Canada-Saudi arms deal flouts international law: Amnesty International, Project Ploughshares report

  • Civil society groups launch shadow report following ‘flawed’ Global Affairs Canada analysis of arms deal

OTTAWA – Almost two years after joining the Arms Trade Treaty, Canada is continuing to breach its international legal obligations on arms exports, Amnesty International and Project Ploughshares outlined in a new report today.

Read the Report:
No Credible Evidence: Canada’s Flawed Analysis of Arms Exports to Saudi Arabia

This report follows a 2020 Global Affairs Canada (GAC) review of arms exports to Saudi Arabia, which concluded that there is “no substantial risk” the transfers would be used to commit or facilitate violations of international human rights law, international humanitarian law, or gender-based violence.  

But as Amnesty International and Project Ploughshares conclude in their report, No Credible Evidence: Canada’s Flawed Analysis of Arms Exports to Saudi Arabia, the federal government’s assessment is “fundamentally flawed” as it misinterprets, or ignores, key pillars of the Arms Trade Treaty.

“Contrary to what the federal government has said, Canada continues to ignore its international obligations to the Arms Trade Treaty,” said Cesar Jaramillo, Executive Director of Project Ploughshares. “Canada must do everything in its power to fully assess the risk level of all weapons exports. Instead, its review of the Canada-Saudi arms agreement cherry-picks through evidence to paint a picture of weapons deal that is fully compliant with international law.”

Drawing upon international treaties, domestic legislation and UN documents and reports by human rights organizations, Amnesty International and Project Ploughshares point to evidence that weapons exported from Canada to Saudi Arabia, including armoured vehicles and sniper rifles, risk being diverted for use in the war in Yemen. Reports also illustrate that the Saudi-led coalition’s participation in the conflict in Yemen has contributed to gender-based violence, forced displacement, and indiscriminate attacks against civilians.

“Saudi Arabia has a long history of human rights violations, and there are extensive reports documenting international humanitarian law violations committed by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen,” said Justin Mohammed, Programs Manager at Amnesty International Canada’s English section. “Yet Global Affairs Canada’s analysis is largely dismissive of these factors, and thereby fails to fully consider whether Canadian weapons exports could be used to commit acts or facilitate gender-based violence, violence against children, and other serious international human rights law violations and abuses.”

Canada officially joined the Arms Trade Treaty in 2019, a step that then-foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland acknowledged was long overdue. In 2018, prior to becoming a state party to the treaty, Canada adopted Bill C-47 to address the shortcomings of its own export assessment process under the Export and Import Permits Act (EIPA). A legal analysis comparing this legislation to the Arms Trade Treaty shows that it falls short of the treaty’s international standards. Therefore, contrary to what the federal government claims, Canada’s own law is not compliant with the Arms Trade Treaty.

Amnesty International and Project Ploughshares are calling on the federal government to revoke existing arms export permits to Saudi Arabia. The government should then consider introducing greater parliamentary scrutiny of Canadian export controls, policy and practice, and complement it with the creation of an arm’s-length advisory panel of experts to review best practices and support compliance with the Arms Trade Treaty.

Media contact:

Lucy Scholey, Media Relations Officer, Amnesty International Canada (English branch), 613-853-2142,

Tasneem Jamal, Project Ploughshares (English): 519-589-3900,