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Freeland Appears Before Foreign Affairs Committee: Disappointment on Saudi Arms Deal, Welcome Progress on ATT Implementation

    February 08, 2018

    In response to remarks today by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs regarding amendments to Bill C-47, An Act to amend the Export and Import Permits Act and the Criminal Code, Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada said:

    “The news that the key criteria with respect to human rights, peace and security and gender-based violence will be brought into Canada’s Arms Trade Treaty legislation, and not left to regulation, is a welcome development; particularly the specific attention to gender-based violence.  Equally, the adoption of a clear legal obligation that would require the Minister to turn down – with no discretion to the contrary -  arms deals that contravene those criteria is a significant advance. Amnesty International looks forward to seeing the precise text of the intended amendments. Concerns remain that Bill C-47 will not apply to arms sales to the United States and does not tighten the scrutiny of arms deals involving the Canadian Commercial Corporation or the Department of National Defence.” 

    “Amnesty International continues to be deeply disappointed that the government is not prepared to reverse its approval of the $15billion Saudi light armoured vehicles deal, at a time when Saudi forces are responsible for widespread human rights violations and war crimes in neighbouring Yemen.  Honouring contracts is no defence to or justification for action that may lead to serious human rights violations.  Amnesty International also urges the government to release further details as to the nature of the investigation that was conducted regarding concerns that Canadian light armoured vehicles sold to Saudi Arabia in the past may have been used against civilians in eastern Saudi Arabia last year, and more information as to the findings and conclusions of that investigation.”

    BACKGROUND:

    In October 2017, Amnesty and other Canadian civil society organizations welcomed the Trudeau government’s continued commitment to accede to the global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), but warned that commitment risked being fundamentally undermined by troubling shortcomings in the federal government’s proposed approach to implementation through Bill C-47.  Amnesty International was one of ten organizations which submitted a briefing paper, Bill C-47 and Canadian Accession to the Arms Trade Treaty: Civil Society Concerns and Recommendations, warning C-47, in its current form, would not meet critical obligations of the Treaty, including by failing to apply the deal to the majority of Canada’s arms exports, namely those destined for the United States.. Minister Freeland’s statements today suggest the government will move to address some of the ten areas of concern laid out in the briefing paper.

    Amnesty International has consistently raised grave concerns with the federal government’s approval of export permits for the sale of $15 billion worth of light armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia and reiterated the organization’s call for an immediate halt to the sale in Amnesty International’s 2018 Human Rights Agenda for Canada, released earlier this week.

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    Media Contact: Jacob Kuehn, Media Relations, Amnesty International Canada; jkuehn@amnesty.ca / 613 744 7667 x 236