Canada: Commit to the Arms Trade Treaty!
On April 2, 2013 Canada, together with 154 other states, voted in favour of a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) at the UN General Assembly. The ATT will prohibit states from transferring conventional weapons to countries when they know those weapons would be used to commit or facilitate genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. The treaty also requires governments to assess the risk of transferring arms, ammunition or components to another country where they could be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. Where that overriding risk is real and cannot be mitigated, the transfer will not happen.
At least 500,000 people die every year and millions more are displaced and abused as result of armed violence and conflict.
The Arms Trade Treaty became full-fledged international law in December 2014 after over 50 states had ratified. As of February 2016, the ATT had 130 signatures and over 80 ratifications/accessions, including five of the world’s top ten arms exporting states: UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
But where was Canada? On the list of shame: Canada was one of dozens of states which voted in favour of the treaty, but then did not take any steps to make that commitment real.
Once a champion of arms control, the Canadian government stayed in the background throughout the treaty negotiation process and remains non-committal about signing the ATT. Among the excuses given is a need to consult Canadians to ensure that implementation of the treaty does not interfere with lawful, domestic gun ownership – an issue which they know full well to be outside the bounds of the ATT, which focuses on international trade. Canada also contended that current export controls are already strong enough.
Following the federal election in October 2015, the new government signaled that the times were changing with the inclusion of “acceding to the Arms Trade Treaty” among the priorities listed within the Prime Minister’s Mandate letter for the new Minister of Foreign Affairs.
It’s time for Canada to finally join the Arms Trade Treaty, and encourage other states to do the same.
Please write to Stephane Dion, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, welcoming the government’s commitment to accede to the Arms Trade Treaty and calling on him to ensure this happens without delay
The Honourable Stephane Dion
Minister for Foreign Affairs
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6
Salutation: Dear Minister Dion
Signing & ratifying a treaty (or acceding to a treaty once it is already in force) not only indicates a willingness to develop capacity and overcome obstacles around implementation, it also sends a signal to the international community about the value of the treaty itself. The ATT sets a new standard for the arms trade and help prevent the human rights crises we have witnessed in conflicts including Syria, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Gaza and Darfur.
Read more about the Arms Trade Treaty
Photo: A child holds bullets collected in Darfur March 2011 © UN Photo/Albert Gonzalez Farran