately approved by [cabinet] will allow exporters of certain prohibited firearms, prohibited weapons and prohibited devices to submit permit applications for the export of these items to Israel and the United Arab Emirates,” the consultation notice states.
Expanding the AFCCL
The AFCCL has grown under Liberal and Conservative governments. When the list was introduced in 1991 under the Progressive Conservative government of the day, it included NATO allies like Germany, Belgium, Denmark, the United States and United Kingdom.
In 1992, Saudi Arabia was added to the list and has since emerged as Canada’s third-biggest export market for weapons and ammunition. Last year, Canada exported $18.6 million in weapons and ammunition to Saudi Arabia, compared to $24.4 million in sales to Britain and $185.8 million to the US.
A handful of Western allies were added to the list in the 1990s and early 2000s. The process has accelerated under the Harper government, however. Since 2006, 17 countries have been added to AFCCL, nearly doubling the number of export markets for Canadian small-arms manufacturers. While most of the recent additions have been NATO partners like Hungary, the Czech Republic and Turkey, the government’s decisions to add Colombia in 2012 and Peru earlier this year have faced criticism from arms control advocates and human rights groups.
Human Rights Watch notes that Peru has seen several deadly confrontations between police and protesters over large-scale mining projects in the country over the last decade. The organization has also flagged Colombia as a hotspot for human rights abuses, noting ongoing armed conflicts between guerilla groups and groups associated with demobilized paramilitary organizations.
The latest AFCCL candidates—Israel and the UAE—have also faced criticism over their human rights records. A recent UN Human Rights Committee review noted that Israel had failed to provide information related to an investigation into human rights violations during military operations in the Gaza Strip in 2008 and 2009. Both Israel and Hamas were criticized by then-UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay for their conduct over nearly two months of fighting earlier this year.
The UAE has also been criticized by Human Rights Watch and other groups for arbitrary detentions and unfair trials.
Foreign Minister John Baird, who recently returned from an official visit to the UAE, said that the two countries’ status as Canadian allies made them strong candidates for inclusion on the AFCCL. Canada has an agreement with Israel to strengthen defence ties and collaborate on research and development and defence procurement, and is currently negotiating a similar agreement with UAE.
Both Israel and the UAE are listed as “priority markets” in the government’s Global Markets Action Plan, and in both cases defence and security are cited as “key opportunities.”
Ken Epps, a policy adviser with disarmament think-tank Project Ploughshares, said that the growing number of countries on the AFCCL undermines the original intent for creating the list.
“We’re getting close to 40 countries. The whole purpose of the list is becoming undermined, because it’s becoming far less restrictive,” he said. He supports making human rights assurances a precondition for adding countries to the list.
“There should be some understanding that the country needs to be looked at for human rights issues—whether it’s meeting its requirements under international humanitarian law and other issues,” he said.
Weapons still subject to export controls
Canadian arms exporters still need to obtain export permits for weapons sent to AFCCL countries. The granting of export permits is done on a case-by-case basis and takes into consideration human rights concerns and the possibility that arms could be diverted into the wrong hands.
François Lasalle, a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development called Canada’s export controls among the strongest in the world.
“Canada closely controls the export of military products to countries which threaten Canada and its allies, are involved in or under imminent threat of hostilities, are subject to UN sanctions, or have a record of human rights violations,” Mr. Lasalle stated in an email to Embassy.
But NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said that the decision to expand the AFCCL is a move in the wrong direction by the government, which has declined to sign on to the UN Arms Trade Treaty that enters into force before the end of this year.
“Export controls seem like window dressing compared to being involved in something like the Arms Trade Treaty, which makes sure that when arms are sold, they’re not going to fall into the wrong hands,” Mr. Dewar said in an interview. “What’s important to monitor is where our arms sales are going once they end up in another country. We don’t have that capacity.”
AFCCL ‘redundant,’ says Colt Canada rep
The government’s decision to consult on further expanding the AFCCL is also frustrating for the Canadian arms manufacturers, but for other reasons.
Francis Bleeker, director of sales and marketing for Colt Canada, which is registered to lobby the government on AFCCL-related issues, called the list “redundant,” citing the fact that Canada is already committed to existing arms agreements and exports to AFCCL countries still require export permits from the government.
Colt manufactures several assault rifle models at its factory located in Kitchener, Ont. Mr. Bleeker cited instances where his company was unable to bid on contracts in Japan and Ireland, because the two countries aren’t AFCCL-listed.
“Removing the AFCCL is not a blank cheque. You would still have to apply for an export permit. If there was any risk that the products would be used inappropriately, relating to human rights or a lack of controls on who uses [the weapons]…the export permit would prohibit the export,” he said.