Bill C-47 leaves majority of Canada’s military exports unregulated

In her address to the Geneva Conference on Disarmament on 28 February last, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland discussed Bill C-47, Canada’s legislation for accession to the Arms Trade Treaty:

Canadians are rightly concerned about how arms could be used to perpetuate regional and international conflicts in which civilians have suffered and lost their lives. We must be confident that our institutions are equipped to ensure we are not perpetuating these conflicts. We must hold ourselves to a higher standard.

On Thursday, 1 March, the Liberal government introduced an amendment to Bill C-47 to place directly in the legislation a new obligation on the Minister to reject export permits where there is a substantial risk that the export will cause or facilitate serious human rights abuses or undermine international peace and security.

Speaking about the impact of this amendment, Peggy Mason of the Rideau Institute stated:

In my view this amendment will set hard legal limits on the previously unfettered discretion of the Minister to grant or deny export permits. Furthermore, and most significant, this assessment of the presence or absence of a substantial risk will be subject to judicial review.

That is the good news!

The bad news is that the government has not closed the glaring loophole that would see all our military exports to the USA continue to be exempted from Canada’s export permit authorisation and annual reporting processes.

A fundamental obligation of the Arms Trade Treaty is for states parties to control all of their conventional arms exports, including parts and components. Individual states do not have the right to pick and choose what weapons to include or what destinations to exempt. Such action by Canada makes a mockery of the ATT objective to establish the highest possible common international standards. – Peggy Mason

In the clause-by-clause consideration of the legislation on Thursday at the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development, Foreign Affairs critic Hélène Laverdière of the NDP introduced two important amendments to further strengthen the legislation:

  • A requirement to reassess existing export permits should new information about human rights abuses come to light; and
  • A requirement to include USA exports in the annual report to Parliament of Canada’s military exports.

Both of these amendments were voted down by the government members of the Committee.

Polls show that a majority of Canadians rightly recoil from the prospect of Canadian arms exports fueling regional conflicts or facilitating serious human rights abuses. Minister Freeland’s own words (quoted above) make this very point.

So please act today!

Email Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at or and Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland at

and your local MP and urge them to:

  1. include arms exports destined to the USA in our export permit authorization system; and
  2. require a reassessment of existing permits in light of new evidence of substantial risk.

There is still time for the government to enact Arms Trade Treaty accession legislation that is truly worthy of a country with a proud history of working to strengthen human rights, international law and international peace and security. – Peggy Mason

For further information, see:

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7 Responses to “Bill C-47 leaves majority of Canada’s military exports unregulated”

  1. kazuMarch 16, 2018 at 12:42 pm #

    thanks for working idm

  2. Johnny GagnonMarch 4, 2018 at 12:46 pm #

    Canada must set itself apart from foreign influence and be once more it’s own political sovereignty , admired domestically and internationally. Canada should step away from American global expansionism , using false flags/ lies to ignite wars abroad at the expense of People and Military. It’s criminal to mislead our forces into battle solely to benefit global corporate agendas to hand them the control of another nation’s resources . That is not our Canadian image , knowing such injustice and destruction was committed solely for the country’s wealth. We use to be a passive country and the world had tremendous respect for Canadians , now look at us !

  3. Richard TarnoffMarch 3, 2018 at 11:50 pm #

    So what happens if Canada sells weapons to the US, and the US uses them in a place where the Minister has rejected export permits because “there is a substantial risk that the export will cause or facilitate serious human rights abuses or undermine international peace and security”?

  4. Anne StreeterMarch 3, 2018 at 1:01 pm #

    Under this government, & with the leadership of Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, we have turned away from the Liberal’s promise of peacekeeping to becoming simple warmongers.

  5. JocelynMarch 2, 2018 at 8:05 pm #

    We can only pray that any questionable and self-serving politicians will not be involved or allowed to participate in this very crucial negotiation. It is very clear that their own personal monetary benefit is and consistently has been their incentive in their voting decisions to date. The completely unregulated sale of military weapons to the US is possibly the most dangerous consideration to date, as demonstrated by Trump policies.

    • Barbara BambigerMarch 2, 2018 at 11:35 pm #

      So many Canadians are currently raging about the lack of gun controls in the USA & the consequences from that on innocent Americans. Yet precious few of us of us have anything at all to say about our own unregulated sale of military weapons to the USA & the consequences THAT has on innocent civilians in all corners of the earth.

  6. john mcmurtryMarch 2, 2018 at 7:06 pm #

    If this requirement is not followed, the Justin Trudeau government will be effectively placing the world’s leading armaments bully and human rights abuser above the law of Canada and expose itself to charges of arrant hypocrisy already being raised.

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