Green Party Calls on Conservatives to Back Effective Arms Treaty

As lobbying and negotiating accelerate in preparation for the Final United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), March 18 – 28 in New York, the Green Party calls upon the Harper Conservatives to play “honest broker” for the sake of a more secure and peaceful world.

“We know that Canada has only been a weak supporter of the Arms Trade Treaty negotiations to date,” said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, MP Saanich-Gulf Islands.  “What the world needs is for Canada to play a stronger role in making this treaty happen – and soften some of its problematic positions.”

Violence fuelled by a poorly regulated global trade in arms – guns, rockets, anti-vehicle mines – and ammunition kills at least 2000 people a day globally.   It also causes millions more to live in fear of being injured, raped, or forced from their homes.

For 20 years, advocates have been lobbying for an international treaty that would regulate all weapons, ammunition, and other equipment used by the military and law enforcement personnel.

“I also urge the Conservatives to take every action possible to ensure that the minority of skeptical countries do not succeed in weakening or derailing the existing achievement of high standards during the upcoming negotiations,” said May.

The Conservatives must help broaden the scope of the treaty to include all types of conventional weapons and help expand the now-limited definition of ‘transfer’ which presently leaves out arms being supplied as gifts, loans, leases, or aid.

Other needed improvements include clearer language related to the prevention of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and gender-based violence; public reporting mechanisms and strong implementation measures; the exclusion of loopholes for ‘defence cooperation agreements,’ and strong criteria to assess the risk of human rights violations.

“Unfortunately, the positions Canada has taken on certain of the treaty’s draft provisions are inexplicable, and threaten certain aspects of the treaty,” said May.  “This is especially true in regard to corruption and brokering.”

The Conservatives recently improved rules relating to bribery by strengthening the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act and yet they are now against treating corruption as a central criterion for evaluating whether an arms deal should go forward.

Similarly, the Conservatives’ stance on brokering undermines Canada’s international commitments and threatens to forestall the adoption of a brokering provision in the treaty.  Their opposition to the extension of legal and judicial obligations to Canadians who broker arms deals outside of the country suggests there are more important considerations than the protection of human life.

On Wednesday, March 6, May asked Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird about these concerns in the House of Commons.   His response cited concerns related to the long-gun registry and duck hunters, further confounding observers.

May also delivered a letter to Minister Baird regarding the ATT.