Canadian Arms Export Policy needs higher standards, more oversight.


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How Prime Minister Trudeau is entrenching Canada in the ever more deadly global arms industry

Dear supporter –

It is one of the most under-reported stories of the year and it is making a mess of Canada’s role as a peace-builder.

But hardly any media outlet has said a word about the extraordinary influence of the defence lobby and its military-funded academic echo chambers in Canada.

Early in the new year I wrote to you raising the alarm over how Prime Minister Trudeau seemed to be bending over backwards to create a Trump-friendly Cabinet geared to “going along to get along”. The results have been devastating.

Prime Minister Trudeau has delivered a massive 70% escalation of military spending just as Trump had demanded at NATO; the Prime Minister has mocked a new UN nuclear weapons prohibition treaty that is opposed by Trump; and the Justin Trudeau government has refused to stop arms exports to Saudi Arabia – a close Trump ally – despite clear video evidence that Canadian armoured vehicles are being used to viciously repress the Shia minority in Saudi Arabia’s eastern province.

Working for peace from our small office in the historic – and aptly-named – Hope Building, just one block away from Parliament Hill, we can see close-up how our government in Ottawa has been increasingly doing the bidding of Canada’s powerful defence lobby, much of which is headquartered in the USA, all the while camouflaging this deadly shift with oh-so-smooth media “spin” about Canada the peacebuilder.

That’s why I am so grateful for your support for – you empower us to track the hidden powerplays, and confront the government and the arms industry at every turn.

And now, the Trudeau government is not only backing away from any meaningful effort to halt Canadian arms exports to Saudi Arabia, no matter how damning the evidence of misuse, but is refusing to even consider requiring export permits for Canadian-made weapons being shipped to the United States – the world’s largest weapons dealer and our biggest arms export destination.

This refusal to bring arms shipments to the USA within our export control system is a cynical betrayal of the Liberal election promise that Canada would join the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), the first-ever international treaty with binding standards for regulating the global arms trade.

To be sure, the Trudeau government has tabled legislation in Parliament in the form of Bill C-47 with the stated aim of paving the way for Canada to join the other 92 states parties to the Treaty.

But it falls so far short of the mark that arms control experts question whether it was even drafted in good faith. Is its goal to forestall problematic, but lucrative, sales like the Saudi deal from happening again, or is the draft legislation designed to enable the Canadian government, if and when it chooses – to sidestep the obligations set out in the ATT?

Here are some of the glaring loopholes in Bill C-47:

  • The majority of Canada’s exports – those to the USA – will remain unregulated and unreported.
  • Broad powers are given to Cabinet to completely ignore the ATT obligations.
  • The most important element of the legislation – the standards by which the Foreign Minister is to judge whether an arms export permit should be granted – are currently unknown and will only be found in future regulations, to be drafted after Bill C-47 is passed.

These deficiencies are so egregious that they make a mockery of Canada’s purported accession to the ATT, at a time when 3 out of the top 10 buyers of Canadian military goods are countries with bad human rights records.

We, along with other civil society organizations, spoke out vigorously against this terrible draft Bill and many of us gave testimony on how to improve it to the Foreign Affairs parliamentary standing committee during its hearings on the legislation after Second Reading.

As a result of these manifold efforts, the government reversed its initial arrogant refusal to consider amendments. They also tentatively promised to hold civil society and parliamentary consultations on the proposed regulations, but only after the Bill is passed.

These are small steps forward and much more is needed! But it is clear the government is feeling the heat. We must keep up the pressure.

That is why your contributions to over the years are so fundamentally important.

We have grown into a powerful network of 25,000 Canadians since our founding in 2003 – all working together for peace, and for a Canada of which we can be truly proud.

Canadians need to be informed how Bill C-47 in its present form will do nothing to promote greater responsibility and transparency in Canada’s arms export policy.

Then, we need to help people like you to take effective political action so your voices can be heard despite the power of the defence lobby and of weapons corporations.

That is why we have never sought charitable status – so that we can speak out loudly, and strongly, without fear of being silenced by the Canada Revenue Agency. For the same reason we do not accept donations from government or industry. It is just too hard to remain independent when you are afraid that “speaking truth to power” will compromise your funding.

Shockingly, some of the organizations with whom we work, who do receive government funding for important humanitarian projects, have even found themselves cautioned by officials about speaking publicly against Bill C-47 in order not to “jeopardize their relationship with the government going forward”.

As a supporter of, your donations enable us to continue to expose what is really happening in Ottawa and to alert Canadians to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s extraordinary shift toward the arms industry, and away from a global role for peace that is so desperately needed.

How can Canada continue to provide arms to Saudi Arabia when the coalition it leads is accused by the UN of committing war crimes against children in Yemen? That country is on the brink of man-made famine and has a massive cholera outbreak. Does our small amount of humanitarian aid wipe out our complicity in causing this terrible suffering?

In our vital work for peace, I have gone head to head – at conferences, in government consultations, in Parliamentary committee hearings and in countless media interviews – with defence lobbyists and right wing think tanks. I have engaged in constant outreach with Members of Parliament in both the House and the Senate, as they consider their vote on Bill C-47.

We are using your generous support to bring other peace groups together for our common cause. We joined with a dozen other organizations to present the government with a searing analysis of the shortcomings of Bill C-47 and, on our own, we produced a trenchant report questioning the very intent of Bill C-47, which we launched at a Press Conference on Parliament Hill itself.

But we cannot do this essential peacebuilding work alone. We need your support. I hope that I can count on your continued commitment, which is so much appreciated, to the groundbreaking work for peace we are leading in Ottawa.

Could you please make a special, year-end donation of $45. Or join our Peacekeepers Monthly Donor Club, and make a monthly donation of $9 – what a fantastic pledge for peace for 2018! When you join with a minimum monthly donation of $12, you will be eligible to receive a free copy of Children of the Broken Treaty: Canada’s Lost Promise and One Girl’s Dream by Charlie Angus – named “Book of the Year” by the Hill Times, National Post, and Quill & Quire (a $28 value).

We need to raise $20,000 before January 1, 2018, to keep our Bill C-47 campaign active as well as to continue our important work on such issues as nuclear disarmament, a diplomatic solution to North Korea and living up to our promises on UN peacekeeping.

With your donation, our organization will be able to push for the strongest possible accession legislation to the Arms Trade Treaty, obligating Canada to adhere to the highest standards when considering the export of arms.

  • We will provide you with tools to make your voice heard in Ottawa.
  • Working with other likeminded organizations, we will be able to brief Members of Parliament of all parties, as well as journalists, about the vast gap between Trudeau’s promises and his actual foreign and defence policies.

Canada is at a crossroads – we can cash-in on global fear and insecurity, or we can seize every opportunity to make Canada a peace leader again.

Our choice is to work for peace – so let me thank you once again for your support as we prepare for another year working for peace and justice in 2018.

We know that, together, we can help ensure that “sunny ways” and “Canada is back” are not cynical slogans but visionary guideposts to help us build global peace and security.

Thank you for everything you do for peace. Onward!


Peggy Mason photo and signature

Peggy Mason
Rideau Institute and
(Peggy Mason is Canada’s former UN Ambassador for Disarmament)

P.S. Please make your special year-end donation of $45 to help us make Canada a peace leader, once again. With a minimum $12.00 per month donation, new members of our Peacekeepers Monthly Donor Club can choose to receive a free copy of Children of the Broken Treaty: Canada’s Lost Promise and One Girl’s Dream by Charlie Angus – named “Book of the Year” by the Hill Times, National Post, and Quill & Quire (a $28 value).

Tags: Arms Trade Treaty, Bill C-47, Canadian Export Control Policy, Crimes against humanity, Donald Trump, International Criminal Court, International Humanitarian Law (IHL), Justin Trudeau, NATO, Parliament of Canada, Saudi Arabia, War crimes, Yemen