On June 30, 2016, Canada’s Global Affairs Minister Dion and International Trade Minister Freeland issued a joint Press Release that announced that the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (“ATT”) was tabled in the House of Commons and that Canada planned to accede to the ATT. Apparently, the ATT was tabled in the House of Commons two weeks ago. With no publicity or fanfare, on June 17, 2016, Global Affairs Minister Dion tabled the ATT in the House of Commons and stated:
“Madam Speaker, under the provisions of Standing Order 32(2), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the 2014 and 2015 reports on exports of military goods from Canada, the 2014 and 2015 annual reports to Parliament on the administration of the Export and Import Permits Act, and the Arms Trade Treaty, which was adopted on April 2, 2013, in New York. An explanatory memorandum is included with this treaty.”
The tabling of the ATT was foreshadowed (but not recognized as imminent) two weeks earlier when on June 6, 2016, Pam Goldsmith-Jones (Lib. – B.C.) stated:
“The government is committed to restoring Canada’s role as a constructive actor on the world stage and to continue to pursue global security and stability. One component of this will be Canada’s accession to the arms trade treaty, which will take place at the earliest opportunity. This is yet one more demonstration of our government’s commitment to transparency, to rigorous export permits, and to vigilance with respect to human rights.”
The ATT is a United Nations international treaty that regulates the international trade in conventional arms and entered into force on December 24, 2014. Approximately 85 countries have ratified the ATT and approximately 50 more countries have signed the ATT, but not yet ratified it. Canada is not listed as a signatory to the ATT – see status of accessions and ratifications. Canada plans to ratify the ATT in 2017 after the Canadian legislative process is complete.
Countries that join the ATT agree to implement the ATT in domestic laws, which includes enacting certain prohibitions on the sale of arms. Article 6 establishes the prohibitions on transfers of conventional arms, ammunition and parts and components (items) under the ATT. It specifies what does not constitute an acceptable and responsible arms transfer. Canada currently controls the export of arms and ammunition in the Export and Import Permits Act and the Export Control List.
Canadian bureaucrats believe that Canada’s laws are some of the most robust in the World in terms of restricting and controling trade in arms. During the briefing, a Canadian official said:
“Canada already has some of the strongest export controls in the world which means that we already meet the vast majority of the obligations under the arms trade treaty…”
However, the News Release states that Canada will amend its laws:
“The government announced new measures that will allow Canada to demonstrate compliance with the ATT while enhancing Canada’s already robust export controls. These include new legislative amendments to regulate arms brokering, measures to formalize the assessment criteria used by the minister of foreign affairs in making export permit decisions, and other measures to increase transparency.”
After Canada ratifies the ATT, there will be a requirement to prepare detailed annual reports. In order to prepare such reports, there would need to be an information gathering process. While Canada has an export permit and import permit regime, certain transactions with the United States are not captured and the Controlled Goods Directorate may not cover all domestic transactions within the scope of the ATT.
The Government of Canada will commence a consultation process. Canada has a significant military / defence / aerospace / satellite industry who will be given the opportunity to discuss how Canada’s accession to the ATT may affect them.