Arms Trade Treaty: Where's Canada?

On Monday, June 3rd, 67 countries gathered to sign the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty, including many of Canada’s allies, such as Britain, France, Germany, and Norway.

Treaty supporters are hopeful that the agreement will lead to increased transparency in the notoriously secret international arms trade and help to curb some of the worst excesses of that trade.

How well it will work remains to be seen. But we can already be sure of one thing: despite the fears of groups such as the National Rifle Association, the Treaty will have not have the effect of imposing domestic gun control policies on its signatories. (The Treaty explicitly “[reaffirms] the sovereign right of any State to regulate and control conventional arms exclusively within its territory, pursuant to its own legal or constitutional system” and leaves it to each signatory to craft and implement its own national laws and regulations. Full text of the Treaty here.)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has confirmed the United States’ intention to sign the Treaty.

But where is Canada? The Canadian government voted in favour of the Treaty at the U.N. General Assembly, but it refused to commit to actually signing it. According to Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, the government needs to consult Canadians first (Lee Berthiaume, “Harper Conservatives won’t say if they will sign Arms Trade Treaty to regulate the global trade in weapons,” Ottawa Citizen, 3 June 2013):

Canada voted in favour of the agreement in April, but officials in Baird’s office said at the time that the government would consult with Canadians before deciding to sign on as well.

Asked for an update on Monday, Baird told the House of Commons that Canada “already has some of the highest standards in the export and control of munitions.”

“I think we have an obligation to listen before we act,” he added, “and that is why we will be consulting with Canadians before the government takes any decision.”

When NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar noted the treaty is about regulating the global trade in weapons and not domestic use, Baird accused New Democrats and Liberals of trying to resurrect the long-gun registry “through the backdoor.”

…“This has nothing to do with the long-gun,” Dewar said. “This is about people in places like the Congo.”

Minister Baird’s office was contacted, but would not say when the consultations would begin, or who would be consulted.

Photo credit: sarihuella


Tags: Arms trade, Arms Trade Treaty, ATT, Canada, Canadian foreign policy, Defence lobby, Defence policy, Department of Foreign Affairs, John Baird, Minister of Foreign Affairs, UN