Bill C-47 Arms Trade Treaty

Elizabeth May

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to discuss a treaty as important as the Arms Trade Treaty, or ATT.

I do commend the Liberal government and Prime Minister for committing to sign and ratify this treaty. I agree with the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway that Canadians were ashamed when we were the only NATO country not to have signed the Arms Trade Treaty. Signing it is important; ratifying it is important. The legislation that comes before us today to allow us to implement the treaty is important.

I am going to take a few moments before I go into the details of what needs to be remedied within Bill C-47 to make it the legislation that Canada needs so that we really implement the Arms Trade Treaty. I am going to a few moments to put to rest, I hope, some of the distressingly flawed scare tactics by friends of mine on the Conservative benches. I am deeply distressed that people in the House would not be sure they understand the legislation before allowing people across Canada, particularly legal gun owners, to become alarmed by a bill they should not be alarmed about.

Moments ago in debate one of the Conservative members read out part of Bill C-47, in fact from clause 10. This is how people are misled. I am going to take some time to go through this, so that members in this place and people watching on CPAC, or however they are watching this, can see how selective reading can spread alarm.

This was read out from Bill C-47:


10.2 (1) An inspector may, at all reasonable times, for any purpose related to the administration or enforcement of this Act, inspect, audit or examine the records of any person or organization

That was was read out as if this bill to deal with the arms trade, the transfer of military equipment, tanks, weapons, and all manner of conventional arms, would have an impact on any person or organization, such that they could suddenly have their door beaten down by an inspector.

Where the hon. member who read that statement stopped reading was right before the following words:

that has applied for a permit, an import allocation, or export allocation, a certificate or another authorization under this Act

There is no way in the world that the proposed subsection that was read out has the meaning that the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville just implied. The words “any person or organization” are followed immediately by the words “that has applied for a permit”. There is no legal gun owner across this country nor local gun store nor local supplier of recreational equipment of any kind that is dealing in arms and applying for a permit under this bill.

That is why I am so deeply distressed that Canadians who have fought against the long-gun registry, say, “Okay we no longer have a long-gun registry”, but are concerned about this. Canadians who fought against the long-gun registry do not need to worry. There is no way in this world that any portion of the global treaty or domestic legislation would apply to domestic activities.

Let me read these words from the treaty itself:

Mindful of the legitimate trade and lawful ownership, and use of certain conventional arms for recreational, cultural, historical, and sporting activities, where such trade, ownership and use are permitted or protected by law.

The treaty specifically says in article 2(3) the following:

This Treaty shall not apply to the international movement of conventional arms by, or on behalf of, a State Party for its use provided that the conventional arms remain under that State Party’s ownership.

To be very clear again, this treaty and the domestic act to bring it into force apply only to those who choose to ask the government for a permit to export the arms described in the treaty as including battle tanks; armoured combat vehicles; large-calibre artillery systems; combat aircraft; attack helicopters; warships; missiles and missile launchers; and small arms and light weapons. Unless the purpose is to export those to another country for military purposes, this legislation would not apply.

Let us see how well it would do in curtailing the arms trade from Canada to countries that we would not want to see using those weapons against their own people, countries with dubious human rights records.

When I was growing up, Canada was not an arms trading country. We did not think of ourselves as big in the arms trade business. The military industrial complex on the U.S. side of the border had not yet started taking over enough of our companies that we became enmeshed in their business.

Some of our defence decisions are influenced by commercial interests. The F-35 fighter plane boondoggle was embraced by previous governments because subcontracts might flow to the aerospace industry within Canada. This enmeshing of our economies has brought with it an enmeshing in parts that go into weapon systems that we would not want to see going to other countries. For instance, the United States recently sold warplanes and armoured vehicles to Nigeria. Those warplanes will have in them Pratt & Whitney engines manufactured in Quebec. Is that a concern? It is to Canadians. We need to track that. If we are serious about the Arms Trade Treaty, we do not want Canadian components and Canadian arms flowing through the U.S. to other countries.

Let us look at our history as an arms trading country. There has been a 48% increase in the arms trade. When it spiked one year there was a lot of national concern, which I remember. It was 1994, and there had been a 48% increase in our arms sales, which took us to $497 million that year. In 2016, Canada had a trade in arms of $718 million. That is far more than the peak year of 1994. Of that $718 million in weapons and arms we exported from Canada, nearly 20% went to Saudi Arabia, or a total of $142 million in sales.

It is critical that we make the Arms Trade Treaty work for the world. Canada has shown leadership on a treaty like this in the past. I wish we would show leadership as well on the nuclear disarmament treaty, as well as the fissile material cutoff treaty in which we are participating but not leading.

On this issue, we should look to our history with the Ottawa Treaty banning land mines. The movement that led to that treaty won the Nobel Peace Prize, and rightly so. December 3, 2017, will be the 20th anniversary of Canadian leadership in helping to rid the world of land mines. We have not yet rid the world of land mines, but their use has declined dramatically. We have proven statistics, proven evidence, that the land mine treaty has saved thousands of lives around the world, even though major world powers like the U.S., China, and Russia never signed on to the Ottawa Treaty. Still, the treaty works and has massively reduced land mine traffic.

Canada has an opportunity here to step up again. The minimum we can do is to sign and ratify the Arms Trade Treaty at the UN, but our domestic legislation must meet the purposes of our global commitment, and that means fixing the loophole that would allow military equipment under the definition of the treaty to pass through the United States. At this point, the U.S. has signed the treaty, but it will remain a non-state party to this treaty. This means that it will not have to track where the weapons go or meet the tests and the analysis and the screening that Canada and other parties must meet.

I say to my friends on the government benches, can we please get this legislation to committee and fill that loophole that is big enough to drive a tank through, the loophole that does not limit or record the sales and the transfer of weapons through the United States?

Filomena Tassi – Member for Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas

Mr. Speaker, I always admire the work that goes into the speeches by the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, and I thank her for her words this morning. I also appreciate her legal expertise and her reading the part of the bill that sets out that this will not apply to those Canadians who are legal gun owners. That is important, because we are hearing that message over and over again. I appreciate the member making that point.

It has been mentioned that we recognize that the illicit transfer of arms often equals violence. Violence is prominent in countries in conflict, and the violence is often against women and girls, who suffer atrocities and suffer a violation of their human rights. Does the member agree that this government is taking a leadership role on this through the ATT? How will this directly help these young women and girls in these countries of conflict?

Elizabeth May

Mr. Speaker, when we read of the atrocities by rogue non-state actors like Boko Haram, or the atrocities by state actors, such as Myanmar against the Rohingya people, we recognize that so much of this is made possible because of access to arms that are not manufactured in those countries but that freely flow and fill profit margins. Somewhere there are shareholders who are pleased to see that they are doing so very well. The global arms trade is something we should want to curtail, not expedite.

I spoke earlier of the Ottawa Treaty, which is tangential to the member’s main point. There are still landmines in Angola and Cambodia. There are countries that still have landmines that impede the ability of women to collect water easily. As we approach the 20th anniversary of the Ottawa Treaty, I would urge Canada to step up to help clear landmines from countries that are now post-conflict, where women and girls are the most likely to have their day-to-day potential to grow food and travel safely impeded by landmines.

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from the Green Party for hopefully bringing a sense of comfort to the many gun owners in my riding, where hunting is very much a part of the way of life for many people and many of my constituents.

The NDP will support Bill C-47 at second reading, and we hope to see amendments at committee. Since the member does not get a chance to participate actively in those committees, I would ask her if there are amendments she would like to see brought forward in addition to the one concerning tracking arms through the United States.

Wayne Stetski – Member for Kootenay-Columbia

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from the Green Party for hopefully bringing a sense of comfort to the many gun owners in my riding, where hunting is very much a part of the way of life for many people and many of my constituents.

The NDP will support Bill C-47 at second reading, and we hope to see amendments at committee. Since the member does not get a chance to participate actively in those committees, I would ask her if there are amendments she would like to see brought forward in addition to the one concerning tracking arms through the United States.

Elizabeth May

Mr. Speaker, strangely enough, I am forced by a decision of eight individual committees to present amendments at clause-by-clause. I will be listening to all the evidence before the committee. I am grateful to the hon. member. I know he will be helpful when it gets to committee.

There are a number of other places we might want to tighten up the treaty. We may have amendments that are similarly worded. However, the main one, and I hope the Liberal benches will be open to helping us at committee, is to find a way to address the loophole in dealing with the transfer of arms. We do not need to single out the United States. We need to just say that where we are transferring weapons or arms of any kind, when we are dealing with a non-state party, we should also keep records.