Dicey trade agreements, the economics of nukes, Turkish drones and Canadian gun control

Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement bypasses international law

Peter Larson in a recent blog examines the latest report of the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Michael Lynk, a Canadian law professor.  For the full blog, including a video interview with the Special Rapporteur, see: Recent UN Report on Human Rights in Occupied Territories Contains a Message for Canada (canadatalksisraelpalestine.ca, 29 October 2020).

Larson writes:

In his most recent report Lynk focuses on the issue of foreign companies which continue to do business unhindered in the Occupied Territories. He has 7 recommendations aimed at these companies and at UN member states which, like Canada, make no effort to restrict such commerce, in violation of UNSC resolutions.

Two of these recommendations have particular relevance to Canada:

  • RECOMMENDATION: request all States to refrain from any relations — including diplomatic, consular, trade and other agreements — with Israel implying any recognition of the authority of the Government of Israel over any part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory;
  • RECOMMENDATION: Call upon all States to ensure that all corporate enterprises regulated by them cease any and all investment, commercial, operational and trade dealings of any sort with respect to the Israeli settlements, Israeli industrial enterprise zones or with companies regulated by the Government of Israel operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territory

Modernized Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA) violates international law

In 1997, Canada entered into the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA), which eliminated trade tariffs on products manufactured both in Canada and Israel. In 2019, the Canadian government passed Bill C-85, which revised and modernized the 1997 agreement.

Both the original and the updated CIFTA directly violate UN Security Council resolution 2334, which calls upon all States… to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967.”

Peter Larson refers readers to a recent analysis by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) outlining how CIFTA violates UNSC 2334 in two important ways:

  • CIFTA’s definition of “Israeli territory” encompasses the occupied Palestinian territories.
  • CIFTA allows products made in the occupied Palestinian territories to enter Canada as “Israeli products”.

But that is not the worst of it.

Modernized CIFTA deletes reference to international law

In the original version of the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement the Objectives section included the following paragraphs:

Article 1.2: Objective

  1. The objective of this Agreement, as elaborated more specifically in its provisions, is to eliminate barriers to trade in, and facilitate the movement of, goods between the territories of the Parties, and thereby to promote conditions of fair competition and increase substantially investment opportunities in the free trade area.
  2. The Parties shall interpret and apply the provisions of this Agreement in the light of its objective set out in paragraph 1 and in accordance with applicable rules of international law. [emphasis added]

In the new version, as amended in 2019, that same Objectives paragraph now reads:

Article 1.2: Objective

  • The objective of this Agreement, as elaborated more specifically in its provisions, is to eliminate obstacles to trade in, and facilitate the movement of, goods between the Parties, thereby to promote conditions of fair competition and increase substantially investment opportunities in the free trade area.

In other words, the requirement to “interpret and apply” the Agreement “in accordance with applicable rules of international law” has been removed.

RI President Peggy Mason comments:

Of course, this does not mean that Canada is no longer bound by all relevant international law. Far from it. But international law can only be enforced in Canadian courts when it is incorporated into Canadian law, so that is what is now in jeopardy.

This is no doubt a graphic example of why the Special Rapporteur, in his report, has made a direct appeal to the UN Security Council to take measures to apply pressure on Israel, and on companies and countries who continue to do business in the Occupied Territories.

How will this impact the wine labelling case currently before the courts?

In a July 2019 the Federal court ruled that goods imported into Canada from the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem must not be identified as “Products of Israel.” The Court held that:

Canadian federal legislation requires food products (including wines) that are sold in Canada bear truthful, non-deceptive and non-misleading country of origin labels. (para. 127).

The ruling went on to state that the labels on wines produced in the West Bank settlements stating that they are ‘Products of Israel’ are:

false, misleading and deceptive. (para. 128).

Shockingly, the government of Canada has appealed this ruling and the case is ongoing.

Since the Federal court judgment is based on Canadian labelling laws, it hopefully will not be adversely affected by the removal of the reference in the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement to applicable international law.

But only time will tell.

Accountability, impunity and the responsibility of the international community

This is the title of Section III of Professor Lynk’s report, and it is a must-read for anyone interested in the importance of international law for Canada and the world going forward.

It begins:

Accountability — the institutional check on the exercise of public and private power on behalf of the common good — is the indispensable component of the rule of law….

Without accountability, the best designed systems of law and human governance will wither for lack of enforceability and respect.

Whither Canada?

Canada professes to be a champion of a “rules based international order”. Yet our government’s actions with respect to the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement strike a dagger at the very heart of our commitment to a fair and equal application of international law even within Canada itself. As such, these actions also represent a deep betrayal of fundamental Canadian values.

We call upon the government of Canada to abandon the appeal of the federal court ruling upholding the prohibition against misleading labelling in the case of products from the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

We further call upon the government of Canada to amend the United Nations Act to specifically incorporate binding international human rights and humanitarian law into Canadian law to facilitate its full and timely application in Canadian courts.

The tricky economics of nuclear weapons

Matt Korda, a Canadian staffer at the Federation of American Scientists, and colleague Tricia White have recently highlighted the economic dimension of American nuclear weapons production and maintenance. See:  Nuclear disarmers can’t forget the communities that rely on military spending (thebulletin.org, 28 October 2020). They explain:

these intimate relationships between local communities [where ICBMs are located], corporations [that build and service the weapons] and politicians …. [mean] that in order to protect their livelihoods, community leaders are encouraged to ensure that their respective cities remain—now and forever—ground zero for a future nuclear attack.

It is not enough, then, for nuclear disarmament advocates to demonstrate the security-enhancing benefits of phasing-out land-based intercontinental missiles, as many expert studies, including a recent one by the Union of Concerned Scientists, advocate. In order to mitigate the losses to American jobs and rural towns, Korda and White urge nuclear disarmament proponents to:

come prepared with answers to the economic problems [a weapons phase-out ] would have on these “nuclear sponge” communities.

Beyond providing specific compensation programmes for individual workers, the dilemma of rebuilding local economies recalls an earlier blog examining “resource allocation and conversion to non-military production in the age of pandemic”.

Definitive evidence of Canadian drone technology in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

In our October 9 blog, we reported on explosive allegations of Canadian drone technology — specifically high-tech optical targeting gear, originally exported to Turkey — being used by Azerbaijan against Armenian civilians. We also reported that Foreign Minister Champagne had announced the following:

In line with Canada’s robust export control regime and due to the ongoing hostilities, I have suspended the relevant export permits to Turkey, so as to allow time to further assess the situation.

At the time we asked the question, “what is the point of Global Affairs investigating itself” and called for the creation of an independent, impartial agency to administer Canada’s export control regime.

Today — October 30th — the Globe and Mail has announced the results of its own investigation. Neil Hauer writes:

The Armenian government is in possession of pieces of a Turkish-made military drone that includes air strike-targeting gear manufactured in Canada, The Globe and Mail has independently confirmed.

The article goes on to remind that Canada is obliged under domestic law and the global Arms Trade Treaty to “prevent, detect and stop the diversion of military goods” to unauthorized users, as well as to stop such exports where harm to civilians has been demonstrated or, we would add, where there is a substantial risk of such harm.

The article reports the government of Canada’s response to the Globe and Mail’s on-site investigation, through a Global Affairs spokesman, as follows:

Canadian officials are investigating allegations made regarding the use of Canadian technology in the conflict and will continue to assess the situation.

Astoundingly, despite considerably urging from the Armenian-Canadian community, the government would not even commit to dispatching a representative to Armenia to verify for itself whether the equipment in question is Canadian-made.

The Globe and Mail carried out its investigation by sending a photographer to an Armenian military compound to take photos of the downed drone, which in turn enabled Canadian expert Kelsey Gallagher of Project Ploughshares to determine the equipment in question is in fact:

an MX-15D imaging and targeting device made by L3Harris Wescam of Burlington, Ontario.

The Globe article also includes the following questions posed to the Government of Canada:

  • Are they now prepared to cancel [not just suspend] the export permits?
  • Will they release the results of the Global Affairs investigation?
  • Will the Prime Minister apologize to Armenia’s Prime Minister?

Whither Canada?

In addition to immediately cancelling the export permits, we call again on the government of Canada to forthwith begin the process of establishing an independent, impartial Canadian Arms Export Control Agency.

Well-financed minority dominates Canadian gun control debate

Alan Freeman’s article on the disproportionate weight of the gun lobby in Canada begins with three examples where mass shootings led, in each case, to significant restrictions on gun ownership:

  • After a primary school shooting in 1996 killed 17, the UK banned all handguns for private use. (1997)
  • After a mass shooting in Tasmania, Australia took just 14 days to ban automatic and semi-automatics, establish a firearms registry and impose a 28-day mandatory waiting period for gun purchasers. (1996)
  • After 50 were killed in a mosque, New Zealand took one month to ban most semi-automatic and assault rifles. (2019)

The contrast with Canada is stark. He writes:

Here in Canada, six months after the deadliest mass shooting in our history left 22 victims in rural Nova Scotia, the Trudeau government is still stuck in court defending its regulations banning a range of semi-automatic firearms, and appears to be in full-blown retreat when it comes to a possible national ban on handguns.

Yet, as we have noted before, the evidence is crystal clear that overwhelming majorities of Canadians are in favour of bans on handguns and assault-style weapons:

According to a 2019 Angus Reid survey, 61 per cent of respondents said they would support an outright ban on civilian possession of handguns, while 74 per cent would support a ban on assault-style weapons. While 51 per cent said gun-control rules were not strong enough, only four per cent said they were too strict.

So what is wrong with this picture?

In Freeman’s view, politicians are “running scared” in the face of a well-organized, highly motivated minority which has already raised $300,000.00 to try and fight the assault-weapon ban in court.

For the full article (not under a paywall) see: When it comes to gun control in Canada, the minority rules. (Alan Freeman, ipolitics.ca, 22 October 2020).

In conclusion, it bears repeating that the more guns in circulation (whether legally or otherwise), the higher the risk of gun death or injury. The United States has the most firearms per capita of any country in the world. It also has the highest firearm death rate by far of any OECD or high-income country.

Whither Canada?

We reiterate our call on Canada to expeditiously proceed with the assault-style weapons’ mandatory buyback and to initiate plans for a federal legislative ban on handguns.

Photo credit: PMO (Trudeau and Netanyahu)

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