As Ceasefire reported a few months ago, the Harper government’s firearms ideology may be standing in the way of progress on an international Arms Trade Treaty (ATT).
The ATT is a proposed multilateral treaty aimed at controlling the international trade in conventional firearms. The treaty is currently being planned in a series of preparatory committees, with a negotiating conference due in 2012.
The ATT would adopt and implement national mechanisms that expressly authorize international transfers of arms (rather than leave them unregulated), prohibit the transfer of arms that would be used to violate internationally established standards of human rights , international law, and non-aggression, and not authorize transfers of weapons that would adversely affect development, regional peace and security, or be used in the commission of violent crimes.
The Canadian government had been considered a supporter of the proposed treaty, but last summer it suddenly raised a number of issues with the proposed text and suggested a potentially very troublesome caveat excluding civilian hunting and sporting firearms from the scope of the treaty.
In a joint statement last July, the four Canadian members of the Control Arms campaign pointed out that the treaty “does not apply to civilian ownership or domestic transfers of firearms or any other type of weapon. It is about ensuring effective regulation of international transfers of conventional weapons.” Nevertheless, it appears that the Harper government’s allergy to domestic firearms regulations is the reason behind the sudden reversal at the ATT talks.
The result is that Canada may now be acting as a potential spoiler in the talks, taking a position that is not only unnecessary but is hindering international progress on regulating the global small arms trade.
On October 15th, the CBC Radio program The House ran a report on the policy shift (segment begins at about 21:30 minutes into the podcast).